State agency selling equipment used by Tesla, Panasonic at Buffalo’s RiverBend plant

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Tools previously used by Tesla and Panasonic at Buffalo’s Riverbend plant will be put on the market by NY Creates, the organization that manages the portfolio of R&D initiatives and economic development projects across the state.

NY Creates spokesman Jason Conwall says the organization has sold $39 million in equipment as of Monday.

He says about a third of the equipment was never even used.

“We are currently in the process of remarketing tools and equipment in an effort to sell them for the highest price possible, and recycling other tools and equipment that are obsolete and have no resale value,” Conwall said in a statement.

Conwall says that many of the tools were ordered before Tesla acquired the SolarCity parcel and before Panasonic became involved. About one year after the equipment was purchased, Tesla changed its focus from manufacturing solar panels to manufacturing solar roofs. The purchases were part of the Buffalo Billion.

The amount of equipment would fill a football field. It is high tech machinery which was purchased in 2015 before Tesla even moved into the Riverbend facility in South Buffalo but when they expected to produce solar panels. Within a year, Tesla changed its focus to making solar roofing, so some of the equipment was never used, and what was used by Panasonic is no longer in use since Panasonic moved out.

So now NY Creates is selling it for the state mostly online through Mcquarie Group.
$39 million of it has already been sold for lower, unrevealed prices. They’re still looking for buyers for $146 million more of it, and $22 million of it is being recycled for less than one percent of it’s value. Over the past two weeks, trucks have been taking it out of a Wheatfield warehouse for scrap metal, receiving only tens of thousands of dollars.

“It’s a surprise but also a disappointment,” said Chris Scanlon, a Buffalo Common Council member who represents south Buffalo, where the Tesla plant still employs about a thousand people. “You had three quarters of a billion dollars go into that project of our public money and you want to to see the right investment on behalf of the people of the state and I don’t think you’ve seen that. I think there should’ve been some sort of backup plan and something put in place and that doesn’t seem to be the case and now you have $200 million worth of equipment, we don’t know what’s gonna happen with it and what sort of return the people of New York State are gonna get on it.”

The equipment formerly used by Panasonic is at the RiverBend facility and will also be sold or recycled, Conwall added. It was originally purchased for about $125 million.

The breakdown of the equipment and its status is as follows:

Current Status of RiverBend Tools & Equipment
LocationContinued UseTo be soldTo be recycled
At RiverBend Factory$32,004,706$127,203,785 
At Warehouse $16,473,400$21,887,601
At Vendor $2,380,700 
Previously Sold $39,600,653 

Conwall says getting rid of the unused equipment will allow “Tesla to install new tools they have purchased in order to ramp up and expand operations”. He says NY Creates is currently engaged in a competitive process to get the top dollar for the equipment.

Kaley Lynch is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.

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