| Business

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Aquion Energy set to start large-scale production of batteries

On the Grid

From the shale fields to the cooling towers, Trib Total Media covers the energy industry in Western Pennsylvania and beyond. For the latest news and views on gas, coal, electricity and more, check out On the Grid today.

About Aquion Energy

East Huntingdon facility

• 340,000 square feet

• Manufacturing scheduled to beginthis year

• 300 to 500 jobs projected by 2014

• Management and engineering positions available

The batteries

• Aqueous hybrid ion batteries are environmentally friendly

• Long life

• Uses saltwater instead of lithium

• Cinder block-sized and stackable into pallets

Source: Aquion Energy

Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A Pittsburgh company that invented a unique battery is changing the way we store energy.

With a plant slated to open in Westmoreland County this year, Aquion Energy is preparing for large-scale production of its batteries that use saltwater instead of lithium to conduct electricity.

This makes them safe, long-lasting and environmentally friendly.

“It's pretty exciting to see something go from literally nothing to something like this in a handful of years,” said Jay Whitacre, founder and chief technology officer. “I don't think we can officially call ourselves a start-up anymore.”

Aquion Energy selected Westmoreland County in early 2012 as the site for its first mass manufacturing plant. Production is expected to begin in the second half of this year.

The East Huntingdon space once occupied by Sony will permit Aquion to expand. Its headquarters will remain in Lawrenceville.

“To make the products, you need a large-scale facility,” said CEO Scott Pearson.

In 2011, Pennsylvania provided $10 million from its Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to convert the vacant Sony plant into a multi-tenant facility.

Westmoreland County Commissioner Tyler Courtney said Aquion's decision to locate there shows the transformed plant can attract small, local companies.

“It's great to have a company like Aquion coming. That proves that that method can work,” he said.

Aquion's cinder block-sized batteries are less toxic because they are saltwater-based. The batteries can become stationary energy storage systems for electricity generated by renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar.

In the past few years Aquion's workforce has quadrupled, and the company expanded in Lawrenceville. There, it developed and tested batteries to show potential clients that the product works, Whitacre said.

“The whole goal of this place was to prove we had something that was real,” he said.

Now, it is starting a “really aggressive execution phase” and hiring hundreds of people.

“It's absolutely necessary. It's the next step,” Whitacre said.

Whitacre started the research project in 2007 with Carnegie Mellon University's assistance. After promising results, he applied for a patent and founded 44 Tech Inc. with two others.

Renamed Aquion Energy in January 2010, the company moved to the Lawrenceville space. Investors, grants and loans have paid for the venture.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or




Show commenting policy

Most-Read Business Headlines

  1. Amusement parks fight off home entertainment threat
  2. S&P 500 logs 47th record high close for year
  3. State officials prompt UPMC, Highmark to go to mediation to resolve Medicare dispute
  4. Caution creeps into economic picture as consumer, business spending taper
  5. Retailers that won’t open on Thanksgiving hope move pays off
  6. Federal agency checking whether Highmark has enough doctors in Medicare plan
  7. Westinghouse to construct colossal nuke plant in Turkey
  8. BNY Mellon trader fired in conduct probe
  9. Butler County firm Deep Well Services tackles tough gas wells
  10. Lower gasoline prices fail to spur consumer spending
  11. Small retailers at intersection of social networks, foot traffic
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.