Giga New York
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|
Tesla Giga New York (or 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. In late 2019, Tesla announced that it would begin commercial installation of version 3 of its "Solar Roof" product over the following few months.
By early 2020, Tesla had increased the number of employees at the factory to 1,500; soon afterwards, Panasonic plans to leave the solar partnership at the factory.
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 opening
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 solar panels had begun at the factory.
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. Tesla CEO Elon 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, Solar City's CEO, Lyndon Rive, a cousin of Elon Musk, 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. In January 2018, Tesla announced, after testing on employees' roofs, that it would begin installing its new product on commercial customers' homes "within the next few months". Tesla did not mass-produce the Solar Roof in 2018, however, delayed by its focus on the ramp up of the Tesla Model 3 and development of a third version of the Solar Roof; in October 2019, it announced that version 3 of the Solar Roof is ready to begin production and ramp up installations over the next several months.
By November 2018, the factory employed over 800 people. By early 2020, Tesla increased the number of employees at the factory to 1,500 and also began to produce charging equipment for its Supercharger network at the factory; Panasonic plans to discontinue its solar partnership at the factory by May 2020.
The project has faced criticism and legal actions regarding allegations of inflated job promises, cost overruns, construction delays and bid rigging, that the deal was, in effect, a bailout of Musk's cousins Peter and Lyndon Rive, in addition to a perceived lack of effort from Musk.
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