Tesla and Panasonic Planning on Opening Solar Plant in Buffalo

Tesla and Panasonic are entering an agreement beyond lithium ion battery technology, with photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules being added to the list.

On the Tesla blog, the electric automaker announced yesterday that the two companies have signed a non-binding letter of intent to collaborate on the manufacturing and production of PV cells and modules in Buffalo, N.Y. The deal is contingent upon shareholder’s approval of Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity.

If it gains approval, the solar cells and modules will work “seamlessly” with Powerwall and Powerpack, Tesla’s energy storage products. SolarCity will provide installation, sales, and financing services as part of Tesla’s master plan to bring “an integrated sustainable energy solution to residential, commercial, and grid-scale customers,” according to the blog.

Tesla and Panasonic plan on beginning PV production in 2017, if it gets shareholder approval. Shareholders are scheduled to vote on the merger on November 17.

“We are excited to expand our partnership with Panasonic as we move towards a combined Tesla and SolarCity. 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,” said JB Straubel, chief technical officer and co-founder of Tesla.

“Panasonic PV cells and modules boast industry-leading power generation performance, and achieve high quality and reliability. We expect that the collaboration talks will lead to growth of the Tesla and Panasonic relationship,” said Shuuji Okayama, vice president, Eco Solutions Company of Panasonic.

Panasonic offers the market its HIT trademark brand photovoltaic modules, as seen in the image above. The Japanese company promotes the Heterojunction Technology’s benefits on its website: high efficiency that makes it possible to maximize the usage of available roof space; high temperature stability; and a high level of power generation for the amount of space it uses.

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The factory in Buffalo that Tesla and Panasonic will work out of was originally intended to be a SolarCity manufacturing plant, according to the Wall Street Journal. SolarCity faces a series of financial commitments as part of its deal with New York for the Buffalo factory, which is being partially financed by state taxpayers.

Tesla and SolarCity plan to unveil a separate product later this month that will still also be made at the Buffalo factory: a roof that generates solar power, said the Wall Street Journal.

The collaboration extends the long-term relationship between Tesla and Panasonic. Panasonic has been the primary supplier of lithium-ion battery packs to Tesla vehicles, and their working relationship includes the production of electric vehicle and grid storage battery cells at Tesla’s Gigafactory.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk had said earlier this month that the company would make an “unexpected” product announcement today. Late yesterday, Musk tweeted that the project “needs a few more days of refinement,” and won’t be revealed until Wednesday.

Tesla blog