Panasonic to invest in Buffalo's solar panel plant

Dec 28, 2016

Tesla's stock closed higher Tuesday after the company announced a deal with Panasonic to produce solar panels in Buffalo. The Japanese electronics giant is making a major investment in Tesla's giga-factory along South Park Avenue.

Under the deal Panasonic plans to spend more than $250 million outfitting the factory built for Solar City.

"For Buffalo, it's all good news," said Art Wheaton, with Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Wheaton said Panasonic brings knowledge in electronics and solar cell production that Tesla doesn't have.

"You can think of them as the Toyota for electronics. So they're very very large. It's a Japanese company, Matsushita, that's been around for a very long time," Wheaton said.

With over 470 companies and more than 260,000 employees, Panasonic is one of the largest manufacturers in the world. Their arrival in Buffalo expands the partnership the two companies formed to produce batteries for storing solar power at a giga-factory in Nevada. Wheaton said it shows confidence in Tesla's founder, Elon Musk.

"Because he is juggling many different jobs at the time. And, if you can get partners that have deep expertise, he can rely a little bit more on Panasonic, where he doesn't have to be the know-it-all for everything. He can have partners with expertise to work with," Wheaton said.

Tesla plans to begin producing high-efficiency solar cells and modules in Buffalo this coming summer. And the company said it remains committed to creating 1,400 local jobs including five hundred in manufacturing.