It's official: Tesla and Panasonic team up on solar-panel cells

Tesla Motors Inc. and Panasonic Corp. said Tuesday that they would begin producing cells for solar panels next summer at a sprawling factory opening in Buffalo, N.Y., expanding a relationship between the two technology firms.

The Palo Alto automaker and the Japanese electronics company said they had finalized plans announced in October to begin joint production of photovoltaic cells and modules to be used in solar panels for roof tiles and other products.

The agreement builds off an existing relationship between Tesla and Panasonic, which includes making lithium ion battery cells for electric vehicles and solar storage at Tesla’s $5-billion Gigafactory being built outside Reno, Nev., as well as developing next-generation technology at Tesla’s expanding plant in Fremont.

The deal announced Tuesday involves Tesla making a “long-term purchase commitment” with Panasonic for the solar cells and modules to be made at the Buffalo factory. Panasonic will cover the required capital costs, the company said. No financial terms were released.

The 1.2-million-square-foot Buffalo factory is being built by SolarCity Corp., the San Mateo-based solar panel company recently acquired by Tesla. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk was chairman of SolarCity and a major investor in both companies. 

New York state is spending $750 million to build the Buffalo factory, which will be leased to SolarCity for $1 a year. Photovoltaic module production is scheduled to begin in summer 2017.

Tesla said it reaffirmed SolarCity’s commitment to hire more than 1,400 people in Buffalo, including more than 500 factory workers. 

Shares of Tesla rose 2.9% on Tuesday to close at $219.53.

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

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UPDATES:

3:55 p.m.: This article was updated with Tesla’s stock price.

This article was originally published at 8:20 a.m.

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