Article Originally Published: newsandsentinel.com
by Craig Howell | July 22, 2023
WEIRTON — The first of many milestones was reached Friday afternoon in the construction of a new battery manufacturing facility in Weirton.
Fifty-six days after breaking ground, officials with Form Energy celebrated the raising of the first steel beams going into the development of the 800,000-square-foot plant being referred to as Form Factory One.
“This is exciting,” said Ted Wiley, president and chief operating officer of Form Energy, while watching five of the first support beams, and a section of roof framing, being installed on a portion of the 55 acres targeted for the facility.
Wiley and other Form Energy employees were joined by officials with the City of Weirton, the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, and the Frontier Group of Companies for Friday’s event.
As part of the process, Wiley explained, crews have been working to dig a series of 700 micro-piles, measuring five feet wide and going 120 feet into the ground.
Approximately 300 of those micro-piles have been dug, allowing major construction to begin.
“It’s enough that we can start erecting the steel,” Wiley noted.
Crews are taking a sequenced approach to construction, working with contractors on the design and construction at the same time, often with workers from different companies working on a particular area concurrently.
Form Energy is encouraging the idea of seeing everyone working on the project as being on the same team, with the goal of getting Form Factory One up and running.
Officials anticipate the final steel framing to be complete by November, and for it to be enclosed by the end of the year.
“We’re on track,” Wiley said, noting substantial completion of the structure is expected in early 2024.
Operations of the factory are anticipated to begin in mid to late 2024, with a planned expansion starting in 2025, according to a timeline previously presented by the company.
The company hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking on May 26, with guests including U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in attendance, joining several local and state officials as well as company representatives and stakeholders.
While it will still be some time before operations begin, Form Energy already has received orders for its iron-air battery designed to be capable of storing 100 hours of energy.
“There has been tremendous interest from utilities across the country,” Wiley noted, adding the company continues to speak with potential customers.
Earlier this month, regulators in Minnesota approved a 10-megawatt/1,000 megawatt hour system for Northern States Power, to be built by Form Energy. Georgia Power ordered its own system in June.
As part of its plans, Form Energy anticipates creating 750 jobs for its factory which will sit on land once used for the open hearth operations of the former Weirton Steel Corp. The project represents an investment of approximately $760 million, with funds coming from Form Energy, as well as the State of West Virginia.
The Weirton site was selected from a slate of 500 locations across 16 states.
Craig Howell can be reached at email@example.com.