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UK’s first gigafactory to be built in Wales after Britishvolt formally selects site

UK's first gigafactory to be built in Wales

Britishvolt has formally selected a site in Wales to house the UK’s first gigafactory, after the company ruled out 41 other locations. 

Last month Electrical Review reported that Britishvolt had shortlisted two sites as the preferred location of the UK’s first gigafactory, but now the company has confirmed that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Welsh Government to develop a former RAF base at Bro Tathan, Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales.

The site at Bro Tathan will house the UK’s first gigafactory, which, when fully operational, will produce 30GWh of batteries each year for use in energy storage projects and electric vehicles. Britishvolt aims for the gigafactory to be as eco-friendly as possible, so will supplement the site with a 200MW solar plant to power operations. 

It took six months for Britishvolt to select a site, with the company noting that it carefully considered everything from import/export accessibility, availability of labour and skilled staff, as well as convenient geographical proximity to customers and local industrial companies. 

Britishvolt plans to fund the UK’s first gigafactory using the Government’s Automotive Transformation Grant, as well as through selling equity in the company. The firm’s CEO has confirmed that the firm is aiming to list on the London Stock Exchange as early as 2021, which is when construction of the gigafactory in Wales is set to commence. 

Orral Nadjari, CEO and founder at Britishvolt, comments, “We are immensely proud to announce plans to work exclusively with the Welsh Government to develop the UK’s landmark battery gigaplant. Wales has welcomed us with open arms and exceptional due diligence and we believe the country has a vast untapped potential. Hiring local people, including those currently out of work, and developing strong relationships with nearby educational facilities will be a priority for us to ensure a stream of skilled staff. Britishvolt will also encourage other businesses to invest in the region with the aim of creating a ‘hub’ of battery electrification – building out our very own infrastructure and supply chain ecosystem, which will create thousands more jobs.

“The construction of the solar farm will not only ensure our gigaplant has a near carbon neutral electricity input – complementing our goal of becoming one of the greenest battery producers worldwide – but also provide cleaner energy to the local area. The pandemic is acting as a catalyst, creating new markets for greener technologies, and highlighting the importance of localised supply chains – which Britishvolt has the backing and resources to drive forward.

“As the birthplace of lithium ion, the UK remains globally renowned for its academic excellence in research and development – with an abundance of home grown talent for Britishvolt to take advantage of. We believe this will not only be vital for the manufacturing and automotive industries, but for the future growth of the UK economy, as the demand for battery production escalates in years to come. In the absence of any onshore battery production, 114,000 direct British automotive jobs are predicted to be lost by 2040, and we want to ensure that this doesn’t happen.”

What does the Britishvolt gigafactory mean for the UK electrical industry? 

Gigafactories are beginning to pop up around the world thanks to a massive increase in demand for lithium-ion batteries. This is mainly being spurred by the popularity of electric vehicles, as well as the growing need for energy storage to help countries achieve lower carbon emissions. 

The UK was considered for Tesla’s first European gigafactory, although the American car company eventually selected Berlin, citing Brexit concerns. However, Tesla has recently been rumoured to be scouting a large location in the UK, with assistance provided by the UK Government, so Britishvolt may not be the only gigafactory on these shores for too long. 

Britishvolt alone claims that its gigafactory will bring 3,500 jobs and £1.2 billion worth of investment to Wales, meaning it’s a potentially big industry that the UK could dominate. After all, the UK is well regarded for its battery research, with a British chemist having first proposed the idea of a lithium battery.

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