Following Tesla’s recent acquisition of SolarCity, the California-based company just scored another big win. Panasonic will invest more than $256 million in Tesla’s New York solar cell factory. The Japan-based electronics company is already partnering with Tesla to build electric car batteries at its Nevada Gigafactory, and this investment, announced December 27, positions Panasonic more firmly in the automotive industry than ever before, marking the fulfillment of the company’s’s gradual shift away from consumer electronics.
Tesla’s production facility in Buffalo is expected to be up and running within just a few months. According to Tuesday’s announcement, production of photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules will begin in the summer of 2017. By 2019, the two companies expect to be churning out the equivalent of one gigawatt of solar power modules each year.
The news of Panasonic’s hefty investment in the Buffalo manufacturing plant is the first development since Tesla first named the electronics company as its partner in mid-October, which was contingent on the completion of Tesla’s merger with SolarCity. While that initial announcement came with very few details (in part because the merger wouldn’t be finalized for another month), this update illustrates the enormous scope of Panasonic’s commitment to the solar power market. The PV modules Panasonic produces at Tesla’s facility will be used primarily in the Powerwall and Powerpack systems, Tesla’s off-grid power solutions. While Tesla’s “solar roof” is still on deck, there is no word on when production on that line might begin.
SolarCity previously promised the creation of over 1,400 jobs at the Buffalo facility and Tesla’s announcement Tuesday reaffirms that commitment and elaborates that the figure includes more than 500 manufacturing jobs—an important footnote for a city that once relied heavily on blue collar industries like steel and automotive manufacturing.