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Can Panasonic Help Kansas be Saudi Arabia of Clean Energy? EV Battery Plant Will be the Biggest in the World

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Above image credit: Panasonic Energy's electric vehicle battery plant in De Soto, which will open in 2025, will be the biggest battery plant in the world. (Martin Rosenberg | Flatland)
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2 minute read

Panasonic Energy’s top executive declared Thursday that its new 4.7 million-square-foot plant now under construction in De Soto “will be the largest battery manufacturing plant in the world.” 

Add that to the fact that the value of electricity generated by Kansas wind turbines rivals if not exceeds that of its wheat crop and you will understand why some are beginning to see the state as America’s emerging Saudi Arabia of clean energy. 

The facility, which will open in the first quarter of 2025, is gargantuan. It would fill the sprawling Kansas Speedway and swallow the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. 

Allan Swan, president of Panasonic Energy of North America, on Thursday said: “The technology we are bringing to Kansas … is the topflight technology in the world.” 

Swan heads up this plant and a similar one in Reno, Nevada, that produces 2 billion electric vehicle batteries sufficient to power 400,000 to 500,000 electric vehicles. 

The DeSoto battery plant will be highly automated and run around the clock. Its assembly lines will turn out 66 batteries a second. 

It takes 4,000 batteries in an array to power one vehicle. That means Kansas workers will be running and monitoring an operation that will create enough batteries each minute to power one car. 

Just outside Panasonic’s 300-acre site is Evergy’s newly built 420-megawatt substation that will provide the energy-hungry battery plant with 110 megawatts to 170 megawatts of juice, according to Jee van Heel, construction executive at the facility. 

Evergy has built a new substation to provide energy for the new Panasonic Energy electric vehicle battery plant in De Soto, Kansas.
Evergy has built a new substation to provide energy for the new Panasonic Energy electric vehicle battery plant. (Martin Rosenberg | Flatland)

Since the plant will draw power around the clock it potentially could reap power bill savings in the evening when overall power demand typically slackens. According to van Heel, he normally would be involved in talks with the local utility to hammer out such issues but is not now. 

Swan said he is aware that his factory will be partly powered by energy that is produced at fossil fuel-burning plants.  

“I don’t like it,” Swan said. 

Cutting carbon emissions is core to Panasonic’s business of putting EV transportation on America’s highways. 

Asked if Panasonic intends to ask its Democratic and Republican allies in Topeka to help boost renewable energy in the state and wean its gleaming new factory from fossil-fueled power, Swan said: “We have to build a factory that is sustainable first.” 

Swan strongly praised Gov. Laura Kelly and the Republican leaders of the Kansas Legislature for their support of the project.  

“The reason we chose here — it was a real team effort in Kansas,” Swan said.

Flatland contributor Martin Rosenberg is a Kansas City journalist and host of the Grid Talk podcast on the future of energy.

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