Tesla’s Elon Musk has made serious inroads to implement widespread use of electric vehicles, but he’s also got a hand in one of the most important solar energy deals of the century. Last week SolarCity purchased Silevo in New York in order to significantly scale up production of super efficient, high quality solar panels.
High quality solar panels are currently prohibitively expensive for a great number of people. China produced a glut of panels, flooding the market with subpar efficiency rates and shutting down producers in the United States that couldn’t compete with the costs.
In order to boost local production of high quality solar panels, the United States increased tariffs on Chinese panels, and now SolarCity has acquired Silevo, a solar technology manufacturer based in New York for a cool $350 million in order to multiply their production.
Elon Musk, who is the main shareholder of SolarCity with a 23 percent stake, announced the acquisition late last week. In a press release, he and Silevo’s Peter and Lyndon Rive expressed their intentions.
“We are in discussions with the state of New York to build the initial manufacturing plant, continuing a relationship developed by the Silevo team,” they wrote.
“At a targeted capacity greater than 1 GW within the next two years, it will be one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world. This will be followed in subsequent years by one or more significantly larger plants at an order of magnitude greater annual production capacity.”
Seemingly in anticipation of critics, the trio acknowledged that there are currently more solar panels than necessary, but that their goal is to ensure that the panels will be available for future use, in order to create an environment that is competitive with dwindling fossil fuels.
“What we are trying to address is not the lay of the land today, where there are indeed too many suppliers, most of whom are producing relatively low photonic efficiency solar cells at uncompelling costs, but how we see the future developing,” they write.
“Without decisive action to lay the groundwork today, the massive volume of affordable, high efficiency panels needed for unsubsidized solar power to outcompete fossil fuel grid power simply will not be there when it is needed.”
Solar panel production is gaining traction in the Middle East as well, with the recent announcement that Qatar is building a massive solar panel manufacturing plant just outside of Doha.
Elon Musk image courtesy of Wiki Commons