Just south of downtown Buffalo, near abandoned factories and crumbling brick warehouses, is a 1.2-million-square-foot white box with Tesla Inc.’s solar panel factory inside. The state of New York paid $750 million to fund this place, based on a commitment to create nearly 1,500 jobs here. On a Tuesday morning in mid-November, a group of two dozen of these workers is monitoring several rows of robots that are stamping out materials for the Solar Roof, a new kind of solar panel that Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk is very excited about. Or was, anyway.
The Solar Roof is designed to look and act like regular house shingles, but Tesla’s are textured glass with solar cells hidden inside. On the factory line in Buffalo, these glass tiles slide on a conveyor belt toward a gigantic laminator, where components are heated and vacuumed together into a single module, a “solar sandwich,” as employees call it.