A new report shows that Tesla’s solar factory in Buffalo, which the company dubbed ‘Gigafactory 2’, mainly serves as a Panasonic factory to supply other solar companies.
Tesla Gigafactory 2
Gigafactory 2 is a 1.2 million-square-foot facility located in Buffalo, New York.
Tesla inherited the plant through its acquisition of SolarCity.
The solar company itself inherited it from a solar module startup that it acquired and it aimed to use it to produce the new solar panel technology that they developed.
When Tesla acquired the company, they changed the plans and instead, they made another manufacturing agreement with Panasonic to accelerate the production of solar products at the factory.
They called the factory Gigafactory 2 because they aim to produce over 1 gigawatt of solar products at the factory, which also happens to work under a similar deal as Gigafactory 1, where Tesla and Panasonic manufacture batteries.
Panasonic invested in the production of solar cells at Gigafactory 2 and Tesla agreed to buy those cells to put inside the solar roof tiles that it manufactures at the location. Also, the goal was for Panasonic to also separately produce solar modules at Gigafactory 2 for Tesla’s solar retrofit business.
They have been ramping up production lately and we previously reported that Tesla Energy is now mainly using its own ‘Tesla-branded’ solar panels made at Gigafactory 2 by Panasonic.
Tesla Panasonic Gigafactory 2
Now a report from Reuters shows a different picture of the plant.
According to documents obtained by Reuters and sources, Panasonic is actually selling most of the solar cells produced at the factory and intended to be used in Tesla’s solar roof tiles to other solar module manufacturers:
“Tesla has only sporadically purchased solar cells produced by its partner in the factory, Panasonic Corp, according to a Buffalo solar factory employee speaking on condition of anonymity. The rest are going largely to foreign buyers, according to a Panasonic letter to U.S. Customs officials reviewed by Reuters.”
The report states that Tesla has only deployed a few dozen solar roof installations to date.
As for the solar modules produced by Panasonic at Gigafactory 2, the report states that Tesla is still buying some of them, but Panasonic is also selling them to Tesla’s competitors.
Tesla and Panasonic both refused to confirm volumes being purchased following Reuters’ report.
Tesla Solar Roof Tiles
The company started taking orders with a $1,000 deposit for the first versions of its solar roof tiles in May 2017. They said that the product was sold out “well into 2018” within the first few weeks.
But at the time, the company planned to start volume production during the summer of 2017.
It was delayed to summer 2018 and so far, we have only heard about a few installations in California. We reported on some of those early installations.
Most of them were installed at the homes of employees and a few installations went to customers.
Last year, Musk commented on the rollout of the solar roof – saying that it is now installed at ‘several hundred locations’, but Tesla later sent us a clarification saying that “several hundred homes with Solar Roof” includes not only homes with solar roof installed but also with their installation scheduled.
More recently, Tesla has been saying that they are still validating the early installations of the solar roof tiles and making modifications to the product ahead of a production ramp up later this year.
It’s no secret that Tesla’s solar business has taken a massive hit over the last few years.
In my opinion, it looks like it just hasn’t been a priority for Tesla, but I think that could change. The sustainable energy generation is still an important part of the equation and Tesla’s mission.
While Tesla detractors are quick to say that products like the solar roof tiles are dead, I think we are going to see them make a comeback soon.
In the meantime, I agree that it looks like Gigafactory 2 is more of a Panasonic factory than a Tesla factory, but that could change quickly if Tesla’s solar business turns around.
They would ramp up solar roof tile production and start using more of Panasonic’s cells. Until then, it’s not like they are going to waste since those cells actually end up producing clean energy on roofs around the US. It’s just that they are being installed by Tesla competitors.
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