US Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Saturday had a chance to tout the benefits that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) can deliver to his home state with the groundbreaking of a solar microgrid at a $500 million industrial site being developed by a Berkshire Hathaway company.
Manchin was a key player in first delaying President Joe Biden’s clean energy agenda, and later reviving it last year following negotiations with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. that led the pair to craft the IRA. The law offers a range of incentives favorable to clean energy and microgrids including a tax credit for microgrid controllers.
Saturday’s groundbreaking in Jackson County, West Virginia, celebrated not only the microgrid but also a titanium melt facility and a battery factory to be built in the industrial park.
A Berkshire Hathaway project
The development emerged from a deal that BHE Renewables, a Berkshire Hathaway Energy business, struck with the West Virginia Economic Development Authority to purchase the site’s 2,000 acres, home to a defunct aluminum plant in Ravenswood, West Virginia.
The new park’s first occupant, the titanium facility, is being built by another Berkshire Hathaway company, Precision Castparts, to serve aerospace and other industries. Its subsidiary, Titanium Metals Corporation, plans to run the plant on all renewable energy. The battery factory is being developed by Our Next Energy (ONE), a Michigan-based energy storage technology company, which will also provide energy storage for the site.
“Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, BHE Renewables’ new industrial site in Jackson County will create hundreds of good-paying jobs right here in West Virginia that help reinvigorate American manufacturing, all while being powered by a first-of-its-kind microgrid that will provide clean energy to the businesses located on the site,” said Manchin.
The titanium facility is expected to bring 200 jobs to Ravenswood and the battery pack manufacturing facility another 105 jobs. Manchin said that the businesses and the jobs that they will bring to West Virginia are what he had in mind when creating the IRA.
Required action by state lawmakers
The solar microgrid project followed a complicated road to the groundbreaking that included the passage of state legislation to overcome regulatory obstructions. Microgrid development can be difficut in West Virginia because of a rule that independent power plants serving more than one customer must form public utilities. As such the microgrids are regulated by the state public service commission, which is perceived as a pro-coal body.
Effective Sept. 12, the new legislation (SB 4001) created two industrial business expansion development districts where independent power producers can provide renewable energy to serve businesses in the districts, paving the way for the solar microgrid. Lisa Cohn provided details about the creation of the legislation and the new districts in the Oct. 30, 2022 Microgrid Knowledge article, W. Va. creates special districts that open way for renewable microgrids in coal country.
Learn more about microgrids by joining us May 16-17 in Anaheim, California for Microgrid 2023: Lights On!