If shareholders of Tesla Motors and SolarCity vote to approve a merger of the company next month, Panasonic has indicated it will deepen its corporate ties with Tesla by taking over the manufacture of solar cells at the Buffalo Gigafactory. Once that facility is completed, it will be capable of producing up to 10,000 solar panel a day.
That word “Gigafactory” gets thrown around a lot. Don’t let it confuse you. The Gigafactory in New York is for making solar panels. There is another Gigafactory in Nevada where Tesla is planning to make batteries for its electric cars and for energy storage. Panasonic is a major partner in the Nevada factory, having committed nearly $2 billion of its own money to the enterprise.
If the Tesla/SolarCity merger goes through, Panasonic will essentially take over operating the Buffalo plant while Tesla enters into a long term contract to purchase all the solar cells and panels made there. Approximately 1,460 employees will work at the Buffalo plant once it reaches full production. The factory in Buffalo has received $750,000,000 in incentives from the state of New York, which is interested in re-invigorating manufacturing in the Buffalo area.
The closer working relationship between the two companies will further Elon Musk’s dream of making more American homes independent of traditional utility companies. SolarCity is set to unveil a new solar roof product later in November. That offering may revolutionize rooftop solar. Elon says the solar roof will be beautiful and functional. Instead of a photovoltaic system mounted over a roof, the new product will be the roof. Elon thinks there are as many as 5 million homes in the US that could benefit from such a system.
He anticipates that the solar roof would work seamlessly with the Tesla Powerwall home storage battery products manufactured by his company. The completed system could not only power an entire home, but also charge an electric automobile as well. It just so happens that Tesla manufacturers some pretty desirable electric cars.
It’s all part of the Tesla Smart House plan, which seeks to make homes more energy efficient and user friendly. According to Carolyn Fortuna at PlanetSave, some of its features include:
- cutting spending on electric energy by 50%.
- automatically managing lights, air conditioning and other appliances.
- turning on and off items depending on the time of day, temperature, motion sensors, doors and windows detectors, and electricity rates.
- allowing full use of the features of the home without any safety hazards caused by user mistakes.
“We are excited to expand our partnership with Panasonic as we move towards a combined Tesla and SolarCity,” JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer and co-founder, said in a statement. “By working together on solar, we will be able to accelerate production of high-efficiency, extremely reliable solar cells and modules at the best cost.”