SolarCity, the solar energy company chaired by Elon Musk, is planning to build a huge solar panel manufacturing plant in the state of New York. In a statement released yesterday, the company said that it is in talks with the state to build "one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world," and that it also plans open one or more "significantly larger" plants in subsequent years."
The plants will aim to produce enough solar panels to cover growing consumer demand. "We expect to have to install 10 gigawatts [of solar panelling] a year," Musk said on a conference call, an amount the company is unable to offer with its current production facilities. The plants will build panels that use photovoltaic technology developed by solar panel manufacturing company Silevo. SolarCity announced it had signed and agreement to acquire Silevo yesterday, whose solar modules the company said "demonstrated a unique combination of high energy output and low cost."
Musk expects to have to install 10 gigawatts of solar panelling a year
The price of solar panels has fallen in recent years as cheaper imports have entered the market, but the panels available are inefficient, and not yet cheap enough to warrant mass adoption. Business Insider notes that those prices are likely to climb soon, too: US subsidies for renewable energy sources are to be phased out in 2016, and the government is looking to place tariffs on imported Chinese panels. By building such a huge production facility, SolarCity's founders said they hoped to drive the price of solar technology down, and "achieve a breakthrough" in the usage of the energy source.
Elon Musk announced a similar plan earlier this year for his Tesla electric car company that will see the company build a vast "Gigafactory" in the United States to produce lithium ion batteries for its vehicles. Musk's comments suggest the two super-sized facilities are likely to benefit each other. Speaking last year, the billionaire said that the battery Gigafactory would be "very green," and supported by "a lot of solar power."