A hemp-based battery manufacturing company is coming to a town in Wisconsin with a goal to hire former employees of Energizer.

Portage, Wisconsin-based Wisconsin Battery Co. (WinBat) makes batteries out of hemp instead of graphene, for use in devices like hearing aids. Earlier this month, WinBat announced that it has acquired 17 acres of land in the Portage Industrial Park to develop its battery plant. According to a Dec. 21 press release, development will focus on:

  • Industrial batteries: Creating energy storage solutions that enhance the efficiency and reliability of solar and wind power systems and maximize efficiency of connections to the grid.
  • Hemp carbon batteries: Innovating a sustainable alternative to lithium-ion batteries by utilizing hemp carbon as a key component. These batteries will offer improved energy density, longer lifespan, reduced environmental impact, and utilize domestically produced raw material thus addressing the national security risks associated with global lithium sourcing.

WinBat CEO Jeff Greene said Portage will serve as an ideal place to build a new renewable energy battery power plant, given the skill set that former Energizer employees already possess.

“Obviously having 400 to 500 trained employees that are knowledgeable in the battery makes that area seemed right for a new battery company,” Greene told WMTV. “Most of the folks we’ve talked to, cautious optimism is kind of where we’ve gotten them to. They had fear and I think we’ve turned that fear into cautious optimism.”

The Wisconsin Battery Co. is a research, development and manufacturing company owned by the Sustainable Communities Corp., which is dedicated to advancing energy storage solutions that contribute to a more sustainable and clean future.

Greene said he got the idea when he was lobbying for a Florida-based hemp company that asked him to find the top five ways in which hemp fiber could be best used. “The people (in Portage) have been fantastic,” he said. “We have asked and received tremendous support from the people helping us. I am very blessed that the response has been so exciting.”

Gaining Local Support in Portage

The company gained local support. The City of Portage supports the goal to move forward with the plan. At a Dec. 7 Common Council meeting, city officials gave Greene 90 days to come up with a building plan.

Portage Mayor Mitchel Craig is cautiously optimistic, after Energizer decided to leave Wisc

“This is going to be huge for the city of Portage,” Craig said of the new plant that’s planned to open in the city. “The Energizer plant employed 225 people, and it is projected that within six years they will have 600 people working at this new facility.”

Wisconsin Battery Co. will focus development on the production of hemp carbon batteries as a sustainable alternative to lithium-ion batteries as well as the production of industrial batteries, which make energy storage solutions for solar and wind power systems more efficient and reliable.

The company plans to grow and hire 600 employees within the first six years of operation. Their goal is to start where Energizer left off, creating batteries to be used in hearing aids. The long-term goal is to produce two innovative batteries that will offer improved energy density, longer lifespans, and reduced carbon footprint.

More information will become available in the upcoming months. Greene and Mayor Craig will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2024, in Portage, where they plan to share more information about the project.

The company is focusing operations in Portage now, but will consider building another plant in Fennimore, where Energizer is also closing down another manufacturing plant.

Why Hemp for Batteries?

“Nothing outlasts the Energizer,” but hemp may do exactly that: Hemp advocates say that hemp batteries last eight times longer than lithium batteries, outperforming graphene for a fraction of the cost. Battery makers process hemp’s woody pulp, formint it into carbon nanosheets, which they used to build supercapacitors that behave better than graphene, the industry gold standard

Much of the energy used to extract and process battery components like lithium comes from CO2-emitting fossil fuels.

The “Hemperor” has been telling us about these benefits all along, which also apply to the manufacturing of batteries. “Government and oil and coal companies, etc., will insist that burning biomass fuel is no better than using up our fossil fuel reserves, as far as pollution goes; but this is patently untrue,” Jack Herer wrote in The Emperor Wears No Clothes, citing several sources.

“Why? Because, unlike fossil fuel, biomass comes from living (not extinct) plants that continue to remove carbon dioxide pollution from our atmosphere as they grow, through photosynthesis. Furthermore, biomass fuels do not contain sulfur. This can be accomplished if hemp is grown for biomass and then converted through pyrolysis (charcoalizing) or biochemical composting into fuels to replace fossil fuel energy products.”

Replacing graphene for use in batteries is just another way hemp can be used for more sustainable energy. 

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