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that it has no intention of using Silevo’s technology
at “Gigafactory 2,” the former Silevo facility in Western New
York, now owned by Tesla through its acquisition of
SolarCity. This makes some background on Panasonic (Whose
technology Tesla plans to rely on instead) in this month’s Solar
Flare particularly relevant.
Panasonic recently announced that the New York Facility would be
operated under the name Panasonic Eco Solutions Solar New York
America (PESSNYCA?) and that equipment will be installed and
production will begin by summer 2017.
In 2014 SolarCity acquired Silevo and broke ground on its New York
Giga-factory promising that it would begin high volume production as
early as 2016. This was an announcement doomed to retraction from
the outset given that breaking ground and construction are not
In 2015 SolarCity announced that it would produce modules in its New
York facility by 2017 that would be 30% more efficient than the
modules it was currently producing even though it was not producing
any modules at the New York facility and Silevo was operating as a
module assembler in China. Also in 2015 SolarCity leased the former
Solyndra manufacturing facility in Fremont a move that at least
finally (finally) got rid of the Solyndra sign and the constant
reminder of this fiasco.
In 2016 SolarCity announced that the champion modules produced in
Fremont by Silevo had reached 22% conversion efficiency. Note,
champion efficiency and commercial efficiency are not the same
thing. Given the 2015 announcement that it would increase its
nonexistent module efficiency by 30%, did SolarCity mean that in
2017 it would produce modules of >28% efficiency in New York
using the Silevo technology? This is both unlikely and, well, it’s
more than unlikely. And now SolarCity/Tesla and Panasonic have
announced that Panasonic will produce high efficiency cells and
modules in New York by mid-2017. This is also unlikely.
Well, it’s more than unlikely.
Comment: Panasonic’s cost structure is not a good fit for
manufacturing in the US. Given the crash dive in prices and the
forces holding prices down it is difficult to see the new
announcement in a positive light.
Lesson: This latest announcement may end up to be no more
than an announcement but it will be repeated as progress before
PESSNYCA turns out even one module. The lesson is not to put too
much credence in announcements or in long company names that cry out
to be acronym-ized.
Paula Mints is founder of SPV
Market Research, a classic solar market research
practice focused on gathering data through primary research and
providing analyses of the global solar industry. You can
find her on Twitter @PaulaMints1
and read her blog here.
This article was originally published in SPV Reaserch’s monthly
newsletter, the Solar Flare, and is republished with permission.
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