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Elon Musk-backed SolarCity to build huge solar panel plant in New York



SolarCity, the rooftop solar panel business backed by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, has announced plans to expand its production to 1,000 megawatts (MW) a year in one of the world’s largest solar manufacturing plants.

On Tuesday, the firm unveiled plans to buy Silevo, a solar panel technology business, for up to $350m (£206m). SolarCity, which currently produces technology that generates a higher output from each solar panel and also allows for higher rates of production, could make the US the lowest cost option for solar technology.

With plans to diversify SolarCity’s current workforce and production units to produce the new panels, the business is expected to gain serious momentum in expanding the renewable market in the US.

Peter Rive, SolarCity co-founder and chief technology officer, told the Financial Times that a rise in demand would push the company to build “significantly larger” plants, as the cost in solar power continues to significantly fall

He added, “We expect that demand will dramatically increase in the US and in all parts of the world.”

Heavy investment in solar energy in China has helped a dramatic decline in the industry’s overall cost, but the decision to build in the US is good news for the developing sustainable energy market there.

Shares in SolarCity, in which a 23% stake is held by chairman Elon Musk, who owns electric car maker Tesla, have risen more than sevenfold since its flotation in 2012. This is due to the ability to offer customers lower electricity costs than traditional utilities – helped by government subsidies and incentives.

Musk’s particular contribution to the industry has also raised hopes of the US becoming a global player in the renewable energy market – especially as his electric auto manufacturer became one of the top employers in California earlier this year.

Rive said that solar power would properly compete with fossil fuels in no more than “two or three years”, and that solar power in general would become the “dominant” source of energy in the US and the world by 2040.

Photo: Patrick Moore via Freeimages

Further reading:

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Tesla plans ‘gigafactory’ for batter cells on back of soaring shares 

India’s renewable energy ministry plans to boost solar power output 

Obama emissions plan could boost investment in renewables 

Investors worth 800bn back Obamas US emissions reduction plan