LOS ANGELES/TOKYO (Reuters) – Most of the solar cells made by Panasonic at Tesla, Inc. New York factory are purchased by H. R. D. Singapore factories in the Philippines, a chief supplier of the panels to the Japanese eco-homebuilder Ichijo Co. Ltd, two sources familiar with the plan said.
Solar energy installers from Baker Electric place solar panels on the roof of a house in Scripps Ranch in San Diego, California, USA October 14, 2016. Photo taken on October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
Reuters reported on May 15, Panasonic planned to send most of the cells of the plant in the foreign country, instead of selling them to Tesla for the trademark Solar Roof, as initially intended, due to the low demand of Tesla and a trade gap that was fired new foreign interest. That loophole in the law allows companies outside of the United States to ship solar panels in America duty-free, provided that the panels are made with the AMERICAN-built cells.
Until now, the identity of the buyer of the Panasonic cells, Panasonic is the production of the Tesla facility on the basis of an agreement reached in 2016, is not published.
The demand for U. S. solar cells in foreign countries is striking, because there are very few American manufacturers, and the parts are usually much cheaper when sourced in Asia, as a result of the difficulty that some companies would go to sidestep President Donald Trump are the tariffs on solar imports. It was unclear what the H. R. D. and Ichijo the plans were for the Panasonic cells.
The export of the cells also underlines the depths of Tesla’s problems in the U.S. solar business, which the electric car maker acquired in 2016 with $2.6 billion purchase of SolarCity, but that has shrunk since.
The sources said the H. R. D.-factories in the Philippines were now taking the lion’s share of the solar cells of the Buffalo plant, presumably to assemble them into solar panels. They gave no estimates of the volume or the value of the cells of H. R. D., saying only that the shipments accounted for most of the cell production of the facility.
H. R. D. factories mainly supply Ichijo, a company H. R. D. is closely linked, according to posts by Ichijo on social media. Ichijo markets, the houses are so energy-efficient and technology-focused, and many are offered with solar panels. The company had approximately $ 3.7 billion in sales last year and is primarily focused on the Japanese market, but for the past 10 years is also the building in the United States the Pacific Northwest.
Representatives of Panasonic, Tesla, and H. R. D. declined to comment. A Ichijo official at the company’s Japan headquarters also declined to comment.
Panasonic together with Tesla in 2016 to make solar cells, as well as a full solar-panels, at the Buffalo facility after Tesla inherited from the plant in the acquisition of SolarCity.
The companies said Tesla would be a long-term commitment to buy the cells – essential elements of the panels convert the sun light into electricity to use them in Tesla’s Solar Roof of the product.
Musk had invoiced to the Solar Roof, designed to look like conventional roof tiles, as a cornerstone of the strategy of the company to sell to a low-carbon lifestyle for eco-conscious consumers who make use of the power of a Solar Roof for charging their electric Tesla vehicle.
But the company has installed only a handful of the roofs so far after the production line problems and a strip of Tesla’s solar sales team, according to Tesla sources. Tesla has no official sales figures for the Solar Roof.
Panasonic was forced to find other buyers because of the low demand of Tesla, whose purchases of the cells are sporadic, a member of the Buffalo factory said. The automaker is not an exclusive supply arrangement with Panasonic.
Panasonic said in a file with the U.S. Department of Commerce last year that it expects to sell, the majority of the cells of the plant abroad, under the entry of the new foreign demand for AMERICAN cells that arose after the Trumpet administration imposed tariffs on panels in 2018.
Panasonic’s Buffalo surgery is one of the few AMERICAN solar panel producers, giving it a unique position to serve, that the foreign demand.
Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Cynthia Osterman