FREMONT -- Seagate Technology on Friday unveiled a $180 million cutting-edge research and development complex at the former Solyndra solar factory in Fremont, a site the company will use to invent next-generation disk drives.
Up to 600 people could work at the facility, depending on product demand, Seagate executives said.
"It's a big deal to be keeping high-tech research and development jobs in Silicon Valley," said Mark Re, a Seagate senior vice president and R&D executive. "This is going to be a state-of-the-art facility."
Late Thursday, Seagate installed a huge sign with its name and logo on the side of the 411,000-square-foot complex on Kato Road next to Interstate 880.
Earlier this year, the company paid $90 million for the onetime solar manufacturing center, which became available after the sudden collapse and bankruptcy of Solyndra, a onetime high-flyer in the solar industry.
In addition to the purchase price, Seagate intends to spend another $90 million to $100 million over the next couple of years to install R&D equipment, said Brian Ziel, a spokesman for Seagate.
"We will be researching next-generation technologies at this plant," Re said. "We operate in a nanotechnology environment and we need state-of-the-art infrastructure."
Seagate is one of only three disk drive makers worldwide, along with Western Digital and Toshiba, and its efforts to invent the disk drives of the future are driven by global demand for larger and larger chunks of data storage.
The site, where research is expected to get under way next year, could contain up to 600 employees, estimated Steven Deason, Seagate's facilities director. At present, Seagate employs about 450 people in its existing research-and-development operations in Fremont.
The tech company looked at 39 properties in Fremont, Union City, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and South San Jose in a hunt for new space to house its Silicon Valley research operations, Deason said.
The Solyndra campus turned out to be the ideal location. "This is as close as we could get if we were building a custom facility tailored to our needs," he said.
Solyndra devised a manufacturing complex that is so energy-efficient that it effectively has a redundant electrical system, according to Deason. The Solyndra solar panels that cover the vast rooftop of the complex will provide about 25 percent of the power needed in the building, a beneficial legacy of the failed green-energy company.
"The tools we use are really power hungry," Re said.
The purchase of the complex by Seagate means Fremont officials won't have to face the prospect of an empty building after Solyndra closed its doors in August 2011 without warning, laying off 1,100 employees and then filing for bankruptcy days later.
"It's great to see a top-line company like Seagate bring Fremont a new chapter for a state-of-the-art facility," said Christina Briggs, Fremont's city economic development manager. "We are providing an environment where companies feel they can relocate, stay, and expand."
Contact George Avalos at 408-373-3556 or 925-977-8477. Follow him at Twitter.com/george_avalos.