Stars aligning for gigafactory at Tiwai, says entrepreneur

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Advocate...Nigel Broomhall believes the future of transport is electric. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Chris Tobin

Former Temuka man Nigel Broomhall believes strongly US electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla will be interested in his proposal to establish a gigafactory at Tiwai Point.

If successful, he would save hundreds of jobs and become a hero in Southland, which has been reeling under news its Tiwai aluminium smelter was going.

“I’ve had multiple contacts across New Zealand reach out to express interest in working with the team to pull together a deal,” Mr Broomhall told The Courier.

“Having dealt with Americans, they are absolutely fantastic when it comes to making decisions on business opportunities, but they don’t tolerate people pitching hopes and dreams. It has to be real.

“Our US contacts have contacts into Tesla so I know once we’ve created a deal we can get it in front of them.”

Mr Broomhall announced his proposal soon after mining giant Rio Tinto said it would close its Tiwai aluminium smelter next year, costing 1000 jobs and affecting another 1600 indirectly.

A gigafactory is a clean-technology factory focused on producing batteries and electric vehicles.

“Gigafactory is a term coined by Tesla, and Elon Musk [billionaire engineer and CEO of Tesla] is on record stating Tesla may need 100 gigafactories to meet world demand over the next 10 years.

“The latest gigafactory proposed is in Germany and it will employ 8000 people and take an investment of $6.9billion.”

Tesla has become the most valuable car manufacturer by market capital in the world.

“The future of transport is electric and it’s being driven there by government regulations in progressive regions like Europe, China and parts of the United States – the major car markets.”

An electric vehicle entrepreneur, Mr Broomhall believed Rio Tinto pulling out, and the New Zealand Aluminium Smelter contract winding down over a year, would provide sufficient time to get a gigafactory plan up and running.

“The freeing up of up to 570MW of 100% renewable energy [with the smelter closing] is unique in the world.

“That’s enough electricity to power 776,000 homes for a year and it’s 13% of all of New Zealand’s electricity demand.

“Couple that with 1200 hardworking and skilled workers [at Tiwai] , an electricity price of $0.05/kWh, and a global pandemic which doesn’t look like ending soon and New Zealand looks pretty good.”

He said New Zealand was at a point when big ideas were needed.

“This is an opportunity that is literally a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Transpower has announced that it will cost $100million to get the energy out, and another $500million-$600million to stabilise the network to handle an additional 570MW of South Island generation.

“This is a very logical approach but once it is redirected from Southland, it will never be redirected back.”

He said this would be of no benefit to Southland at all.