Innovative grid-level battery maker Aquion Energy is going from university spinoff to major manufacturer.
Aquion has leased a portion of RIDC Westmoreland, the former Sony Technology Center in East Huntingdon Township near New Stanton, which closed in March 2010. It will move its 70 employees from its headquarters and low-volume manufacturing space in Lawrenceville to the new facility in 2013, and expects to create more than 400 high-tech manufacturing jobs by the end of 2015. The space is owned by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RIDC).
“After considering all of our options, including aggressive offers from a number of other U.S. states, we concluded that southwestern Pennsylvania is the best location to establish our first high-volume manufacturing operation,” said Aquion CEO Scott Pearson. “We are very excited to be able to significantly increase our presence in Pennsylvania, and we applaud the efforts of the state, regional and local economic development agencies that worked closely with Aquion to make this expansion possible.”
Aquion makes environmentally friendly sodium-ion batteries about the size of a breadbox, weighing about 50 pounds. They can be strung together to create modules of varying sizes to supply power to large electrical grids. They also can store energy, which helps stabilize electrical grids as more non-traditional, renewable sources of power come online.
“This is a great win for the region, particularly for Westmoreland County and RIDC Westmoreland, said Dewitt Peart, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. “The company, governing agencies, Westmoreland IDC, RIDC and economic development agencies worked together cohesively. It’s these kinds of partnerships that win big deals that create well-paying jobs in our region.”
Said Governor Tom Corbett: “My administration is committed to making Pennsylvania an economic leader by investing in the growth of companies like Aquion that are on the cutting edge of technology development and creating the next generation of jobs.”
Founded in 2008 by Carnegie Mellon University engineering professor Jay Whitacre, Aquion opened a headquarters and low-volume manufacturing space in a former railroad engine foundry in Lawrenceville two years ago. It has been developing grid-scale energy storage without the use of hazardous materials, corrosive acids, or noxious fumes. It received a $5 million Department of Energy grant to begin commercialization of its sodium-ion batteries. In September Aquion announced it has secured $30 million in venture capital, and was seeking high-volume manufacturing space and to grow by several hundred workers.
“We at RIDC, along with our partner in this venture, the Westmoreland County IDC are very pleased That Aquion Energy has chosen the RIDC Westmoreland facility for the expansion of its manufacturing presence,” said Don Smith Jr., president of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “This major investment is a key step in expanding high quality manufacturing jobs in our region, and is the first in what we hope will be a steady stream of announcements of new tenants in the facility.”
U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson visited the facility earlier this month. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette video of the visit offers insight into Aquion’s work.