Sign at factory entrance
|Location||Buffalo, Erie County, New York, U.S.|
|Industry||Energy generation and storage|
|Products||Photovoltaic cells, Solar panels, Solar shingles|
|Address||1339 South Park Ave, Buffalo, NY 14220|
|Owner(s)||State of New York|
The Tesla Gigafactory 2 is a photovoltaic (PV) cell factory leased by Tesla subsidiary SolarCity in Buffalo, New York. The factory, owned by the State of New York, was built on brownfield land remediated from a former steel mill. Construction of the factory started in 2014 and was completed in 2016–17.
In 2013, the site of Gigafactory 2 was planned as a clean energy business incubation center. As SolarCity acquired Silevo in 2014 and merged into Tesla two years later, the factory was planned. The factory, in a partnership with Panasonic, started limited assembly of photovoltaic modules in 2017 using imported Japanese PV cells. It began commercial production of modules in 2017. In 2018, SolarCity began production of individual solar cells.
Republic Steel and Donner Hanna Coke operated a steel mill along the Buffalo River on the 88-acre South Buffalo site from early in the 20th century to its closing in 1984. As a response to the regional manufacturing downturn related to deindustrialization in the Rust Belt, the State of New York created an economic stimulus package, later dubbed the "Buffalo Billion", providing $1 billion in unearmarked economic investments for the Buffalo area. In 2013, Cuomo announced the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Hub at Riverbend, targeting the Republic Steel site, then a brownfield, for the development of a clean energy business incubation center that was to be funded with $225 million from the Buffalo Billion fund. At the time, the two companies announced as tenants were lighting manufacturer SORAA and solar panel manufacturer Silevo, which promised 475 jobs. Development of the site would be managed by the SUNY Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, now SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
In 2014, SolarCity detailed plans to acquire Silevo for $200 million, subsequently scaling up plans for the Buffalo gigafactory. The company outlined a construction timetable and hiring goals promising an eventual 3,000 jobs in Buffalo with 5,000 statewide, and $5 billion in economic activity. The new plans abandoned the research center design in favor of the construction of a 1.2 million square foot factory. As a result, the state increased the incentives offered to $750 million.
Construction and production
Ground broke in September 2014. The facility was completed in late 2016 and was furnished with equipment through 2017. As of August 2017, production of tiles for the Tesla Solar Roof had begun at the factory, along with traditional solar panels. In January 2018, Tesla announced, after testing on employees' roofs, that it would begin installing the new product on commercial customers' homes "within the next few months".
Before Tesla and Panasonic began their partnership in Buffalo, Panasonic already had 30 years of experience producing solar panels. Because SolarCity incorporated the manufacturing process that Silevo had intended to use for production, the partnership allows Tesla to outsource production and reduce its burden on debt. The technology used incorporates nanotechnology, an emerging sector in upstate New York that colleges and universities such as SUNY Poly and Erie Community College have developed programs and research in, with the latter offering semiconductor and nanotechnology programs specifically for employment at the gigafactory. The facility also takes advantage of tax incentives and leasable space from the State of New York. Musk has also suggested that the company's solar panels could be helpful in humanitarian crises, such as rebuilding the electric grid of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
In 2015, Lyndon Rive, then CEO of SolarCity, stated that the new facility would be key to creating a clean energy-manufacturing market, adding that expansion would not be possible at the Riverbend plant, but more likely in the immediate area. While SolarCity operated a production facility in Fremont, California, the Gigafactory provides capacity for 10,000 solar panels per day, equivalent to one gigawatt per year.
The factory began production of solar cells in 2017, and assembly of photovoltaic modules for solar panels, under Panasonic. Production of solar shingles and tiles for the Tesla Solar Roof had begun. Tesla announced that it would begin installing the Tesla Solar Roof on commercial customers' homes "within the [first] few months" of 2018. By November 2018, the factory employed over 800 people, and Clean Technica reported that the company is preparing to ramp up solar roof production. "Tesla's refocus on its solar business ... resulted in 10–20% price reductions of its residential solar products to reflect the improvements it has made in optimizing its solar sales and supply chain systems."
The project faced criticism and legal actions regarding allegations of inflated job promises, cost overruns, construction delays, bid rigging, and the financial health of both SolarCity and Tesla, in addition to a perceived lack of effort from Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
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