On the heels of his radical announcement to open Tesla’s entire patent portfolio, Elon Musk just made a major investment that could revolutionize the solar energy industry. Musk’s rooftop solar panel installation company SolarCity just signed an agreement to acquire solar panel manufacturer Silevo for up to $350 million. As part of the deal, SolarCity is in talks with New York State to build a one gigawatt solar panel production plant in Buffalo that would be one of the world’s largest solar factories, creating more than 1,000 jobs within the next two years.

SolarCity, Elon Musk, solar panels, solar panel production plant, solar energy, Buffalo, New York

In a blog post on the SolarCity website titled “Solar at Scale,” Musk, who is the chairman, and co-founders Peter Rive and Lyndon Rive write that the acquisition will allow SolarCity to make its own solar panels for the first time rather than purchasing panels from other manufacturers. The blog post also acknowledges that while there are currently too many suppliers, they are positioning themselves for tremendous future growth in the solar industry.

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“Without decisive action to lay the groundwork today, the massive volume of affordable, high efficiency panels needed for unsubsidized solar power to outcompete fossil fuel grid power simply will not be there when it is needed,” they wrote.

In the United States, a home or business goes solar every four minutes and a recent report forecasts that solar power could be the world’s top energy source by 2050. SolarCity wants to make Upstate New York a solar panel manufacturing center, with plans for one or more plants even larger than the 1 GW capacity factory under consideration.

“We absolutely believe that solar power can and will become the world’s predominant source of energy within our lifetimes, but there are obviously a lot of panels that have to be manufactured and installed in order for that to happen,” concludes the blog post. “The plans we are announcing today, while substantial compared to current industry, are small in that context.”

+ SolarCity

Via Smart Planet

Images via Energy Trust of Oregon