SolarCity has its own “Gigafactory” for solar panels going up in Buffalo where it plans to produce at least 1 gigawatt of capacity per year. The plant, which is largely being funded by the state of New York through Gov. Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion”, had a few setbacks, especially after state funding was put on hold as lobbying connections were investigated, but now the factory is almost ready to start production just as Tesla is about to close its acquisition of SolarCity.
For the occasion, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo visited the factory yesterday and came back impressed (via Buffalo News):
“I am just blown away by this facility. When you see it, you are just blown away by the reality of it.”
For its $750 million investment, the state actually owns the plant and rents to SolarCity at virtually no cost, but the company has to heavily invest in hiring locally to staff the plant and its whole operations in New York.
SolarCity will take control of the 1.2 million-square-foot factory as soon as next week.
The company planned to produce its proprietary Silevo ~350-watt solar panels in its own “Gigafactory”, but since the deal with Tesla, it looks like it could expand to other products.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that SolarCity, which should be under the automaker’s control by the end of the year, is about to unveil 2 new products and that one of those products will be a “solar roof”:
“It’s a solar roof, as opposed to modules on a roof.”
Since Tesla announced its intentions to buy SolarCity, the solar installer said that it impaired its ability to raise capital and it also announced layoffs. Its stock (SCTY) is down 25% in the last month alone.
When questioned about SolarCity’s financial situation during his visit of the plant yesterday, Cuomo said:
“Clean energy has to happen. That we know. This is the state-of-the-art plant in building solar panels, so I am confident we are where we need to be and in the right place in the market in the evolution of the market.”
Tesla disclosed that it plans to raise money around the same time that the deal to acquire SolarCity is expected to close. SolarCity currently expects that solar panel production in Buffalo will start next summer.