Deep in tobacco country, the once booming Phillip Morris cigarette plant in Concord, North Carolina has been reborn into a facility that churns out batteries for solar and wind farms.
Swiss startup battery manufacturer Alevo plans to open up the 3.5 million square-foot plant Tuesday, which will produce utility-sized batteries to store electricity harvested from wind and solar plants, according to Fortune. The lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries can be charged in 30 minutes and discharged for over 40,000 cycles, making it a serious competitor with more established manufacturers such as Tesla for governement and private firm contracts.
The renovation comes during an economic shift for the tobacco industry. Cigarette companies’ profits are down as much as 30 percent, as fewer Americans smoke. At the same time, the country’s electricity grid is becoming obsolete.
The current electricity grid could lose up to 30 percent of its power due to energy waste and inefficiencies, Fortune reported. Moreover, the utility battery industry is poised to expand more than 10 fold, increasing its revenue from $164 million in 2014 to upwards of $2.5 billion by 2023.
Clean energy companies have played a vital role in economic recovery, consistently adding new jobs to the economy. Alevo’s new plant is expected to add 2,500 jobs within the next three years.
Advances in battery technology have been championed as a vital solution to energy woes. Washington state recently doled out a $14 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to green battery makers that will test how new applications of battery storage technology will enhance grid flexibility, storage capacity, and energy efficiency.
A recent European study found that combining solar power, battery technology and using electric vehicles could stave off the continent’s need for new fossil fuel power as soon as 2025. Germany is already poised to make solar and battery costs cheaper than the average electricity bill.