A press release by Britshvolt on 11th December has announced that a 95-hectare site in Blyth, Northumberland has been chosen to build the UK’s first ever battery giga-factory, which will occupy 2.7 million square feet.1 The plant, which is being built by construction company ISG, will see construction on the project begin in summer 2021, with Britishvolt hoping to start producing lithium-ion batteries for the automotive and renewable energy industries by 2023, followed by further phases of construction due to be completed by 2027.
The project could prove to be hugely beneficial for Blyth and the surrounding region; with a predicted £2.6 billion worth of investment, as well as the direct creation of 3,000 jobs and a further 5,000 indirectly.2 The level of investment by Britishvolt is reportedly one of the UK’s largest ever industrial investments, and is the largest investment the North East has seen since Nissan’s decision to base their plant in Sunderland in 1984.3 Britishvolt had previously agreed a deal with the Welsh government to build its factory in the Vale of Glamorgan, in part due to its proximity to the Aston Martin plant. Blyth was ultimately decided on in order to facilitate the factory’s use of 100% renewable energy when operating, with the Northumberland location having the potential to use hydro-electric power from Norway via the North Sea Link project.4
The building of the giga-factory, and investment in clean energy in general, will be critical in realising Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan to create a carbon neutral Britain by 2050. This target received buoyancy from other projects such as Cornish Lithium’s proposal to mine lithium in Cornwall, who saw their October crowdfunding round surpass their intended goal of £1.5 million to reach £5.2 million in just three days.5
The excitement around the development of a clean energy hub in the UK, as evidenced by the interest in startups such as British Volt and Cornish Lithium, gives hope to the prospect of reaching the UK’s 2050 carbon neutral target, and if nurtured could see the UK carve out a new niche for itself on the international stage.