Norwegian maritime battery company says ‘ja’ to new manufacturing facility in Washington state

Elliott Smith (left), director of real estate for the Port of Bellingham, shakes hands with Corvus Energy CEO Geir Bjørkeli at the Nordic Innovation Summit in Seattle. Corvus announced that it is opening a battery manufacturing facility in the Washington city of Bellingham later this year. (GeekWire Photo / John Cook)

Corvus Energy, a Norway-based global leader in maritime batteries, is making a bet that U.S. demand for low-carbon ships and ferries is heating up. The company is opening a battery manufacturing facility in the city of Bellingham, north of Seattle, in a play to expand its U.S. presence and benefit from government incentives supporting green tech and job creation.

Washington’s Department of Commerce, the Port of Bellingham and the Norwegian Ambassador joined Corvus in the announcement, which was made Wednesday at the Nordic Innovation Summit being held at Seattle’s National Nordic Museum.

As the world races to strip carbon emissions out of every facet of modern life, the maritime sector is looking at non-petroleum energy solutions including batteries, fuel cells and cleaner liquid fuels.

“It’s important to be part of the green shift in the United States and deliver U.S.-made products,” said Corvus CEO Geir Bjørkeli.

Corvus’s 20,000-square-feet manufacturing site will produce its popular Corvus Orca Energy system, a maritime battery system being used in 250 vessels and other applications around the world. The product is suitable for ferries, cruise ships, tugs, cranes, fishing boats and other vessels. The company expects to initially employ up to 20 people at the site, which should open by the end of the year. Corvus will occupy an existing, unused manufacturing space.

Corvus primarily builds batteries that are deployed in hybrid systems alongside petrol-powered engines. In a partnership with Toyota, it’s working to develop lower-carbon technologies that pair batteries with hydrogen fuel cells. The fuel cells would extend the range of climate friendly vessels.

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“There are plenty of business opportunities in the green transition for those who dare, for those who are willing to create, to make changes, to invest in the future, and that is exactly what Corvus is doing,” said Anniken Krutnes, Norway’s Ambassador to the U.S., at Wednesday’s event.

The new facility joins existing Corvus operations in the Pacific Northwest. The company was founded in Vancouver, B.C. in 2009, and opened a sales office in Seattle in 2018. In 2019, it moved its corporate headquarters to Bergen, Norway, while maintaining R&D operations in Vancouver.

The re-centering on Norway was driven by the region’s surge in demand for clean maritime tech that started around six years ago, said a Corvus official.

Washington is now pursuing its own move into hybrid ferries.

The state’s recently approved, multi-year transportation package includes $1.3 billion to buy four hybrid-electric ferries as Washington begins greening its fleet.

Other battery and green transportation efforts are underway in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle startup Pure Watercraft has raised $37 million from investors and teamed up with GM in its production of all-electric pleasure boats. Battery materials companies Group14 Technologies and Sila Nanotechnologies this spring announced that they’re expanding their manufacturing capabilities at plants in Moses Lake in central Washington. The state is also home to low-carbon aviation ventures including ZeroAvia and MagniX.

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