Panasonic embraces the power of partnerships to drive green innovation

Japanese electronics firm Panasonic has ramped up its involvement in the low-carbon agenda, forming two new collaborative partnerships with automaker Tesla and energy management solutions provider Schneider electric to develop new solar PV cells and smart building technology.

The company, which recorded €56bn (£51bn) sales last year, last week announced  its work with Schneider to bring to market a new energy management system for commercial buildings, and then yesterday (16 October) entered into a non-binding letter of intent with Tesla to manufacture and produce PV cells in the US.

The Schneider partnership will offer up “new levels” of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) control and energy efficiency, according to a press statement. The two companies have developed a new wireless system which enables communication between Schneider Electric’s building management system and room controllers with Panasonic’s variable refrigerant flow (VRF)-based HVAC systems.

This integration allows building owners and managers to view all of their core building systems – including HVAC equipment, lighting, security, power and electrical distribution – anytime and anywhere via a single interface. It also delivers actionable insights to reduce energy consumption and drive savings.

“We have invested heavily in our commercial and residential air conditioning products and support services to fully address our customers’ needs and are excited to deliver additional benefits in building energy management through our partnership with Schneider Electric,” said Toshiyuki Takagi, executive officer of Panasonic Corporation and president of Panasonic Air-Conditioner.

“By combining the power of building management with cutting-edge VRF technology, we are able to help our customers further reduce capital and operating expenditures and reach new levels of sustainability.”

VRF-based HVAC systems are becoming increasingly popular in commercial buildings because of their ability to operate at variable speeds using inverter technology, instead of a traditional ‘on/off’ operation, which drives significant energy savings.

Tesla’s solar storage

Meanwhile, Panasonic’s partnership with Tesla – which is contingent upon shareholders’ approval of Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity – will see Tesla use cells and modules manufactured by Panasonic in a solar energy system that will work  with Tesla’s energy storage products Powerwall and Powerpack for residential, commercial and grid-scale customers.

According to a press statement about the partnership on Tesla’s website, the parties intend for Panasonic to begin PV cell and module production at a new facility in Buffalo from next year.

Panasonic’s vice-president of the Eco Solutions Company Shuuji Okayama said: “Panasonic PV cells and modules boast industry-leading power generation performance, and achieve high quality and reliability. We expect that the collaboration talks will lead to growth of the Tesla and Panasonic relationship.”

Tesla’s chief technical officer and co-founder JB Straubel added: “We are excited to expand our partnership with Panasonic as we move towards a combined Tesla and SolarCity. By working together on solar, we will be able to accelerate production of high-efficiency, extremely reliable solar cells and modules at the best cost.”

The collaboration extends an established relationship between Tesla and Panasonic, which includes the production of electric vehicle and grid storage battery cells at Tesla’s Gigafactory.

Luke Nicholls

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