Photo: Ryan Ketterman
Northeast Florida Roundup
Battery Powered: Saft's battery plant was a victory for Jacksonville
In 2015, President Barack Obama visited French battery maker Saft’s Jacksonville office and touted the company as a leader in clean energy with its production of lithiumion batteries.
“These batteries are the kinds of things folks don’t always think about when it comes to renewable energy, but it couldn’t be more important,” Obama said.
Saft’s large batteries are produced for three main uses, says Jody Beasley, general manager of the plant: Energy storage for power produced by solar and wind; ensuring an uninterrupted power supply for telecommunications towers; and powering city buses and mining vehicles, replacing petroleum fuels.
The plant opened in 2011 after receiving a $95.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. It now employs 190.
Landing the facility was a win for Jacksonville economic development officials. “One of our targeted industries is advanced manufacturing,” says Aaron Bowman, senior vice president of JAXUSA partnership.
The Saft plant was promoted as an entry into the clean-energy manufacturing field for Jacksonville. While that sector hasn’t taken off, Jacksonville is a leader in another clean energy field, liquefied natural gas, says First Coast Manufacturers Association President Lake Ray.
Two companies are building liquefaction and storage facilities to fuel LNG-powered vessels at JaxPort for freight carriers Crowley Maritime and Tote Maritime. That makes Jax- Port one of a handful of U.S. ports equipped with LNG terminals.
“We’re basically on top of the world in terms of LNG,” says Ray.