Bechtel experts say early alignment on sustainability goals “is essential” when building EV battery and battery materials facilities.
In late 2022, the White House announced $2.8 billion in grants to manufacturing companies as part of the American Battery Materials Initiative. Made possible by recent legislation, this funding has spurred new capital projects to build factories for electric vehicle battery and battery materials production.
Many companies are in the early stages of designing and building new factories, which is the best time to start thinking about engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC), according to experts at Bechtel.
“The sooner we engage with our customers on a project, the better we can affect change and reduce complexity and risk,” said Nicole Franklin, Business Development Manager at Bechtel.
Bechtel’s experts implement strategies that enhance both designs for green buildings and sustainable construction methods.
Net Zero Energy and Water
“Sustainability is one of the first topics we get asked about when speaking with a customer in the EV space,” said Franklin. “Project owners want to know that their EPC provider aligns with the value proposition of their business: helping the world implement EVs to realize a more sustainable future.”
An emerging approach to designing new production facilities is to aim for a “double green” project. A “double green” is when the battery production process creates net zero emissions, and the overall site generates a positive amount of energy for the grid from onsite renewable energy.
“Starting with a plan for renewable energy on site is more strategic than adding solar panels or wind turbines to the parking lot after the fact,” said Deepti Bhadkamkar, Solutions Manager at Bechtel. “With solar we can make design decisions like selecting roofing or orienting the buildings in a way that maximizes energy production from the sun.”
Companies aiming to build advanced manufacturing facilities must also understand the role of renewable energy – solar, wind, and geothermal – and other resources like water usage on a site. Many organizations are adopting “net zero water” goals, which are consistent with their goals of not generating carbon emissions.
“Understanding a production process allows Bechtel to start planning to meet net zero water goals,” said Bhadkamkar. “We can even investigate alternative sources of water like rainwater, that can be used for non-potable uses like bathrooms and irrigation. There are a few water strategies that do not interfere with production and may even enhance it.”
Bechtel models building structures to operate efficiently without heating or cooling against outside temperature conditions. Other design considerations might include emerging materials for the building’s structure like zero-emission slabs for roofs or walls, or building materials like wood or recycled polymers.
Selecting a location for a new battery factory is an important step for accessing a green supply chain for construction of the facility.
“Industrial construction projects get greener the closer they are to major concrete or structural building components suppliers,” said Bhadkamkar. “Think about the carbon footprint of the trucking and logistics needed to bring all the construction commodities to a project site. If sustainability is part of the conversation early enough, we can explore ways to use more sustainable concrete or key materials.”
A key benefit of involving your EPC partner early in the master planning process is upfront contracting with the right partners. Setting sustainability goals early for the construction and operation of the building can allow the engineering, design, and procurement teams to onboard the right partners, particularly those willing to bring green innovation to the jobsite.
“Labor planning can also help with more sustainable construction,” said Bhadkamkar.” “Pre-fabrication or proximity to a larger craft professional workforce means people don’t need to burn a lot of gas to drive, or even fly, to the jobsite.”
“The path forward for more sustainable factories starts with early alignment with engineers and builders to design for efficiency and to place factories in the best possible location with the best possible team assembled,” said Bhadkamkar. “Together we can realize the sustainability goals of the next generation of battery factories.”