Convalt CEO says he has investors lined up for solar plant

Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 4:38 PM EST
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TOWN OF HOUNSFIELD, New York (WWNY) - According to the head of Convalt Energy, investors are in place to move forward with a project that’ll create close to 300 jobs in the Watertown area.

Convalt CEO Hari Achuthan wants to put a 300,000 square foot plant near the Watertown International Airport in the town of Hounsfield.

It would be a solar panel manufacturing facility, employing 290 people.

Achuthan says he has his investors and is still awaiting word on bank loans.

Up next: getting town approval for the project next month.

The project promises another 1,200 jobs as the company expands in future years, making solar panels and the accompanying software. But for it to happen, the company might need help from the city of Watertown. Not money, but land and a hydro facility.

The old hydro plant on Watertown’s Sewall’s Island could see a revival. Achuthan wants to buy it.

“If there are assets like these that are not doing anything, we would like to start the process of developing them now so at least three four years out, as we start expanding, we’ve already thought through this whole process about where we get our electricity from and how much electricity we’re going to get,” he said.

Meeting with city council Monday night, it appears Achuthan will get the okay to study the hydro facility and determine its worth.

“It’s not costing the city anything and it has only the potential of development and investment,” said Mayor Jeff Smith.

Convalt is set to make solar panels in a plant to be built by Watertown’s airport. In all, it could create 1,500 jobs.

To cut energy costs at the plant, Achuthan wants to buy and use the hydro facility, along with putting a solar field at the old landfill along Water Street.

“Let’s say you generated 10 kilowatt hours of power and you’re consuming 15 at the other site, right? So, you tell National Grid, I generated 10 and put it on your grid. I consumed 15 at the other site. So, bill me for five,” he said.

If Convalt buys the hydro plant, Achuthan says the city would get a portion of what he earns off it.

Council Member Lisa Ruggiero likes what she hears, wants development on Sewall’s Island, but wants to make sure all of Convalt’s plans actually happen.

“To sell it to somebody and have it sit there vacant, waiting, I think we need to have a little bit more control of our land in terms of the development,” she said.

To start, the city will likely vote at its next meeting whether or not to formally give Convalt approval to study the hydro facility.

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