Updated at 5:33 p.m.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced plans on Friday to loan KORE Power Inc., a battery manufacturing company with offices and a manufacturing facility in Waterbury, $850 million to fund the construction of a new manufacturing facility in Buckeye, Arizona.
The announcement comes just over a year after KORE Power, a battery manufacturing company based in Idaho, acquired Northern Reliability, an energy storage firm in Waterbury, launching KORE Solutions, drastically increasing the scope of the Vermont company’s work and adding jobs at its Waterbury facility.
The company’s president, Jay Bellows, told VTDigger in an interview Friday that the project will not result in significant changes at the Waterbury facility, and its Vermont employees will remain in the state.
“We’re focused on Vermont staying in Vermont,” Bellows said, “Northern Reliability has, as part of Northern power systems before it, 50 years worth of experience building energy storage systems. That’s experience that we want to grasp and hold on to and grow here in the state.”
With new funding from the federal energy department, administered as part of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program, the company plans to continue the construction of a 1.3-million-square-foot facility called “KOREPlex” that began last year in Buckeye, where it says it will be able to employ as many as 1,250 people.
According to the company, operations at the new facility will expand cell manufacturing capacity for electric vehicles and energy storage systems, housing multiple production lines for manufacturing batteries while producing nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) domestically.
“What KOREPlex coming online in Arizona means is that the solutions that we build here in Waterbury will be 100% domestic, not relying on any foreign entity to provide the battery products,” Bellows said.
Like many producers of electric vehicle batteries, KORE Power currently sources the raw materials for its battery products internationally, relying on a global supply chain that has attracted international attention for reports of the use of child labor in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo and abuses of Indigenous rights through lithium mining in South America.
According to Bellows, the new domestic facility is part of the company’s efforts to create a more ethical and sustainable supply chain.
“We’re working diligently to get the entirety of our supply chain from here in the U.S.,” he said. “One of our focus points is moving toward making sure ethical mining is happening. … Our goal is to bring that here (to the U.S.) where solid legislation and really nice reform has taken place to protect the mining community as a whole.”
Bellows said an internal team at KORE is currently working to create a set of company standards for enforcing an ethical supply chain, which will be implemented once KOREPlex is completed at the end of 2024. Until then, the company will continue to source its battery materials from abroad.