“China isn’t building gigafactories,” says Patrick Hurley, chief technology officer of A123, a lithium-ion battery company. “It is building gigacities.”

Gigafactories are named for their capacity to build batteries in tens of gigawatt-hours (GWh) every year, which is about a million times the amount of energy consumed by a typical US household in a day. What Hurley meant by gigacities are complexes that include not just the gigafactory but everything else needed to support it: housing, infrastructure, research and development centers, and universities to train staff.

China’s battery ambition can be seen in the speed at which the country is adding battery-storage capacity. At the start of 2018, China had an operational battery-storage capacity of 389 megawatts (MW). By August, China had added another 340 MW of additional capacity. That’s why the China Energy Storage Alliance (CNESA) declared 2018 to be “one of the most significant years yet for the industry.”

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