Energy Company Has Big Plans For Former Philip Morris Site in Concord

Oct 28, 2014

Alevo introduces its GridBank power storage system, October 28, 2014, in Concord, N.C.
Credit Duncan McFadyen

A new company says it will turn the former Philip Morris plant in Concord into a high tech manufacturing facility. Executives from Alevo made the announcement Tuesday. They will use the space to build large-scale battery arrays that, they say, will “redefine energy.”

Alevo made the announcement with the help of music, spotlights, sound effects and three large video screens. It was clear right away the company has lofty goals for its production facility. Jostein Eikeland, CEO of Alevo, said, "Today is a great day for the city of Concord, Cabarrus County, North Carolina, the United States, and of course the rest of the world."

Alevo CEO Jostein Eikeland at the company's event in Concord, October 28, 2014.
Credit Duncan McFadyen / WFAE

Eikeland says he has the money to back up those claims. Alevo plans to invest one billion dollars in the former cigarette factory. The plant will produce self-contained battery arrays called GridBank. They’re built inside shipping containers like the kind you’d see on the bed of an 18-wheeler. GridBanks contain racks of industrial batteries, computers and fans to keep them cool.

Here’s how they would work:

There’s some excess electricity in the grid during off-peak hours. That power can be stored in Gridbanks are designed to store some of that power and send it back to the grid when demand increases.

Executive Vice President Chris Christiansen says the technology could revolutionize the energy business. "Storage has the potential to completely redefine how we dispatch resources," he says, "and it can add efficiencies in every part of the power ecosystem."

Alevo is looking to fill 500 positions to handle the first round of production. In the next three years, the company hopes to hire about 25,000 people. That's roughly the same number of people who worked at the Philip Morris plant at its peak.

Notably absent from this announcement was any mention of tax incentives from local or state government.

"We haven’t taken any of those, because we think the city needed the money itself," explains CEO Jostein Eikland, "and if we couldn’t produce a service that can live on its own in a normalized world, then we didn’t think it was worth doing."

North Carolina Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker says deals this large are usually very competitive. But she says, "In this case, they found the site they wanted, and they knew this was the site, and I think it’s encouraging that they’re investing their own money. I think it shows they’ve got a lot of faith in the technology."

Alevo plans to build 480 GridBank units next year. The first units will go to China and Turkey, where Alevo has already made deals with power companies. The company hasn’t said what the units cost.