Groundbreaking for Saft battery plant
3/16/2010 3:49:47 PM
Source: Jacksonville Business Journal
Author: Mark Szakonyi
Construction of a $200 million plant that will produce high-tech batteries for the alternative energy industry began Monday afternoon.
Saft America, a subsidiary of French battery manufacturer Saft Group, will initially employ about 280 people at its 200,000-square-foot plant at Cecil Commerce Center. The plant could increase its ranks if can sell its lithium-ion batteries to the aviation, telecommunication and military industries.
The company plans to begin rolling out batteries for the alternative energy industry in 2011, said Peter Denoncourt, who will run the Jacksonville plant. About $95.5 million worth of federal stimulus funding will help pay for Haskell Co.’s building of the highly-automated plant. The average wage of a plant worker will be about $44,800.
In the first several years, the plant will concentrate on producing batteries that enable users to store electricity generated through solar and wind power, said Jim McDowall, Saft business development manager. The batteries are about the size of a 12-ounce soda can, but a bit taller and slimmer.
They store energy by allowing lithium ions to move from the negatively-charged cathode to the positively-charged anode when charging, and the reverse when discharging.
Lithium-ion batteries are more attractive than traditional rechargeable batteries because they can be recharged more than twice as much before needing to be replaced. And they can store up to three times as much energy in the same amount of space as a liquid-acid battery, which are found under most cars’ hoods,
Although lithium-ion battery development has been going on for about three decades, their use has been generally limited to laptops, iPods and cell phones. Despite the battery’s ability to provide more power than liquid acid and nickel-metal-hydride batteries, they have been prone to rapid deterioration.
The $763 million company wasn’t considering making Jacksonville the site of its 16th manufacturing plant until an employee mentioned the company’s interest in a new North American facility to former classmate Mayor John Peyton. The mayor suggested giving Jacksonville a look before making a final decision.
Denoncourt said Jacksonville makes sense for the company because of its logistical advantages, including access to major highway and rail lines, and its U.S. Navy-trained work force.
Jacksonville Business Journal