Tesla/Panasonic Gigafactory to begin producing PV modules in summer 2017

SolarCity's factory in Buffalo will be the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere when complete.

Two months after announcing announcing that Panasonic will run the new SolarCity “gigafactory” in Upstate New York, Tesla and Panasonic report that they have finalized their agreement regarding solar manufacturing. As part of the joint announcement, the companies confirmed that they will be using Panasonic cells in Tesla’s “Solar Roof” tiles, as well as in the modules that the factory will produce.

In October, Musk and SolarCity had both stated that the factory would combine Panasonic’s Heterojunction Intrinsic Thin film (HIT) technology with SolarCity’s Silevo technology. This was a strange claim, given the different architectures of the two technologies. Thus yesterday’s announcement merely reaffirmed what pv magazine has been reporting for months: that the factory will produce Panasonic HIT cells and modules.

Not only will the factory make Panasonic products (including those incorporated in Tesla products), but the Japanese conglomerate will be footing a portion of the bill. The joint statement declares that “Panasonic will cover required capital costs in Buffalo”.

The companies have further hinted that Panasonic will take over Silevo’s production in Fremont. “Panasonic, with its technological and manufacturing expertise in PV production, will also work with Tesla on developing PV next generation technology at SolarCity’s facility in Fremont, CA,” reads the statement.

There is no mention of what will happen to Silevo’s silicon heterojunction technology, or of the tools that SolarCity had already ordered for the Buffalo factory. Since both Silevo and HIT technologies are silicon heterojunction utilizing amorphous silicon layers, it is likely that many of the same tools can be utilized. However, the statement regarding capital costs suggests the possibility that not all the tools that Panasonic requires had been supplied.

Tesla and Panasonic have also confirmed the timetable for production. According to the statement, Panasonic will begin producing modules at the Tesla gigafactory in the summer of 2017, and ramp to 1 GW of production in 2019. This will make the Buffalo facility the largest PV module factory by output in the Western Hemisphere.