Tesla’s $2.6 billion purchase of SolarCity isn’t complete yet but already the presumable parent company is making partnerships that would move the merged company forward. Yesterday (Oct. 17) Tesla and Panasonic announced a non-binding, long-term partnership under which Panasonic will collaborate on manufacturing producing photovoltaic (PV) cells and solar modules at SolarCity’s facility in Buffalo, NY.
“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 of Eco Solutions with Panasonic.
The partnership is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it’s contingent upon the merger between SolarCity and Tesla being finalized. Second, it builds on previous partnerships Tesla has had with Japan’s Panasonic to supply the electric vehicle manufacturer with batteries for its EVs and its residential Powerwall and commercial Powerpack energy storage systems. Third, the manufacturing facility in Buffalo, which received $750 million in support from New York, was for the initial ramp-up for Silevo’s PV technology to mass production scales. Whether or not that technology will now see the light of day is uncertain.
“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 Chief Technical Officer and CoFounder of Tesla JB Straubel.
What is unclear is whether Tesla’s use of Panasonic technology both for solar panels and battery technology are permanent solutions or temporary. Both Tesla and SolarCity are building so-called Gigafactories where the companies planned to build their batteries and solar panels, respectively, based on their own technologies. It’s also unclear at this point whether or not Tesla plans to or is sharing its technologies with Panasonic.
An unnamed SolarCity Spokesperson has commented, however, that the: “SolarCity/Silevo technology remains an important and applicable component of the end solar module. Both SolarCity/Silevo and Panasonic have been working on similar cell architecture on similar process equipment already. Together we will combine the best cell components from both and integrate them into the new solar module that will be produced in Buffalo.”
Tesla CEO and CoFounder Elon Musk also tantalized its supporters and the public with a comment that SolarCity would come out with a product that is essentially a solar roof as opposed to solar panels on a roof. What that exactly means and what Panasonic’s role in that development was not discussed.
Production of the Panasonic PV cells and solar panels at the Buffalo facility are slated to start in 2017. Tesla said the partnership with Panasonic is important to create the fully-integrated energy ecosystem Tesla envisions.Tweet