Tesla to finally close the door on Silevo

During the lead-up to the acquisition of SolarCity last fall, both Tesla and SolarCity had made repeated claims that Panasonic, which will run the solar “Gigafactory” in upstate New York, would combine its own Heterojunction Intrinsic Thin Film (HIT) solar cell technology with SolarCity/Silevo’s “Triex” heterojunction cell technology.

Such claims were patently bogus, given the different architectures of the two technologies and the absurd idea that Panasonic would manufacture someone else’s technology that competed with its own, and pv magazine said as much.

However, this week we have some final confirmation regarding the wind-down of the Silevo partnership, with Tesla revealing in its annual report that by the end of last year it had stopped paying performance-based compensation to Silevo investors. The key line from the report follows:

“As of December 31, 2016, the Company determined that the two remaining milestones will not be achieved by Silevo. As a result, the Company changed the estimated probabilities and adjusted the accrued contingent consideration balance to $0, for the two remaining milestones.”

These two milestones related to progress with Silevo technology at its U.S. R&D facility and its participation in the gigafactory, including reaching volume production by the end of 2017.

This saved Tesla/SolarCity $84 million, which it used to offset general & administrative expenses.

SolarCity’s own annual report gave further evidence that Tesla is backing away from the Silevo deal, with SolarCity noting that it would not resume importing PV cells from Silevo’s Chinese factory until it was able to avoid import duties on these cells.

SolarCity had used dubious logic to argue that the heterojunction silicon cells were a thin film product and not subject to import duties, but last June the U.S. Department of Commerce rejected that claim.