Egbert Venema and Sandra Hilbrands, both 45, did what many dream of doing – they emigrated abroad. Now, though, their family and friends in Holland want them to move back ‘home’. And that perplexes them – they consider that they have found ‘home’ right here in northern Sweden… Burträsk’s new…
Northvolt – leading the charge for Skellefteå
Here in Skellefteå, a company is building what promises to be the largest factory in Europe for making lithium-ion batteries. Skellefteå was once known as Gold Town, with its mining heritage; now, the future looks golden with lithium.
Northvolt, whose aim is to produce the world’s greenest batteries with minimal carbon dioxide emissions, is the name of the company behind this venture. Northvolt will pioneer the use of renewable electricity, locally produced metals and recycling of batteries. And this will contribute towards Europe’s transition to renewable energy, putting Skellefteå firmly on the sustainable roadmap to a green future.
SKELLEFTEÅ: A SOCIAL NETWORK
That Northvolt chose Skellefteå is a tribute to the municipality’s proactive thinking and readiness to do business. Skellefteå’s regional business development manager, Anya Palm, put in a speculative call to Northvolt when she heard that the company was looking for a site for the new factory. Her resourcefulness paid off; a week later Skellefteå had submitted the first evidence of the area’s suitability for an energy-intensive enterprise of Northvolt’s size. Skellefteå municipality, Skellefteå Kraft, the business community, the university, county representatives, inhabitants and associations have since all worked together to make sure the factory comes to Skellefteå. Thanks to this joined-up, collaborative approach, Skellefteå went from not being on the shortlist of possible locations to being Northvolt’s final choice.
“Skellefteå has shown that we have the prerequisites required for an enterprise of this kind,” says Kristina Sundin Jonsson, Skellefteå’s municipal chief executive. She adds, “We can offer 100 per cent renewable energy production, an attractive site, a fully functioning port, proximity to communications and also a high quality of life with the capacity to rapidly build new homes and schools that will be needed for the workforce.”
EMBRACING AMBITIOUS CHANGE IN THE COMMUNITY
And this question of stepping up the house-building programme is one that has a dedicated expert to help scale up. Lars Hedqvist, chief planning officer at Skellefteå municipality, reports that Skellefteå has seen ambitious development over the last two years with more workers joining the community and its vibrant business sector.
“It would be easy to say that the progress we have made today is entirely due to Northvolt, but this is not really true. We were already committed to striving to reach our 2030 target of 80,000 inhabitants. That Northvolt decided to come here was the icing on the cake. But undoubtedly it has strengthened our appeal.
“Other industries that were already on their way here have been reassured that they made the right choice. Naturally, there are now a number of companies getting in touch who wish to set up their operations hub here. And that is the ‘Northvolt effect’, which in turn is generating great interest, for example, in logistics,” says Hedqvist.
He expands: “Northvolt talks of a workforce of 2,000 – 2,500 people. This will result in increased commuting from surrounding areas, as well as people relocating here, both nationally and from abroad. This will bring about a complete change in the community that will benefit many. Construction alone will provide thousands of jobs, which in turn will bring a boost to shops, restaurants, hotels, haulers, builders and those employed as electricians, plumbers, machinists and fitters. Overall, it will have a huge impact.”
HOW THE SITE WILL BE BUILT
In Bergsbyn, there is a new industrial area where both Skellefteå municipality and Skellefteå Kraft own a large part of the land. There have been plans for a long time to develop this industrial area for attracting energy-intensive industry. These plans have now been turbo-charged thanks to the exciting Northvolt project. Work on the industrial site will be carried out in stages. Northvolt will then have the right to buy out the entire site when it is finished. The project has the same name as the factory: Northvolt Ett. Northvolt, Skellefteå municipality and Skellefteå Kraft have formed a joint venture dealing with how any future work will be carried out.
Mikael Lindmark, Skellefteå Kraft, is the project manager. Lindmark says: “Work in the area comprises, among other things, ground preparations, fiber connection, district heating, recirculation of residual heat and connection to the mains supply as well as process and cooling water.”
Lindmark continues: “Skellefteå municipality is responsible for the water and sewage, an extension of Torsgatan to route 372 (where the Swedish Transport Administration will connect a junction), and pedestrian and cycle paths that will run in parallel to Torsgatan, as well as street lighting. We also have the option of extending the existing railway to this industrial zone.”
The first work started in the summer of 2018 for the first quarter of the factory that should be finished in 2020. The factory will then be extended at a rate of one zone per year, which means it is on track to completed fully by 2023. The large-scale factory in Skellefteå when fully built will produce batteries with a combined capacity of 32 GWh per year.