Alevo sets up gigfab in US, expands storage operations in China

Swiss energy storage group Alevo is expanding its operations in the United States and China.

The company is set to open a production facility at the Victory Industrial Park in Concord, North Carolina, to manufacture its batteries and GridBank energy storage systems. Alevo has also signed a deal with China-ZK International Energy Investment, which has agreed to market Alevo’s technology products and services in China.

In Concord, Alevo purchased the 3.5 million square foot (325,161 square meter) former Philip Morris cigarette manufacturing facility for $68.5 million. The complex, renamed Victory Industrial Park, is set to become Alevo’s gigawatt factory before Tesla even has their own gigfab in operation. The North Carolina site joins Alevo’s established operations in Europe. The company plans to deploy and commission production lines at the site next year, with plans to produce 40 GridBanks per month by July 2015. Alevo will manufacture its own batteries for its energy storage systems and co-locate with many of its partners to assemble finished goods. When the manufacturing facility is at full capacity it will have the potential to produce 16.2 gigawatt hours of batteries a year, according to the company.

The active ingredients of the Alevo cell are lithium, iron and phosphate (LFP) and graphite. The company says that unlike typical rechargeable lithium ion batteries, such as those found in most consumer electronics devices, the Alevo lithium cell contains a new inorganic electrolyte technology, which is non-flammable and non-volatile.

Alevo said the Concord manufacturing plant would create 500 jobs in the first 12 months, rising to 2,500 skilled jobs within three years as manufacturing lines are added, ultimately rising to 6,000 jobs if and when additional manufacturing elements are located at the plant.

"Our current energy environment sees dependence on polluting fossil fuels from unstable states coupled with an aging grid infrastructure that is based on a 100-year-old design,” said Alevo CEO Jostein Eikeland. “Energy waste is rampant with an estimated 30% of all generated electricity lost before consumption. Alevo is an energy service provider that uses a combination of innovative battery technology and smart data analytics to reduce a substantial part of the 30% of generated electricity that is currently wasted through reducible inefficiencies."

Dramatic effect of technology

Sam Wilkinson, associate director of Solar Supply Chain and Energy Storage at research group IHS Technology, says Alevo’s grid-connected batteries "have the potential to dramatically change the way the power system is operated, and help overcome many of the challenges presented by the growing penetration of renewables. To date, the single biggest obstacle to mass deployment of battery-based energy storage has been the relatively high lifetime cost of such batteries, which has restricted the business case to a small number of niche applications.”

Wilkinson adds that Alevo could move the energy storage technology curve dramatically as longer life cycles lower the cost of storage projects significantly.

The life cycles of typical lithium-ion batteries range between 5,000 and 10,000, while Alevo says its batteries exceed 40,000 life cycles.

Noting the fact that Alevo also employs impressive data analytics technology, Wilkinson says what the company is promising "is really exciting for the industry."

Plans for China

Meanwhile, in China, China-ZK will market Alevo’s GridBank energy storage systems and its data analytics services for energy efficiency optimization. In addition, China-ZK will assist Alevo in liaising with national and local authorities as well as state and private enterprises. China-ZK will also assist Alevo in funding the establishment of manufacturing facilities in China for both GridBank production and the nickel foam substrate that is core to its inorganic energy storage technology.

“Today China is the largest consumer of electricity in the world and as the Chinese economy continues to grow, so too will its demand for electricity,” said China ZK Chairman Deng Xu. “China has chosen the Alevo GridBank technology to improve not only the efficiency of power generation and distribution, but the effectiveness as well.”

Xu said that China ZK would be able to significantly reduce production costs, improve the efficiency of existing capacity and thus provide better service to end-users while reducing pollution.

“It is with great honor that we partner with Alevo on its new production facility in Concord, North Carolina, to continue North Carolina’s rich manufacturing history,” Xu said.

Eikeland added, “Energy storage and data analytics have the capacity to transform the world’s energy markets by eliminating waste and reducing pollution. With this agreement, China-ZK has shown that it is at the forefront of driving these technologies to the benefit of the energy utilities, commercial customers and consumers."

The agreement will also see an initial pilot program between Alevo and the Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Distributed Energy System in China’s Guangdong province beginning later this year.