By on October 17, 2016

Buffalo (David Hamill/Flickr)

Sparks flew when Tesla teamed up with Panasonic to produce battery packs at the automaker’s Nevada Gigafactory. Of course, it helped that the Japanese battery maker brought $1.6 billion of its own money to the table.

After it tested the waters and liked what it saw, Tesla has now inked an agreement with Panasonic to bring jobs — hopefully long-lasting ones — to Buffalo, New York.

Both companies entered into a non-binding letter of intent yesterday, with the aim of producing solar cells and modules for SolarCity. Tesla has already signed a $2.6 billion deal to acquire the solar energy company, but shareholders have yet to give the deal the green light. The merger, and thus the new agreement, is due for a November 17 vote.

“Under this agreement…Tesla will use the cells and modules in a solar energy system that will work seamlessly with Powerwall and Powerpack, Tesla’s energy storage products,” the automaker stated in a blog post. “With the aid of installation, sales and financing capabilities from SolarCity, Tesla will bring an integrated sustainable energy solution to residential, commercial, and grid-scale customers.”

With shareholder consent, the two companies will push their beds together to make photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules at SolarCity’s South Park Avenue facility. Panasonic would provide the cells, while the merged Tesla-SolarCity entity would buy those components for the finished product. Production is scheduled to start next year.

According to The Buffalo News, the plant — billed as the largest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere — should employ 1,460 workers, with another 1,440 jobs created through suppliers and service contracts. While the jobs would be good news for Buffalo’s tax base, its residents have already ponied up a small sum for the plant’s creation. Solar City received $750 million in state tax dollars through the Buffalo Billion economic development initiative.

The two companies will show off a new product on October 28, The Buffalo News reports. A solar panel setup connected to a Powerwall 2.0 battery would give customers a way to wean themselves off the power grid.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk claims the two companies stand on solid financial ground. However, some investors weren’t pleased by news of the merger, saying SolarCity’s debt makes it a risky acquisition.

[Image: David Hamill/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

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29 Comments on “Budding Tesla-Panasonic Romance is Western New York’s Gain...”

  • avatar

    Good luck convincing the best and brightest engineers and managers to relocate to Buffalo.

    I can’t imagine there are many talented professionals in California or the Southeast who are looking to move to snowiest part of the rust belt.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s good because I am sure there are plenty of talented engineers and managers already living in Buffalo.

      • 0 avatar

        Maybe, but there are probably fewer now than there were before the city depopulated by 50+%.

        A desirable location is very helpful in recruiting the best people.

    • 0 avatar

      Show them a) a far lower cost of living, and b) that they can commute less than four hours a day, and a lot of them WILL come.

      • 0 avatar

        Internet says that the cost of living in Buffalo is within 5% of major cities in the Southeast.

        It also says that the average commute time in Buffalo is 20 minutes vs 30 minutes in Atlanta.

        There may in fact be compelling reasons to live in Buffalo rather than, say, Nashville. However, those reasons do not appear to be related to commute times or cost of living.

      • 0 avatar

        And give them a beef on weck. That should do it.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh sure, we gey snow, but it’s exaggerated. The reality is we have some of the nicest summers of any major north eastern city. Buffalo has topped many “best places to move” lists in part because of it’s friendly community, growing public spaces, year round events, and low housing costs.

      Engineers and professionals aren’t that hard to find considering we have UB, one of the best public technical schools, Buff State and RIT relatively close, as well as many other colleges and universities. The brain drain has slowed considerably in the last 5 years, and with all the progress that’s been made if you haven’t been here since then you really need to stop by again.

      I live in Buffalo so it’s been very exciting to see all of this revival first hand.

  • avatar

    Buffalo gets a bum rap, but it’s a nice little city full of warm people. I certainly prefer it to Hamilton in any case.

    Good for them and hopefully it leads to being a solar hub.

    • 0 avatar

      The internet says Buffalo gets and average of 54 sunny days a year. Good luck charging and testing those solar battery packs!

      Just kidding. This is a great opportunity for Buffalo.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    So the state paid for maybe 2-3 years of these new jobs, in one sense. Hopefully this corporate welfare buys a long-lasting enterprise.

    Living in the Pittsburgh area, I’m only 4 hours’ drive from there. But Buffalo holds no appeal for me to move to. At my station in life, I’d rather move to Fremont, CA or some other temperate clime, than snowy Buffalo.

    On the other hand, they may attract workers who have been displaced from other industries, and college grads from the several good schools in the area. Buffalo’s low cost of living is attractive.

  • avatar

    If you like Pittsburgh, Buffalo isn’t much of a change. It’s just 20 years slower in its recovery process. The climate is great if you like four distinct seasons. I moved here in 2009 after 9 years in Pittsburgh. I’m cautiously optimistic about the solar boondoggle. My guess is the taxpayers will get hosed on top of the ridiculous tax burden imposed by one party rule. The city and metro needs to slash government employment by about 80 percent to be on par with the norm. Its all part of the welfare economy. Give Billions to billionaires, millions to millionaires and hundreds to the poor and those who wont work. No problem, the middle class will continue to pick up the tab until the middle class is gone.

    • 0 avatar

      “…slash government employment by about 80 percent.”

      Who’s left to move 13 gigatons of snow to Lake Erie this winter?

      “Living in the Pittsburgh area, I’m only 4 hours’ drive from there. But Buffalo holds no appeal for me to move to. At my station in life, I’d rather move to Fremont, CA or some other temperate clime, than snowy Buffalo.”

      Stick around; Climate Change (TM) could solve *all* of these problems!

      We’re near record high temps today in Pittsburgh and the Northeast (82degF today) – doesn’t mean anything by itself, except that I believe this is one of the 10 hottest years ever in Pittsburgh…

      • 0 avatar

        The good people who actually do meaningful work for the citizens of western NY are not the problem. Its the thousands of bureaucrats and “elected official” who need to find useful work in the private sector. Then maybe we could lower the tax burden on the working class and allow the economy to boom in an area with abundant natural resources and good hearted people.

      • 0 avatar

        This morning I emptied a full recovery tub from my dehumidifier the float-switch had shut down overnight. Nearly turned the AC on before going to bed.

        On October 18th.

        It’s real, it sucks, and it’s only going to get worse. All our modern advancements come from cold places and we’re running out of those. Hot, wet places grow only parasites and mung.

        • 0 avatar

          My basement dehumidifier is (oddly enough) a Kenmore that has a little doo-hickey that connects to a 10ft. garden hose, and it dribbles into the floor drain.

          We’re 4″ behind rain-wise this year, so it hasn’t had to work as had as usual.

  • avatar

    Buffalo is great, look for Cuomo to run for president, and does Panasonic get to keep the technology should Tesla/Solar City go out of business?

  • avatar

    I’ve heard that the summers in Buffalo are nice enough to make up for the winters. The opposite is certainly not true in the southeast. We always get a little chuckle here in upstate SC when folks move down and are surprised that they have to use their heat from late October to April and learn that sub freezing nighttime lows are common for 3 months of the year. It’s just when precipitation comes through in the winter it generally comes with warmer air, so we get dreary cold rainy winter days rather than snow for the most part, except when it turns into an ice storm, which is always fun. The Atlanta to Charlotte mega region is not like the southern half of Florida folks!. I was on the edge of insanity this summer – it was literally 95 humid degrees most days for over 2 months straight.

    The snow bird people have it figured out, especially those out west where the humidity is mercifully low.

  • avatar

    Western NY needs the shot in the arm. It’s a friendly city with a lot of character and a deep history. Plus they have Wegman’s, best grocery store on planet earth.

    And for the first time in 25 years, the Bills look pretty good, having put the smackdown on Brady and the Pats in N.E.

    Did I mention Wegman’s?

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll second you on Wegman’s. Nice stores, great selection, and decent prices considering the quality of what they offer. When my wife travels to Baltimore for business, she’d rather eat dinner from the Wegman’s hot bar than most of the restaurants in Hunt Valley.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes! Wegman’s is just mind blowing. I grew up in Ithaca NY and simply took it for granted. Now, every time I’m visiting my folks, my fiance and I always make a Wegman’s run to load up on fancy meats/cheeses. She’s from Indiana and had never experienced anything like it. Sure there’s overpriced froo-froo stores like Fresh Market, but nothing that combines the selection of Wegmans (ie they carry fance stuff but also regular groceries) with their entirely reasonable prices on most things.

    • 0 avatar

      F***ing weggies man, it’s awesome.

      Though Brady didn’t play us on account of cheating. Still counts in my book.

    • 0 avatar

      “Plus they have Wegman’s, best grocery store on planet earth.”

      I fully agree. By far, it’s my favorite supermarket.

  • avatar

    Great news for Buffalo! It’s a wonderful, down-on-its-luck city filled with hard working people. I can tell you from personal experience, it’s a great place to live with lots to see and do and with loads of great things to eat. People should be lining up to relocate there.

    I only lived there for a few years, but I miss it a lot.

    • 0 avatar

      My most prominent memories of Buffalo are unfortunately going there in frigid February to submit my application for citizenship when I was 18. What astounded me the most was how many store fronts were boarded up, and how many homeless there were out and about, even with how cold it was outside. Very sad to see, and unfortunately that sort of post-industrial blight is all over the place.

      • 0 avatar

        Not sure when you visited but the city has made a big turn around in the last 5 or so years. If you haven’t visited since I’d recommend stopping by again to really see the changes.

        We’ve got a tough past but it just adds to the character.

  • avatar

    Man, you couldn’t have found a better picture? It’s not always rainy and cloudy here, in fact this past summer was down right obnoxiously sunny and hot. Or even a picture of some beautiful snow covered streets.

    Remember Buffalo is no stranger to industry, we’ve got an number of large plants and companies (GM, Greatbatch, Ford, Dunlop, Dupont) that call the local area home, and even with the decline since the 70’s there’s been a great revival in recent years.

  • avatar

    If this happens. There’s been a rash of “maybes” – Bass Pro comes to mind – that sours my expectations. But, yes, it would be outstanding. The big FedEx expansion next to the Ford stamping plant, the data centers, and this would be a nice cherry on top.

  • avatar

    City Journal (free online) has some background on the funding – the Buffalo Billion. Let’s just say that it stinks to high heaven. US DA Preet Bharara will never run out of federal corruption investigations. The big fish are to be found in Albany and New York, not Buffalo.
    Buffalo has a history in technology so I don’t think they will have a problem attracting talent as long as said talent really likes skiing and hockey. Bell Aircraft developed the X-1, Yeager’s plane, as well as in many of the successors but is now only a memory. Textron Bell Helicopter has long since decamped to the warmer climes of Ft. Worth.

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