Recent local news reports in Buffalo reveal that SolarCity’s “Gigafactory” is nearing competition. The exterior has been looking pretty much complete for quite some time now (see picture above), but there’s still work to be done inside the plant, which is why 950 crew members are currently on site to get it online in about 6 months.
SolarCity Senior Vice President of Operations Steve James says that although the 950 constructions jobs are temporary, the company expects 500 full-time employees will work at the plant by next year. SolarCity has already started hiring for management, engineering, and facilities positions.
The plant is often called “Gigafactory” due to its impressive planned production of 1 gigawatt of solar panels a year, and of course because SolarCity is closely linked to Tesla Motors, which also announced a massive plant called “Gigafactory”, but this one is aiming to produce gigawatt-hours of batteries. Despite its ambitious planned production, James said the company expects internal demand to surpass the plant’s capacity:
“Our internal demand for what we install ourselves will be much higher than what this factory can produce, so unlike a lot of other manufacturing sectors, certainly the indications are that we will be full from the beginning, that everything we can make will be sold right away,”
SolarCity’s own “Gigafactory” will produce its proprietary Silevo ~350-watt solar panels, which are expected to achieve a record-breaking 22% efficiency. Production already started last year at the company’s 100 MW pilot facility in Fremont, California, but they plan on transfering the production to the 1 GW factory in Buffalo.
James says SolarCity will use the most advanced solar manufacturing equipment designed specifically for the plant’s needs:
“One of the reasons we can do this in North America as opposed to Asia is that we can be cost-competitive because of our equipment knowledge and we can design the plant in such a way that it can be very, very efficient,”
Again, the plant is expected to go online in about 6 months.