Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing text stops in New York State New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Flickr/governorandrewcuomo

Although New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $1 billion Green Bank is just getting off the ground, it appears to have played a role in getting one of Silicon Valley's biggest solar energy advocates to make a huge bet on the state.

Last week, Elon Musk, chairman of SolarCity and founder of electric car company Tesla Motors, revealed his intention to build the largest solar panel factory in the United States in Buffalo.

Although no official price tag exists for the so-called gigawatt factory, it could easily cost as much as $1 billion, and Musk has said he would want to build a second one — possibly in Buffalo — that would have 10 times the capacity.

SolarCity, the largest solar panel installer in the U.S., announced last week plans to acquire a solar manufacturer called Silevo. Like much of the solar industry, Silevo is based in Silicon Valley, but had been planning a Buffalo factory as part of a manufacturing and research partnership with the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany.

Just a few years ago, the idea of someone with the clout of Musk deciding to build one of the world's largest solar panel factories in western New York would have seemed impossible.

But Cuomo has made expansion of the solar industry in New York a major policy initiative that has been noticed by both installers and manufacturers that see the state as a huge market with a lot of room for growth.

Part of what is expected to fuel the solar industry is the Green Bank, which will use a combination of public and private sector funding to fuel the consumer and commercial markets that today are supported by grants and tax breaks not expected to last forever.

Jonathan Bass, a spokesman for SolarCity, notes that Cuomo has set a goal of having three gigawatts of solar panels installed in the state by 2023. SolarCity is expecting to hit one gigawatt of annual sales by next year. One gigawatt worth of solar panels can power about 165,000 homes.

"The Green Bank exemplifies the ways in which New York has positioned itself as one of the most attractive places for solar and other technology firms to grow their business," Bass said.

©2014 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.)