“Fantastic news for Moses Lake – more big tech moves into town. Moses Lake is proving to be a great location for tech with strong power requirements, and good live/work environment and affordability for employees….”

Gene Berdichevsky, co-founder and CEO of Sila, says in the battery market “you either keep up with it or get left behind.” Sila Nanotechnologies

Central Washington is gaining clout in the battery technology industry.

In May, Alameda, California-based battery tech company Sila Nanotechnologies Inc. announced the purchase of an over 600,000-square-foot facility in Moses Lake, while its Woodinville-based competitor Group14 is building a facility in Moses Lake slated to open in the second half of 2023.

For Sila and Gene Berdichevsky, the company’s co-founder and CEO, the decision to open a facility in Moses Lake came down to talent, clean hydropower and the ability to find a pre-existing space.

“We are very keen to scale up quickly. This market, you either keep up with it or get left behind, so we wanted an existing site,” Berdichevsky said. “Building a new building is incredibly time-consuming and expensive.”

As for talent, Berdichevsky said Moses Lake, which has a population of roughly 25,000, has strong industrial talent with the likes of REC Silicon and other manufacturers in the area. Sila is already forming relationships with local community colleges, and nearby schools like Gonzaga and Washington State University could provide key talent, he added. According to Berdichevsky, Sila plans to hire locally in Moses Lake for manufacturing jobs, as well as some of the engineering jobs.

The new facility is right next to REC Silicon’s facility at 3322 Road N NE. REC Silicon makes a gas called silane that is crucial for both Sila and Group14. The company, which makes polysilicon and silicon gases for the solar and electronics industries, has facilities in Moses Lake and Silver Bow, Montana. REC’s facility in Moses Lake has been dormant, but after a major investment from the South Korean manufacturing company Hanwha Corp. earlier this year, REC in May announced it plans to restart production and reach full capacity in 2024.

Berdichevsky said Sila picked Moses Lake before knowing REC was reopening its facility. He added that although the company can get silane from multiple sources to start, as Sila grows its production it will need to either get silane from REC or make its own.

Sila and Group14 both make a silicon-based powder that is designed to replace graphite in traditional batteries. The powder, which both companies say can drop into existing manufacturing processes, improves energy density, according to the companies. Both are eyeing consumer electronics and electric vehicles.

Sila’s powder already powers a fitness tracker called the Whoop 4.0. The company raised $590 million last year, while Group14 raised $400 million in May.

Sila said the Moses Lake facility is on 160 acres, and the company’s initial production will be enough to power between 100,000 and 500,000 electric vehicles and 500 million mobile phones each year.

The facility will start production in the second half of 2024 and will reach full production in the first half of 2025. Berdichevsky said the company plans to hire about 100 workers at the plant to start. A company spokesperson said Sila paid in the “low nine figures” for the facility.

“We’ve got to get to building,” Berdichevsky said. “We have real customers.”

By Rick Morgan – Inno Senior Reporter

June 02, 2022, 02:12pm PDT