(CRANE) - Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman, 8th District Congressman Larry Bucshon, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane (NSWC Crane), officials from Greene County, the RADIUS Indiana regional economic organization and others joined representatives of the Energy Systems Network (ESN) Monday to break ground on the new $14 million Battery Innovation Center facility at the WestGate @ Crane Technology Park.
The 32,000 square foot facility will serve as the physical hub for a network of industry and research partners focused on making Indiana a leader in developing, commercializing and validating cutting-edge battery technologies.
ESN, the state's clean technology initiative, has worked with a range of industry partners and academic intuitions as well as NSWC Crane to establish the Battery Innovation Center (the 'BIC') to meet the research and development, rapid prototyping and contract manufacturing needs of industry, academic and military customers.
The partnership between Crane, a major federal research lab and the Defense Department's center of excellence for energy storage, and the state's other research institutions and industry players vaults Indiana into a leadership position in the competition for new business opportunities from the growing advanced battery market.
The new BIC, designed by American Structurepoint and to be built by Keystone Construction Corporation in Indianapolis, will be constructed in the WestGate section close to the new I-69 interchange that will open later in 2012.
"The push to make electric vehicles a realistic option for more drivers, the implementation of a smarter electric grid, the demand for more powerful electronics throughout our homes, offices and factories - all of these trends and more have kindled a growing demand for high-tech batteries," said ESN President & CEO Paul Mitchell. "We believe the BIC can position Indiana as a 'Silicon Valley' for battery innovation, testing and production - with the epicenter right here in Greene County."
"The advanced battery sector is an area where Indiana's manufacturing heritage dovetails perfectly with the innovative efforts of our research institutions and the presence of the Crane base," added Skillman, who oversees the state's Office of Energy Development. "Thanks to the BIC public-private partnership and Indiana's business friendly climate, high-tech batteries will be engineered and built here in southern Indiana."
"Crane, as the military's largest research center dedicated to next generation energy innovation, can be a magnet for new jobs and investment for southwestern Indiana, and the efforts of the Battery Innovation Center will help maximize this great resource that we're fortunate to have in our region," said Bucshon. "At the same time, working with the BIC will also help Crane access a wider array of resources, and better perform its mission of supplying our soldiers in the field with the energy solutions they need. This is a winning partnership for all."
Last month, the Greene County Council unanimously approved $15.6 million in economic development bonds to support the construction of the BIC facility.
As council president, W. Edward Cullison explained, "This is a big commitment by the county but, given the strong interest of NSWC Crane in the project, Crane's vital role as an economic engine in Greene County, the substantial financial commitments the State is making, and the tremendous potential to attract private sector jobs, the council felt that the county had to step up and do its part to support the project."
Financing was finalized last week, making Monday's groundbreaking possible.
"Greene County sees the Battery Innovation Center as a great catalyst for economic development in our region," said Greene County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Joan Bethell. "Of course, we welcome the creation of over 30 jobs and significantly more technicians and professionals utilizing the facility, but we're confident that this is only the beginning. Looking towards the future, we believe the BIC will make the WestGate @ Crane Technology Park and the surrounding area a premier destination for clean technology ventures and companies in the battery supply chain to locate and grow."
Construction of the Battery Innovation Center will be complete at a time when "strategic access to the WestGate tech park will have dramatically increased with the opening of the new I-69," said Kent Parisien, president of the WestGate Authority. "That, coupled with the new academic and training facilities in the WestGate Academy, will present a whole spectrum of new opportunities for collaborative growth."
The facility design provides all the necessary equipment to allow teams to design, fabricate, package and test complex new energy storage systems and the control/safety systems that support their operation. Once completed, the facility will include an 1,800+ square foot state of the art dry/clean room for lithium ion battery prototype manufacturing; a variety of temperature, humidity and altitude chambers for cell testing; and computer architecture and systems required to support initial cell designs, modeling and simulation, among other advanced equipment.
"The lab will take on a wide variety of cell design and development efforts, harnessing a network of world-class minds and resources to help our partners create the next generation of energy storage solutions," said BIC President Chuck LaSota. "It will be one of the most advanced testing and prototyping labs in the world. Combined with our members' R&D capacity, the BIC will be uniquely positioned at the forefront of efforts to expand the range of electric vehicles, supply our military with reliable power in the field, and give homeowners access to a smarter electric grid."
While waiting for the WestGate facility to come on-line, BIC leadership will continue to raise funds, recruit partners, and use this virtual network to conduct some early project selection. BIC's access to its partners' research assets - including NSWC Crane - will greatly advance the work that will ultimately be undertaken by the new BIC facility.
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