Former Cigarette Plant to Produce Batteries for Solar and Wind Energy Storage

The Philip Morris cigarette plant in Concord, North Carolina is switching to produce batteries to store energy for wind and solar farms, Fortune reports.

The plant used to manufacture a billion cigarettes annually, but a reduction in the number of Americans smoking took its toll and Philip Morris stopped producing cigarettes at the plant several years ago.

Swiss-owned battery manufacturer Alevo bought the 3.5 million square foot facility for $68.5 million, which will make lithium-iron-phosphate batteries that can be charged within 30 minutes, run 24/7 and last for 40,000 charges. Alevo says it will hire 500 people in the next year and create 2,500 jobs within three years. This is slightly higher than the 2,000 people employed there when the plant produced cigarettes.

The company says it has an agreement with the Turkish state power authority and is currently in discussion with U.S. power companies.

It is likely we will see more facilities repurposed to produce batteries in the coming years. Worldwide revenue from advanced batteries for utility-scale energy storage applications will grow from $164 million in 2014 to more than $2.5 billion in 2023, according to a recent report from Navigant Research.

The tobacco industry is worth billions, but this facility is evidence that a reduction in smoking demand can actually lead to more quality jobs in the long run. In recognition of the habit’s negative health effects, CVS Health has stopped selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores across the U.S. This is the first major pharmacy to do so, but it may not be the last.

In other battery news, Japanese startup Power Japan Plus earlier this year launched a new battery technology that generates twice as much energy as a lithium ion battery and charges 20 times faster. The technology could lead to cheaper long-range electric vehicles (EV) that can travel hundreds of miles on a charge and be charged in minutes rather than hours. Named after the Japanese god of lightning, the Ryden dual carbon battery makes use of a completely unique chemistry, with both the anode and the cathode made of carbon sourced from modified organic cotton fibers. The battery design balances the need for cost-competitive energy storage that is energy-dense, reliable, safe and sustainable.

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