A Swiss company making super-sized batteries in Concord is a year-and-a-half ahead of automaker Tesla in the global race to make industrial energy storage a reality, the company’s top sales rep told state lawmakers Wednesday.
Jeffrey Gates, vice president of global sales for Alevo, said the company will ship its 40-foot-long battery modules to China this fall and could announce a major deal in the U.S. before the year is out.
Alevo’s GridBanks, as the modules are called, are designed to back up power plants, solar farms and wind farms and recapture 30 percent of the energy that’s normally wasted by the electric industry.
Gates provided a status update about the battery maker that has riveted some with its futuristic promise of transforming the electric utility industry into an ultra-efficient energy-management system.
“I’m a technology nut,” said Rep. John Szoka, the Cumberland County Republican who invited Gates to Raleigh. “This is really earth-shattering, I believe.”
Privately-held Alevo, based in Martigny, Switzerland, last fall took over a former Philip Morris cigarette plant in Concord, a facility recognizable to millions as the site of the opening scenes in the Hunger Games movie. Alevo employs about 100 at the Concord plant today, and expects to have 2,500 workers in three years and as many as 6,000 when operating at full capacity.
The key to Alevo’s breakthrough in this country is field-testing the battery system on a large scale, where the system would be exposed to extreme weather, power plant performance and other unpredictable factors.
Alevo has done computer simulations, including one with Duke Energy, to calculate substantial energy savings through Alevo’s proprietary data analytics applications.
“We’ve never tested it,” Gates said. “But we know it would work.”
Gates is a former Duke Energy employee who worked on the Charlotte-based utility company’s battery testing program. He said testing an Alevo 20-megawatt battery system would cost about $40 million.
When asked what lawmakers could do to help, Gates suggested legislation allowing Duke to invest in the system and pass on the cost to customers.
Gates said Duke, the nation’s largest electric utility company, is not likely to invest the money if Wall Street shareholders have to cover the cost.
Gates said Alevo’s analyses show a utility would recoup the investment in GridBanks in about five years, and then profit from the energy savings afterwards.
“The technology is definitely ready now,” Gates said.