One day after attending his hearing against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Manhattan, Elon Musk visited Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 facility in Buffalo, NY, marking the first time the CEO set foot inside the 1.2-million sq ft facility.
The purpose of Musk’s visit to the SouthPark Avenue factory was not disclosed by Tesla. According to The Buffalo News, a Tesla spokesperson only confirmed that Musk was indeed present in the facility on Friday. The spokesperson also noted that Musk will not be speaking with members of the media while he was in the facility.
A number of local reporters attempted to catch the CEO while he was visiting Gigafactory 2 nonetheless. Despite their best efforts, media personnel were unable to get a word with Elon Musk.
Elon Musk’s presence in Gigafactory 2 all but highlights one of the points he emphasized during the unveiling of the Tesla Model Y last month. During his presentation, Musk boldly declared that 2019 will be the “Year of the Solar Roof,” referring to Tesla’s special solar shingles whose wide release has been delayed due to the company’s ramp of the Model 3.
“This is definitely going to be the year of the Solar Roof and Powerwall. Because of the extreme challenges with the Model 3 production, we had to basically allocate all resources to Model 3 production because otherwise, we were going to die,” Musk said.
Gigafactory 2 is key in accomplishing this goal, as the facility is tasked with producing both the Solar Roof tiles and the Powerwall 2. If Tesla were to ramp its Energy business seriously this year, the Buffalo, NY facility would have to start increasing its output dramatically, particularly as the company has maintained that demand for the solar shingles and home battery storage units exceed supply. This also means that Tesla has to start expanding the facility’s workforce, in order to produce the Solar Roof and Powerwall 2 at scale.
Gigafactory 2 was built and partially equipped by the state with $750 million in taxpayer money as part of its Buffalo Billion economic development program. As part of the deal, Tesla has pledged to employ 1,460 people by April 2020, though after a recent round of job cuts earlier this year, estimates indicate that Gigafactory 2 is now only equipped with a workforce of over 700 employees. Current activities in the plant are comprised of a Solar Roof assembly operation by Tesla and a solar cell and module manufacturing operation by Panasonic Corp, the electric car maker’s longtime battery partner.