Support: Lindsay Gorrill, CEO of Kore Power, on Building an Arizona Battery Manufacturing Ecosystem

This is the latest installment in Utility Dive’s “Taking Charge” series, where we engage with leaders in the electricity sector on the energy transition.

As the Biden administration pushes massive investments in clean energy as part of a goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, the White House wants the technology behind that energy to be produced locally.

It’s a challenge that Lindsay Gorrill, CEO of Kore power, is ready to face. Kore, which was founded in 2019, announced plans to build a battery cell factory in Buckeye, Arizona, 40 miles west of Phoenix, earlier this year. The company predicts the plant will produce 12 GWh of total annual capacity by the end of 2023 and anchor what Gorrill hopes to become a large-scale battery ecosystem in Grand Canyon state.

“If you want a green economy, you have to have the supply close by. The last few years have proven that,” Gorrill told Utility Dive in an interview. “If you don’t have control of the supply chain, you risk missing out on the opportunity to grow the clean economy.”

The KOREPlex installation – which at full size will cover 1 million square feet – will be the only gigantic national battery plant owned and operated entirely by a US-based company, Gorrill said. Kore’s lithium battery cells can be modified to work in electric cars, micromobility vehicles, like e-bikes, and large-scale operations like utility storage and electric vehicle (EV) chargers. The flagship NMC cell (indicating its nickel-manganese-cobalt chemistry) has a capacity of 55 ampere-hours and a nominal voltage of 3.7 volts.

The goal is to bring these cells to local integrators and manufacturers, thus creating a battery hub in the Phoenix area.

“Right now, someone building in the United States might have to wait six months to get a battery cell from Korea, Japan, or China,” Gorrill said. “Now if you are located in Buckeye [County], you could have it the next day. “

The company also announced in september that Randy Cowder, who was general manager of manufacturing at Panasonic’s gigafactory in Nevada, would join Kore to lead operations at KOREPlex.

A national supply chain

The lithium battery market is expected to increase tenfold over the next decade, but most of that production remains in Asia. According to Bloomberg’s Global Lithium-Ion Battery Supply Chain RankingNEF 2021, China is currently home to 80% of all battery cell manufacturing capacity, with the potential to more than double by 2026. The United States, however, has moved to second place in the rankings for production in 2021 and a projection to 2026, thanks to investments from Tesla and Asian countries seeking to establish a base in the United States.

According to a Mineral Intelligence Benchmark March Report, China is the most aggressive country when it comes to giga-factories construction, with 148 of the 200 mega-factories in the world planned in China, compared to just 21 for Europe and 11 for North America. Of the 93 existing gigafactories identified by the consulting firm in a separate report, only four were in the United States And even these factories are either controlled or in partnership with Asian companies; Tesla’s gigafactory in Nevada, for example, is part of a partnership with Panasonic, though the automaker and energy giant is opening a battery and vehicle factory in Texas.

Sam Jaffe, vice president of battery solutions for utility solutions company E Source, said a supply chain where semiconductors and battery cells are sourced from overseas “opens the country to national security and supply chain issues.” Disruptions to overseas shipping, like those that plagued the microchip industry over the past year, could slow the deployment of batteries, not to mention a trade war with China that could increase prices. import costs.

“Having a national supply chain makes clean energy safer, but another important point is that a national supply chain makes clean energy cheaper,” Jaffe said. “In the long run, you save money by manufacturing where you put those batteries or solar panels. In many ways, the most important part of building a national supply chain is that it cuts costs for the entire market. “

In June, the The Department of Energy has published a plan establish a ‘secure supply chain for battery materials and technologies’ in the United States by 2030, with the aim of securing access to materials and stimulating centers for manufacturing electrodes, cells and packs .

Specifically, the plan aims to reduce the cost of manufacturing electric vehicle packs by 50% by the end of the decade by encouraging advanced manufacturing and assembly. The department also announced the availability of loans to vehicle battery cell manufacturers for the first time.

The great Arizona boom

The production line is not just a question of volume; in the energy storage industry, many suppliers prefer to buy only from recognized level 1 brands rather than trusting a less established product. That’s part of why Gorrill wants to create an end-to-end ecosystem in Arizona where businesses can build lasting relationships and eventually attract more players.

Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said the state’s history of defense contracts and chip manufacturing makes it an ideal choice for this type of advanced energy ecosystem.

“Becoming a hub where people test clean, renewable energy strategies is pretty much in our DNA,” Camacho said. “There is no doubt that Lindsay and Kore’s plans will have a very significant impact not only on direct jobs and investment decisions, but on the entire energy and automotive supply chain. Success breeds success. success when you reach that level. “

Kore evaluated some 300 sites in choosing his plant site and narrowed it down to sites in Arizona, Florida and Texas. Gorrill said Arizona “has ticked all the boxes,” including support from local and state universities and local government. The Republic of Arizona reported that Kore could receive a $ 63 million tax cut from the state’s Qualified Facilities Tax Credit program, among other grants. In a declaration in julyArizona Gov. Doug Ducey, R, said the plant would “position Arizona as an anchor in the global battery manufacturing supply chain.”

Gorrill also said it was very important to be close to potential customers of the company. In September, Kore announced a partnership with electric powertrain company ZEV, which has a production facility near Gilbert, to work on EV technology. Electric vehicle manufacturer ElectraMeccanica open a factory in Mesa, Arizona., and Li-Cycle Battery Recycling Company, in April, announced plans to build their third installation in Arizona.

“I see this as the big tech boom in San Francisco,” Gorrill said. “What you find in the Phoenix area is a lot of enthusiasm for clean energy and a focus on building those markets and businesses to create demand. It’s all going in the right direction.”

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