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Budding Tesla-Panasonic Romance is Western New York’s Gain

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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