BUCKEYE — Plans are coming together for one of several industrial projects set to provide jobs in Buckeye.
Lindsay Gorrill, founder and CEO of Kore Power since early 2019, recently spoke about the company’s plans for its battery-storage manufacturing facility to be built in Buckeye at Baseline Road and State Route 85.
Gorrill said the company hopes to break ground on the facility’s shell within the next six months. There will be two components to the battery storage manufacturing operation’s construction: The outer shell of a 1 million-square-foot building that will house most operations, along with a second phase in constructing a “clean room” interior where its more specialized processes will take place.
“We should have the shell up by next summer,” Gorrill said. “But to get the clean room side together, that’s where we really needed to have a contractor that could do that part well.”
Gorrill said Philadelphia-based Yates Construction will handle construction — bringing with it experience in constructing several technically specific facilities. Yates’ resume includes having built Tesla Inc.’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada.
“We’re really happy to be partnering with Yates, and their level of specialization,” Gorrill said.
The CEO said his company, which was founded in 2018, should be able to hire about 1,500 employees for the start of operations by the end of 2022. The plant’s final buildout won’t be completed until 2024 or 2025, however, but should eventually employee about 3,000 workers.
Gorrill said there eventually will be about 9,000 jobs that will indirectly be created as a result of the plant’s operation.
Kore Power, based in Idaho, will count on the Buckeye plant to be its first lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility. It is currently relying on contractors to produce batteries, so this will be a leap for the company in terms of no longer having to outsource manufacturing.
“It’s a leap in cost and investment (of about $500 million), but not in terms of know-how, manufacturing ability or having the market drive this choice,” Gorrill said about the KORE decision to build its own plant. “Our people have the knowledge, and the ability to create a line of products, for which there is already demand.”
Gorrill said likely contributing factors to fires and other similar incidents in electricity storage have been both the experimental or known nature of low-caliber storage devices, along with the use of equipment from more than one manufacturer.
“If you have three or four different types of technology hooked together, or more, it’s tough to know the capability of all components, or how those components will interact,” Gorrill said. “We’re looking to build cell-to-box — the entire microgrid — and the software to go with it.”
Gorrill said the idea of green city, such as the proposed Belmont development west of Buckeye, would be welcome, as KORE wants to be part of any grid that employs electric vehicle and other types of charging stations as a primary means of power.
“We have cars today that can go station-to-station,” Gorrill said. “Those stations will still be a cornerstone of traveling without liquid fuel, but we’re also looking at micro-size batteries that will allow drivers to travel with, and change out, portable power units that don’t weigh much. And cars are being made that will run on greater and greater capacities on a single battery.”
Gorrill said the lithium-ion battery industry is changing rapidly. Not only are batteries about 50% more dense than only three years ago, he said, but more improvements are being made each year, and this growth not expected to plateau any time soon.
“We’re on our way to 14 gigawatt-hours of storage,” Gorrill said. “That’s enough power to support 400,000 average homes for a 24-hour period, or 11,000 homes for 365 days.”
Gorrill said the plant will have an employee parking side and a shipping and delivery side.
He said the location — fewer than 4 miles south of Interstate 10, which is being widened in Buckeye — will keep trucks from having to drive through town.
There is also a possibility Kore Power could use the east-west rail line that runs through the area along Baseline Road, Gorrill said, though the details of that shipping mode haven’t been discussed at length yet.
He also said the company’s water use should be minimal, and isn’t part of the manufacturing process. Gorrill said the company is talking with APS regularly about power use, especially for construction, though the battery manufacturer plans to eventually be a “net exporter” of electricity.
As far as waste and recycling, Gorrill said, the company plans to have its hazardous waste handled by recycling personnel, but also will have a plan for recycling batteries at the end of each life span. That life span is currently about 15 years.
Gorrill said the company is talking with Arizona State University and the Maricopa Community Colleges to see if recently or about-to-be- trained workers will fit into Kore Power’s plans in some way.
“We’re excited about coming to Arizona,” Gorrill said. “The world is changing fast. You should see what’s happening in the United Kingdom.”