Elon Musk's Tesla has announced plans to collaborate with Japanese electronics giant Panasonic to begin manufacturing solar cells and modules at a facility in Buffalo, New York. Announced in a statement on its corporate blog Monday (17 October), Tesla said the companies have signed a non-binding letter of intent saying the partnership is contingent on shareholders' approval of Tesla's planned acquisition of solar panel company SolarCity.
The photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules will be used in a solar energy system designed to work seamlessly with Tesla's energy storage products Powerwall and Powerpack. Panasonic is expected to begin PV cell and module production at the Buffalo facility in 2017 while Tesla intends to provide Panasonic with a long-term purchase commitment for those cells.
"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," the company said.
Panasonic is already working exclusively with Tesla to supply electric car battery cells for the Model 3, its upcoming mass-market sedan, in addition to producing electric vehicle and grid storage battery cells at Tesla's Gigafactory in Nevada.
Tesla's newly unveiled plans also bolster chief executive Musk's push to merge with SolarCity, of which he is chairman and chief financier. Tesla and SolarCity shareholders are set to vote on the proposed merger on 17 November.
"We are excited to expand our partnership with Panasonic as we move towards a combined Tesla and SolarCity," Tesla co-founder and chief technical officer JB Straubel said. "By working together on solar, we will be able to accelerate production of high-efficiency, extremely reliable solar cells and modules at the best cost."
Last week, Musk tweeted that Tesla will unveil a new product today, "unexpected by most," that will be separate from a joint announcement by Tesla and Solar City on 28 October. He later pushed back the announcement to Wednesday (19 October) saying it needed "a few more days of refinement."