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Gigafactory 2
Large white sign with red letters spelling "TESLA"
Sign at factory entrance
Gigafactory 2 is located in New York
Gigafactory 2
Location of Gigafactory 2
Gigafactory 2 is located in the US
Gigafactory 2
Gigafactory 2 (the US)
Built September 2014
Operated August 2017
Location Buffalo, Erie County, New York, U.S.
Coordinates 42°51′32″N 78°50′24″W / 42.859°N 78.840°W / 42.859; -78.840Coordinates: 42°51′32″N 78°50′24″W / 42.859°N 78.840°W / 42.859; -78.840
Industry Energy storage and generation
Products Photovolatic cells, Solar panels, Solar shingles
Employees 100+
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 a remediated brownfield site from a former steel mill. Construction on the factory started in 2014 and was completed in 2016–2017.

Originally, 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, plans for the factory grew significantly. The factory, in a partnership with Panasonic, started limited assembly of photovoltaic modules in the summer of 2017 using imported Japanese PV cells. It will begin mass production of modules through October 2017. In 2018, SolarCity plans to begin production of individual solar cells.[1]

After the initiation of Gigafactory 1 near Reno, Nevada in 2016, Tesla began to refer to the SolarCity Gigafactory as Gigafactory 2. The Tesla Gigafactory Europe will be named either Gigafactory 3, 4 or 5.[2]

History[edit]

The large Republic Steel mill that occupied the site before Tesla
Gigafactory under construction in 2015

Background[edit]

Republic Steel and Donner Hanna Coke operated a major steel mill along the Buffalo River on the 88-acre[3] South Buffalo site from the early part of the 20th century to its closing in 1984.[4] 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," unveiled by Governor Andrew Cuomo during his 2012 State of the State address.[5][6] This package included a provision for $1 billion in unearmarked economic investments for the Buffalo area.

On November 21, 2013, Cuomo returned to Buffalo to announce 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.[7] At the time, the two companies announced as tenants were lighting manufacturer SORAA and solar panel manufacturer Silevo, which promised 475 jobs.[8][9] Development of the site would be managed by the SUNY Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, now SUNY Polytechnic Institute.[7]

SolarCity detailed plans to acquire Silevo on June 17, 2014, for $200 million,[10] subsequently scaling up plans for the Buffalo gigafactory. The company outlined a construction timetable and hiring goals promising 3,000 jobs in Buffalo with 5,000 statewide, and $5 billion in economic activity. New renderings of the facility were detailed, abandoning the research center design and moving towards the construction of a 1.2 million square foot factory.[11] As a result, the state increased the incentives offered to $750 million.[11]

Construction and production[edit]

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.[12] 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".[13]

Rationale[edit]

Image of the Tesla Solar Roof tiles, which consist of thin, black roofing shingles with glassy, embedded solar panels.
Tesla Solar Roof, produced at Gigafactory 2

Before Tesla and Panasonic began their partnership at the Riverbend site, Panasonic already had 30 years of experience producing solar panels.[14] 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.[15] In addition, the technology involved with Silevo 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,[16] with the latter offering semiconductor and nanotechnology programs specifically for employment at the gigafactory.[17]

In June 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.[18] Spin-off development was also signaled by leaders of the project.[18] 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.[19]

While SolarCity operates a pilot production facility in Fremont, California, the Gigafactory provides ample capacity for 10,000 solar panels per day, equivalent to one gigawatt per year, providing a competitive edge to cheaper panel factories in Asia and operating as one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world.[20]

The facility also takes advantage of tax incentives and leasable space from the State of New York.

Operations[edit]

As of August 2017, the factory assembles photovoltaic modules for solar panels, under Panasonic.[1] Production of solar shingles and tiles for the Tesla Solar Roof had begun.[12] Tesla announced that it would begin installing the Tesla Solar Roof on commercial customers' homes "within the [first] few months" of 2018.[21]

In an interview in 2016, Elon Musk stated that the Buffalo gigafactory could potentially produce up to 10 gigawatts (GW) per year as a result of the merger, a drastic increase from the initial estimate of 1 GW.[22] It is currently anticipated that the factory will reach 2 GW before this target.[23]

Controversy[edit]

The project faced several criticisms, controversy and legal actions regarding overinflated job promises, cost overruns, construction delays, bid rigging, and the financial health of both SolarCity and Tesla.[24][25][26][27]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Robinson, David (2017-08-31). "6 things to watch as Panasonic gears up to start production". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  2. ^ Tesla christens Buffalo solar factory ‘Gigafactory 2’, will finalize locations of Gigafactory 3, 4 and possibly 5 this year, Electrek, 22 Feb 2017
  3. ^ "Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub at RiverBend | Buffalo Billion". buffalobillion.ny.gov. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  4. ^ Sisson, Patrick (2016-04-01). "A Gigafactory Is Rising in Buffalo, And It May Change the Solar Energy Industry". Curbed. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  5. ^ "Cuomo upbeat about NY's future (with text, highlights of speech; video of Saland)". The Daily Freeman. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  6. ^ "Governor Cuomo Outlines Plan to Continue Building a New New York by Growing the Economy, Reinventing State Government, and Advancing New York as a Progressive Leader". Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. 2014-09-28. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  7. ^ a b Staff (2013-11-21). "Cuomo's clean-energy plan gives Buffalo the seeds for a new economy". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  8. ^ WBFO Newsroom. "Buffalo's RiverBend to be site of two new clean-energy research companies". WBFO. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  9. ^ Staff (2013-11-21). "Profiles of high-tech hub companies Soraa, Silevo". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  10. ^ Cardwell, Diane (2014-06-17). "SolarCity Is Acquiring a Start-Up, Silevo, to Build Panels". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  11. ^ a b Staff, News 4 Digital (2014-09-23). "SolarCity investing $5B in Buffalo, creating 3,000 jobs". wivb.com. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  12. ^ a b Ayre, James. "Solar Roof Tile Production At Tesla’s Buffalo “Gigafactory” Now Up & Running", CleanTechnica.com, September 7, 2017
  13. ^ Eckhouse, Brian. "Tesla's New York Gigafactory Kicks Off Solar Roof Production", Bloomberg.com, January 9, 2018
  14. ^ Robinson, David (2016-10-18). "Why Tesla wants to team up with Panasonic in Buffalo". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  15. ^ "Making the World's Best Solar Panel Won't Be Easy for Tesla". NASDAQ.com. 2016-11-06. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  16. ^ CNBC.com, Bob Woods, special to (2016-07-19). "SolarCity gigafactory brightens New York's manufacturing revival". Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  17. ^ Smallwood, Brittni; Reporter, News 4 (2015-07-06). "ECC creating new courses to capitalize on SolarCity's development". wivb.com. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  18. ^ a b CNBC.com, Tim Mullaney, special to (2015-06-11). "Elon Musk's biggest challenge yet: Recharging Buffalo, NY". Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  19. ^ http://buffalonews.com/2017/10/06/buffalo-made-solar-panels-help-get-power-back-puerto-rico/
  20. ^ Martin, Richard. "10 Breakthrough Technologies 2016: SolarCity's Gigafactory". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  21. ^ Eckhouse, Brian. "Tesla's New York Gigafactory Kicks Off Solar Roof Production", Bloomberg.com, January 9, 2018
  22. ^ "SolarCity's solar Gigafactory will produce up to 10 GW/year under Tesla, says Elon Musk". Electrek. 2016-11-04. Retrieved 2017-09-15. 
  23. ^ Durbin | AP, Dee-Ann (August 31, 2017). "Tesla starts production of solar cells in Buffalo". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved January 10, 2018. 
  24. ^ McMahon, E. J. (2016-09-22). "Cuomo's SolarCity disaster could become a monument to corruption". New York Post. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  25. ^ "Can Elon Musk Get SolarCity's Gigafactory Back On Track?". Fast Company. 2017-06-08. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  26. ^ "Musk calls Tesla's SolarCity deal 'no-brainer'; investors disagree". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 
  27. ^ "State Funded Tesla-SolarCity Factory Slips Into Outright Corruption". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 2017-09-04. 

External links[edit]

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