Work stops at SUNY Poly as money dries up

Construction crews building a silicon carbide wafer manufacturing facility at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany for Gov.Andrew Cuomo‘s $500 million power electronics consortium have been ordered to stop work by a contractor that hasn’t been paid since February.

The work stoppage, ordered Tuesday by The Pike Co., is eerily similar to an incident back in February when contractors and union bosses ordered workers off the SolarCity job site in Buffalo that is part of Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative and being investigated by Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In that case, the state eventually approved the payments.

Pike is overseeing the pilot manufacturing line for what’s known as the New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium, a $500 million partnership between SUNY Poly and General Electric Co. that Cuomo announced in the summer of 2014. The consortium, which is in line for $135 million in state funding, will power electronics chips using silicon carbide that are expected to dramatically increase the potential of electric car batteries, renewable energy technologies and electric grid innovations.

The lack of payments by the state is not only impacting Pike, which has worked on other local high-tech projects like theGlobalFoundries factory in Saratoga County, but also subcontractors and vendors who have not been paid.

“Without timely payments we have severely impacted the progress schedule and budget,” a letter to state officials explains.

The silicon carbide pilot line, which is expected to be completed next year, is being installed inside existing SUNY Poly facilities on Fuller Road and could process up to 30,000 wafers a year, which are then cut into individual chips.

Silicon carbide chips are much more durable and energy efficient than power chips made just with silicon. The power chips are used in electronic devices that carry electricity like batteries and airplane parts and wind turbines.

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