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Tesla Loses a Solar Roof Collaborator as Panasonic Cuts Bait

Feb. 26, 2020
Japanese tech-maker says it will “wind down” its stake in U.S. solar-panel manufacturing, consolidate operations elsewhere.

Panasonic Corporation will cease producing solar panels in the United States. According to a statement released February 26, the Japanese tech manufacturer will sunset its operations by May 2020, and exit the solar panel “Gigafactory” it shares with Tesla Motors in Buffalo, New York by the end of September.  The move is reportedly part of Panasonic’s ongoing plans to “streamline” its global solar operations.

Panasonic’s departure from the plant is unlikely to cause any trouble for Tesla, which is currently on a deadline to hire an additional 360 workers for the factory by April or face a large fine from the state of New York. Elon Musk’s Palo Alto-based company is currently working with Panasonic to hire workers already working at the plant as the Osaka-based technology company prepares to leave. The factory currently employs more than 1,100 workers there.

The two companies also collaborate on a battery plant outside Reno, Nevada, which Panasonic says will be unaffected. Panasonic won’t stop making solar cells, either: it’s planning on folding its solar panel business into its “energy solutions business,” which includes the company’s storage batteries, heat pump systems, home energy management systems and electric vehicle charging sectors.

“The decision to transition away from U.S. solar manufacturing in Buffalo aligns with our global solar strategy, our efforts to optimize development and production, and supports Tesla’s long-term plans to continue and expand its operations,” said the director for Panasonic’s Energy System Strategic Business, Shinichiro Nakajima. He also stated that Panasonic is “proud” of what they’ve accomplished in Buffalo to date.

Panasonic says it will continue selling solar panels to U.S. consumers, and it maintains its remaining photovoltaic production facilities in Japan and Malaysia. 

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