May 16 (Renewables Now) - Japan’s Panasonic Corp (TYO:6752) has been selling a “great majority” of the cells it makes in the solar factory in Buffalo, New York to buyers outside the US and not to Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), Reuters reports, citing an official document.
An employee at the factory told Reuters that Tesla’s purchases of photovoltaic (PV) cells have been irregular. The news agency also saw a letter by Panasonic to US Customs officials, which shows that cells are being sold to foreign customers.
A major solar manufacturing partnership in Buffalo was announced near the end of 2016 and envisaged a significant investment by Panasonic and a long-term purchase commitment by Tesla. Details of the deal were scarce, but it was understood that the electric vehicle (EV) maker would buy the cells for its solar business, previously known as SolarCity, and use them in the Tesla Solar Roof.
A Tesla official told Reuters that the solar roof tiles are being installed in eight states at present, but did not reveal figures. The Solar Roof was first announced in 2016, but till date there are no official installation figures available.
Tesla’s solar business has shrunk significantly, with volumes falling from 836 MW in 2016 to 522 MW in 2017, according to an analysis by Ohm Analytics. Then in 2018, Tesla reported solar deployments of just 326 MW. The volumes in the first quarter of 2019 were down to 49 MW from 76 MW a year earlier. The company has cut its sales and marketing spend and moved away from a door-to-door sales model. In its latest quarterly report it said residential customers can now buy solar and energy storage directly from Tesla's website, in standardised increments of capacity.