The Nevada sun will power Tesla's gigantic 'Gigafactory'

Tesla Gigafactory
Since kicking off the project in 2014, Tesla has claimed its massive “Gigafactory” near Reno, Nevada, will be the largest lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facility in the world, and that it will achieve that feat using renewable energy. Now we have some idea of the scale of Tesla’s commitment to that.

Tesla began producing battery cells at the Gigafactory earlier this month, and gave a tour to investors to show it off. A document handed out to investors on that tour, obtained by Electrek, mentions a huge rooftop solar array for the factory, along with additional solar panels installed at ground level.

“We will be using 100-percent sustainable energy through a combination of a 70 MW solar rooftop array and solar ground installations,” the Tesla document said. “The solar rooftop array is ~7x larger than the largest rooftop solar system installed today,” it said. Whirlpool has a 10-MW array on the roof of a distribution center in Perris, California, and there is reportedly an 11.5-MW rooftop array in India.

Tesla also discussed other aspects of the Gigafactory meant to reduce its carbon footprint. Most of the building’s heat will be supplied by waste heat from the production process, and the factory will feature a water-recirculation system that Tesla claims will cut fresh water usage by 80 percent. The company is also constructing an on-site recycling center for batteries.

The Gigafactory is currently building battery cells for Tesla’s Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 energy-storage battery packs. It began assembling these packs last year, but just began manufacturing the cells that go into them at the beginning of this month. Cell production for electric cars will start in the second quarter of this year, Tesla says. That will coincide with the start of production of the Model 3, Tesla’s $35,000, 215-mile, mass-market electric car.

While Tesla is already making things at the Gigafactory, the plant itself isn’t finished yet. Besides the yet-to-be-completed rooftop solar array and battery recycling center, Tesla claims the factory is only 30 percent of its final size. When complete, it believes the Gigafactory will be the largest building in the world.

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