It appears that work has already begun on the site of the new $5 billion Tesla Giga factory near Reno, Nevada. It's the planned location of the world's largest lithium-ion battery factory and the potential enabler of lower-cost Tesla electric vehicles.

It's either that or a really big pizza factory. 

Yesterday, our unnamed source (Bob Tregilus) hiked a few high-desert ridges in Storey County, Nevada to take pictures of 50 earthmovers moving earth at a site that Tregilus estimated to be large enough to accommodate the proposed 10-million-square-foot factory. Tregilus has also heard whispers about a secret project from construction industry folks and locals.

The site is located at the Reno Tahoe Industrial Center at 2641 Portofino Drive. Here's one of Tregilus' photos:

(click to enlarge)

Photo credit: Bob Tregilus

It's a great photo, but it turns out that last month, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that "an excavation permit to begin site work for a sizable project has been pulled [on May 22] by the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center" at 2641 Portofino Drive. The paper notes, "The business park could potentially begin site preparation work before any official contract with Tesla is signed, adding, "In addition to the excavation permit in Storey County, the contractor for the Portofino Drive project has air quality and storm water permits from the state's Environmental Protection Division." There was no confirmation that this is indeed the Tesla site.

According to the TeslaMondo and Tesla's own blogs, the site is also potentially the site of a pizza factory. Tesla is not commenting.

Reno has been considered the front-runner for Tesla's vertically integrated super factory.

In March we covered the deep politics surrounding the Tesla battery Giga factory -- which pitted Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California against each other for the rights to the $5 billion high-tech manufacturing site. Tesla aims to build 500,000 cars per year by 2020 and will need an unprecedented volume of lithium-ion batteries to hit this target.    

We recently covered a presentation from Tesla CTO JB Straubel, in which he spoke of attacking the battery's cost with the Giga factory by "doubling the worldwide capacity in a single factory and reinventing the supply chain." A total of 35 gigawatt-hours of cell production from the new plant will be devoted to meeting the needs of the Fremont automotive plant, and 15 gigawatt-hours will be devoted to stationary battery packs. Straubel said that Tesla was "bullish" about the California energy storage mandate. Straubel also said he was bullish that stationary energy storage "can scale faster than automotive."

The project has the potential to provide more than 6,000 jobs. Or millions of pizzas, as the case may be.

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, is intent on moving forward with two sites, according to Bloomberg, saying in an earlier interview, "What we’re going to do is move forward with more than one state, at least two, all the way to breaking ground, just in case there are last-minute issues."

Current occupants of the Nevada site

Photo credit: Bob Tregilus

Photo credit: Bob Tregilus

Giga factory facts and figures

  • Tesla announced a $1.6 billion convertible debt offering. Tesla looks to offer $800 million of convertible senior notes due in 2019 and $800 million due in 2021 to build the world's largest battery factory.
  • Elon Musk predicts that the new factory will produce batteries for 500,000 vehicles by 2020.
  • Tesla expects to reduce the kilowatt-hour price of batteries by 30 percent.
  • The plan is for construction to start in 2014, with production beginning in 2017.
  • The facility will house more than 6,000 workers in 10 million square feet of factory space.
  • The plant will provide recycling capability for old battery packs.
  • Musk also said that Panasonic, currently supplying hundreds of millions of cells to Tesla, would likely join in on the new factory, but no commitments have been made.

Here's a rendering of the proposed plant: