Could a long-vacant cigarette factory in North Carolina build the rechargeable solar energy battery that will unlock the future of the clean energy economy?
The Swiss-based Alevo Group launched the new battery technology on Tuesday. After spending $68.5m (£42.5m) for the factory, the group said it would spend up to $1bn to develop a system that would get rid of waste on the grid and expand the use of wind and solar power.
The project, a joint venture with state-owned China-ZK International Energy Investment Co, aims to ship its first GridBank, its patented battery array, to Guangdong Province this year, going into production on a commercial scale in mid-2015.
The container-sized arrays store 2MW and would be installed on-site at power plants.
Jostein Eikeland, Alevo’s chief executive, said in an interview that the company had an agreement with the Turkish state power authority, and was in discussions with US power companies.
“It’s a gamechanger,” he said.
“If we can take some of the massive energy that is wasted today by mismanagement of the grid and inject it where it is needed, everybody wins,” said Eikeland.
Eikeland said the company would create 2,500 jobs at the factory in Concord over the next three years.
The company would not go into specifics on its technology, or discuss the price of the battery arrays.
Government labs, universities and power companies have spent years trying to develop a technology that could store power cheaply and safely when there is an over-supply, and then release it back on to the grid at times of peak demand.
On sunny days, solar power floods the grid – and some goes to waste because it cannot be stored.
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