If Planar is successful, they could also land matching monies from the State of Florida for the project that could generate 200 direct and 1,000 indirect jobs by 2012. Located in the appropriately-named Phoenix Commercial Park in Gainesville, the 150,000 sq ft building was built in 1997 at a cost of $150 million. We are told that the company has customers who have already evaluated their PowerBlade product and "are anxious for Planar to move into volume production." Read more about their plans in the press release after the break.
[Source: Planar Energy Devices]
PLANAR EXPANSION PLAN WOULD ADD HUNDREDS OF HIGH-WAGE JOBS
Advanced Battery Technology Cluster Goal of Orlando & Gainesville Facilities
ORLANDO, Fla. (May 15, 2009) – A plan to jumpstart the manufacture of its advanced batteries for hybrid electric vehicles by Orlando-headquartered Planar Energy Devices could produce hundreds of high-wage jobs in Central Florida. Support for Planar's application for a share of federal stimulus dollars, which is available through the U.S. Department of Energy's allocation for battery manufacturing, came this week from the Florida Governor's Energy Office, the company said today.
"The Obama administration has targeted battery manufacturing as a priority for helping rebuild America's economy and a path to renewable energy independence," said Planar CEO Scott Faris, whose company has an exclusive contract to purchase an existing lithium ion battery manufacturing facility in Phoenix Commercial Park in Gainesville, built in 1997 at a cost of more than $150 million but shuttered last year due to the economic crisis.
"This facility is now a strategic national asset, as it is the largest rechargeable battery manufacturing facility outside of Asia. We can have it up and running and producing batteries in weeks, and it gives us the capability to immediately address the needs of customers, from automotive manufacturers to defense contractors, who currently rely heavily on batteries made off-shore. While there are other facilities being planned to address these needs, this facility gives Planar and the U.S. a jumpstart on addressing the immediate, high-volume demands many companies have for energy storage product requirements," said Faris.
Planar has asked the State of Florida's support for a proposal it will submit to the Department of Energy on May 15, seeking $56 million in stimulus funds set aside for moving batteries into high-volume production. "Facilities such as this are a key component of the country's renewable energy strategy, as well as critical for defense and security purposes. As part of the stimulus bill, the U.S. Department of Energy has targeted $2 billion in competitive grants to companies to build facilities exactly like the one we already have in Alachua," said Faris.
The head of Florida Governor Charlie Crist's Energy Office encouraged support for Planar's application for federal stimulus funds based on the project's potential for new job creation. "The influx of stimulus dollars will allow Planar to immediately begin manufacturing operations in a shuttered lithium ion facility near Gainesville, which is expected to create over 200 direct jobs and potentially 1,000 indirect jobs by 2012," said Jeremy Susac, executive director of the Governor's Energy Office. "If approved for funding under the Department of Energy's Electric Drive Vehicle Battery & Component Manufacturing Initiative, Planar would qualify for consideration to receive State of Florida matching funds," Susac said. If successful, the total project investment will exceed $120 million.
"Having an existing high-volume manufacturing facility that meets the Department of Energy's program requirements is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Florida. However, while this project is essentially a 'lights on' activity, Planar and Florida must still compete with other states and companies that are proposing as yet undeveloped projects to the Department of Energy," said Faris.
In addition to Planar's planned manufacturing expansion, he said the company will significantly expand its research and development headquarters in Orlando, creating a multi-faceted, next-generation battery organization that is anchored with a high-volume manufacturing facility in Gainesville, and an R&D center that is focused on developing next generation solid state batteries for automotive hybrids, plug-in vehicles and advanced military applications. In addition to R&D expansion, Planar will establish an internal Manufacturing Process Technology Development Center (MPTDC) in Orlando. The MPTDC will be the focal point of Planar's efforts to develop next generation coating technologies that will enable low-cost and high-volume manufacturing of the company's future generations of all solid state batteries.
Planar expects to increase its Orlando research and development staff by 25, reaching 50 next year; with employment at the 150,000-square-foot Gainesville manufacturing operations facility surpassing 250 in three years.
"The goal of the MPTDC is to revolutionize the way energy storage devices are made. To do that requires sophisticated research capabilities. Our experience through the Florida High Tech Corridor Council's Matching Grants Research Program has shown us there is no better place for a next generation battery initiative. We plan to be an active partner with the University of Central Florida (UCF) and University of Florida (UF) as we develop these manufacturing technologies in parallel with our new high-volume facility in Alachua," said Faris.
According to a study conducted by economic development researchers at Innovation Insight (www.innovationinsight.com), Planar's acquisition and restart of the Gainesville facility coupled with the MPTDC plan has the potential to result in more than 1,500 direct and indirect jobs in Florida between 2009 and 2015. The project is also expected to generate $628 million in Florida personal income, $1.2 billion in state gross regional product and $2.3 billion in Florida sales activity.
Faris pointed positively to statements by Willard & Kelsey Solar Group that it is exploring a major solar panel manufacturing facility for Orange County as evidence of the region's potential. "UCF's Florida Solar Energy Center and its extensive faculty strengths in this area, coupled with outstanding capabilities at the University of Florida, make our region ripe to become the center of this country's next generation energy storage industry."
About Planar Energy Devices Inc.
Planar Energy Devices Inc. is a privately held developer of tunable solid state power storage products for automotive, defense and commercial applications. Planar designs and manufactures energy storage products based upon a proprietary portfolio of deposition, materials and design technologies it has acquired from world-class government, academic and corporate research centers. The company combines its family of proprietary solid state electrolyte materials with high-capacity solid state cathode and anode materials, to create the world's thinnest and safest high-capacity batteries that can be manufactured using proven and scalable manufacturing processes.
Planar has been honored by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist as the "Newcomer" in the mega-market category of the Governor's Business Diversification Awards and by the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, which awarded the company its second annual Award for Innovation as part of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission's Annual William C. Schwartz Industry Innovation Awards. For more information, visit www.PlanarEnergy.com.