Tesla's Solar Factory Exports 'Great Majority' Of Solar Cells

Cornelia Mascio
Mag 16, 2019

A filing from Tesla shows that 329 of the factory's 730 employees are Tesla's own workers. Gigafactory 2, which is also known as RiverBend, a joint venture with Panasonic to produce solar panels and roof tiles in Buffalo, New York, U.S., August 2, 2018.

The state of NY remains pleased with its investment in the factory and Panasonic's move to diversify its customer base beyond Tesla.

Panasonic produces the solar panels at the Buffalo plant for Tesla, but Reuters said it has been selling many of them to other buyers since past year due to low demand from the California automaker.

The overwhelming majority of the solar cells produced at the facility are now being sold overseas rather than being used in Tesla's "Solar Roof" photovoltaic product, according to a Reuters report on Wednesday, citing a letter to U.S. customs officials from Panasonic, Tesla's partner on the plant.

The subcontract also provided a way to help Tesla achieve hiring commitments required as part of the state's $750 million in subsidies. A year from now, the company is required to employ 1,460 workers in the state.

Tesla also said it has invested $381.9 million total in ny state as of April 30, including $179.3 million in the previous year.

Panasonic is reportedly seeking to use its Buffalo operations to fulfill demand for us -made solar cells from foreign buyers. It was not immediately clear whether those jobs are included in the count toward meeting the state targets. Tesla's residential solar installations have plunged in recent years, dropping 650 megawatts in 2016 to 208 megawatts in 2017, according to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. "In the coming weeks, ESD will perform the necessary due diligence to verify the data provided by Tesla".

The exporting underscores the depth of Tesla's troubles in the US solar business, which the electric vehicle maker entered in 2016 with its controversial $2.6 billion purchase of SolarCity.

At the time, it planned to use the factory to make a trailblazing product called the Solar Roof, an energy system meant to look like normal roof tiles.

But the company has installed them on just a handful of rooftops nationwide so far after production line troubles and a gutting of Tesla's solar sales team.

The piece also noted that Panasonic's production is distinct from Tesla, set up on the other side of the building, despite Tesla's portrayal of the deal as a close collaboration.

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