The $2 billion lithium-ion battery factory proposed for Townsville by a Bill Moss-led consortium has struck a new round of agreements under which land for the plant will be secured, global technology giant Siemens will come on board, and public backing will come from the Queensland government.
The deals were signed on the sidelines of a major biotechnology conference in Boston, attended by a Queensland government trade delegation to the US led by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Queensland councils including Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill.
Mr Moss, a former head of property for Macquarie Group, said the consortium was moving to a stage where it could start raising capital.
“It’s very timely. There has been a lot of attention from other countries interested in this technology,” Mr Moss told The Australian.
According to its proponents, the factory, capable of producing one million home energy storage units a year, could also break China’s monopoly of the market and help ensure Australia’s energy security, which “is becoming a major concern globally. Australia is on the verge of becoming a smart energy manufacturing powerhouse if the government allows it,” Mr Moss said.
The Imperium3 consortium plans factories in New York, the Middle East and Australia that can deliver batteries for home and automotive use and renewable energy storage. It is converting an old IBM facility in upstate New York for its first factory. State funding is committed.
The consortium, which includes Eastman Kodak, C4V and electronics manufacturer C&D Assembly, along with Mr Moss’s Boston Energy and Innovation and listed Australian miner Magnis Resources, also signed a memorandum of understanding for Townsville with construction company Probuild which, with consultants WT Partnership and Norman Disney & Young, will undertake a feasibility study.
Last year, the Australian arm of the consortium gained a $3.1 million funding commitment from the Queensland government and launched a $12m capital raising for a feasibility and engineering design for the 15 gigawatt Townsville plant.
An information memorandum for the capital raising released last year said the factory would deliver 746 technical and manufacturing jobs plus other support roles and was forecast to generate annual sales revenue of more than $US2.5bn ($3.3bn) at full capacity.
Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland was moving towards a 50 per cent renewable energy target. “Storage is fundamental to making renewable energy reliable, and that’s why my government has committed more than $3m towards assessing the feasibility of this project,’’ she said.
Ms Hill said signing the deal, under which part of the Townsville council’s former CSIRO research station at Woodstock would be granted to the consortium in exchange for equity in the battery factory, was a crucial step to starting the plant and creating a manufacturing hub in the city.
By Turi Condon