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Exclusive: Tesla’s solar factory is exporting most of its cells – document

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(Reuters) – The “great majority” of solar cells being produced at Tesla’s factory in upstate New York are being sold overseas instead of being used in the company’s trademark “Solar Roof” as originally intended, according to documents reviewed by Reuters.

The exporting underscores the depth of Tesla’s troubles in the U.S. solar business, which the electric car maker entered in 2016 with its controversial $2.6 billion purchase of SolarCity.

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Tesla has only sporadically purchased solar cells produced by its partner in the factory, Panasonic Corp, according to a Buffalo solar factory employee speaking on condition of anonymity. The rest are going largely to foreign buyers, according to a Panasonic letter to U.S. Customs officials reviewed by Reuters.

When the two firms announced the partnership in 2016, the companies said they would collaborate on cell and module production and Tesla would make a long-term commitment to buy the cells from Panasonic. Cells are components that convert the sun’s light into electricity; they are combined to make solar panels.

Tesla planned to use them in its Solar Roof, a system meant to look like normal roof tiles. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk billed the product as a cornerstone of the strategy behind the acquisition – selling a low-carbon lifestyle to eco-conscious consumers who could use the power from their Solar Roof to charge their Tesla electric vehicle.

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