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Battery recycling firm to expand operations in Nevada

June 16, 2021 GMT

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A battery recycling company founded by a former executive at Tesla Inc. broke ground on 100 acres (40 hectares) of land at an industrial park near Reno as part of its expansion plan.

Redwood Materials, which was founded in Nevada in 2017, is expecting its operations to continue growing with a boost in used battery packs from older electric vehicles, the Reno-Gazette Journal reported.

As a result, the company plans to expand its facilities and increase its workforce from just over 100 employees to more than 600 in the next couple of years. In addition to the acquisition at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, the company is also undertaking a major project in Carson City to expand its 150,000-square-foot facility (13,935-square-meter) to 550,000 square feet (51,000 square meters) within the next two years.

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“We’ve been on the quiet side because we prefer to make progress and get things done,” Redwood Materials CEO JB Straubel said. “We felt it was time to connect a bit more with the local community and help raise awareness for hiring and make sure people realize this is a worthy and unique opportunity here as well.”

Straubel is known for helping launch Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer that has been operating out of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center for nearly seven years. Tesla works with Panasonic to create battery packs from various components. Redwood Materials, Straubel’s new venture, does the reverse — break down older batteries and scrap for reuse.

“The critical materials that go into these batteries don’t degrade in their usage,” Straubel said. “They can be used hundreds and thousands of times and the economic benefit of that becomes really significant, not to mention the environmental benefit.”

Straubel points to smartphones, bicycles, power tools, toothbrushes and electric vehicles to measure the scope of battery recycling.

“It’s a great thing for the environment but it puts massive pressure on the supply chain and resources to build all these cars and batteries,” Straubel said, noting that there is a projected spike in demand from electric vehicles.

As part of the facility expansion project in Carson City, Redwood Materials received more than $411,000 in tax abatements over 10 years from the state. In exchange, the company pledged to invest $5.1 million in capital equipment and generate $3.7 million in tax revenue over a decade.

The company declined to provide its actual investment numbers for the expansion, only saying that it will be hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Nevada is the only state in our nation that is both mining critical materials and manufacturing the lithium-ion batteries that are building the world’s electric vehicles and clean energy technologies,” Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said. “And now Nevada is making this process even more sustainable by supporting cutting edge companies like Redwood Materials.”