Dream big Gigafactory plan

A supplied mock-up image showing what a Tesla Gigafactory could look like at  Tiwai Pt. Photo:...
A supplied mock-up image showing what a Tesla Gigafactory could look like at Tiwai Pt. Photo: supplied
A South Island-born businessman wants to bring Tesla to Tiwai.

After the announcement on Thursday of New Zealand Aluminium Smelter’s (NZAS) plan to close its Tiwai Point smelter near Invercargill, officials scrambled to salvage what they could from the debris.

Nigel Broomhall. Photo: supplied
Nigel Broomhall. Photo: supplied
Some, including Temuka-born electric vehicle-charging entrepreneur Nigel Broomhall, believe the move presents an opportunity to innovate.

Mr Broomhall, of Auckland, yesterday said he would put together a "coalition of the willing" to pitch to US electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla to establish a "Gigafactory" at Tiwai Point, if he could muster enough public support for his idea.

At present, Tesla operates three Gigafactories worldwide manufacturing electric vehicles and components, including batteries, and is building a fourth in Germany.

Tesla founder Elon Musk has said he planned to open 12 such plants, and believed the sustainable energy market might eventually require 100 plants.

Mr Broomhall, who has worked in the electricity industry for 18 years - including a 10-year spell at NZAS supplier Meridian Energy - said an equivalent Southland Gigafactory could generate 8000 jobs, an initial inwards investment of $6.9billion, and other economic benefits of $1.3 billion-$1.4 billion.

"Having this amount of renewable electricity available at such low prices is unique in the world. We have 1200-plus skilled people in Southland we could transition, and we have a deep-water port, roll-on, roll-off capability, and many raw materials used to make batteries next door in Australia.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that I believe will attract a top team to pull together a deal."

Mr Broomhall, who is chief executive of electric vehicle (EV) charging company ChargeSmart, said his own interests in such a deal were "obvious", and argued his experience in the industry placed him in a unique position to help broker such a deal.

"I’ve recently been involved with a start-up installing 3000 EV chargers in the US.

"Americans like a deal, and if the deal stacks up, as I believe it does here, they’ll listen.

"Let’s have a crack, and turn doom and gloom into opportunity for the future."

Officials involved in damage control at Tiwai Point were broadly positive about Mr Broomhall’s proposal, although all were cautious in regards to abandoning hope of a turnaround for the smelter.

The closure is expected to result in the direct loss of 1000 jobs, and a further 1600 indirect job losses.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said as the initial "shock and horror" of the closure waned, he had been "heartened by a flood of alternative ideas".

"We’re not happy, as this has been a good working relationship over many years [with NZAS], but now we should be turning our attention to alternatives. We’re open to talk to people with good ideas."

Etu union negotiator Joe Gallagher agreed no option should be ruled out.

"[Tiwai] could be bought by another smelter operator, and there have been a lot of other ideas floated lately.

"Southland can’t be held [to] ransom forever, but any change needs to come with a comprehensive plan for retraining and redeployment."

Great South chief executive Graham Budd said the Southland economic development agency had been "inundated" with proposals, which would be considered at the "appropriate" time.

"It’s too early to provide comment on the potential regional significance of these ideas."




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Similar ideas have been tried before with auto manufacture

Haha, on a plus side, it would be the first Tesla plant to ACTUALLY run in renewables.
I don't care what others will say about that comment as they choose to ignore the power lines running into his "self-sustainable" plant.
With its wood fuel burners using coal to get the heat up to burn the wet woodchips.
Not that I want that crazy, narcissist Musk anywhere near New Zealand and our economy.

"Having this amount of renewable electricity available at such low prices is unique in the world." .... which translated, means that we can probably get the NZ Government to pay us for using their power.

And you can bet your winter woolies that your power bill is still going to go up ... unless you buy a new Tesla electric vehicle every year which will automatically give you a 2% discount on your summer power bill.

Rio Tinto have left a pile of toxic waste in Mataura ... I have to wonder what surprise gifts Tesla will be giving us!

I really do feel for all the workers who will be made redundant from Tiwai and hope that something will replace the smelter. That said, I think NZ needs to look at the big picture and see what the real cost to the country will be. will Rio Tinto be made to disassemble the smelter and take it, along with the toxic materials in Mataura, back to Australia, or is NZ going to be left to clean up after them and if so, at what cost ??

Broomhill would say that, look what he does for a living. Probably not a good idea though. Could we really trust Musk to do the best for the region? Also, his technology is only a temporary fix. The materials for his batteries are finite and getting them is very destructive. Much better that we follow the example of places like Orkney and invest in hydrogen. Cheap power from Manapouri would be a great starter for this.

So sad that all the comments so far are negative. To address a couple of comments Tesla is NOT Delorean it is an existing car manufacturer not a start-up. And the materials for the batteries is NOT finite as the batteries are very recyclable.

Not negative, just realistic.

Don't you need lots of sunlight for solar farms?

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