Company outlines plans for solar panel plant, jobs at airport industrial park

Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 5:28 PM EDT
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TOWN OF HOUNSFIELD, New York (WWNY) - Jefferson County’s newest manufacturer is set to break ground in October.

On Friday, the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency unanimously approved a land agreement with Convalt Energy, giving the company access to land on State Route 12F in the town of Hounsfield.

Convalt Energy plans to build an approximately 300,000 square-foot facility to manufacture solar panels.

The site is planned in what is becoming the airport business park.

“We don’t actually transfer ownership of that property to them until they have all the site plan approvals in place, they have all their permanent financing in place so they’re able to put a shovel in the ground,” said JCIDA Chief Executive Officer Dave Zembiec.

Convalt Energy President and CEO Hari Achuthan, who was in Watertown Friday, says he is still working with the banks to land those final investments.

They are also preparing to move the operation cross-country after acquiring the manufacturing line from another solar company in Oregon.

“We got all of that going on, all running simultaneously, so we do have a significant amount of work ahead of us. There are challenges; we just have to face them,” said Achuthan.

Convalt Energy’s business model will be vertically integrated, meaning it will manufacture solar panels and also install them in places like solar farms.

At the start of production, officials hope to have about 300 employees. But, that is just the beginning

“Fine tune it. Get the automation right. Get the staff right and then scale up from there. So, we are thinking in 10 years, 2,000 jobs in 10 years, right, so that’s the target,” said Achuthan.

He says the north country has a unique pool of skilled workers.

“We do want to provide employment to veterans coming out and that’s a core part of our thesis to support that,” said Achuthan.

Economic leaders say a company like Convalt would lead to a business ripple effect

“If you have a large facility of that size in the community, it’s going to be spending on office supplies, other things. It’s going to be benefiting local businesses and I think they are talking some partnerships with local businesses as well, not just for the construction phase, but the ongoing operations. There’s going to be a lot of opportunity for our existing local businesses,” said Zembiec.

If the project stays on pace, Convalt hopes to start recruiting workers by the end of the year. Employee training takes about 6 to 9 months. That means the company could begin operations in next July.

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