Titanium Production Facility Goes Green with New Solar and Battery Storage Microgrid

July 8, 2024
BHE Renewables is building the microgrid, which will include a 106-MW solar array, a 50-MW battery energy storage system and provide 70% of the facility’s power needs.

Along the Ohio River, Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) Renewables is building what it says will be the world’s largest solar and storage microgrid. 

Located on the 2,000-acre site of a long-shuttered aluminum manufacturing plant in Ravenswood, West Virginia, the microgrid will power a new titanium mill currently under construction for Titanium Metals (TIMET), one of the largest suppliers of titanium in the world.

The $500 million microgrid and manufacturing development will produce products for aerospace, defense, industrial and medical applications.

"The microgrid system, utilizing solar renewables, is going to be one of the first of its kind in the country," said Vic Sprouse, the project manager for BHE Renewables.

Greening the manufacturing process

In metal form, titanium is highly sought after because of its resistance to corrosion and high strength-to-weight ratio, but the U.S. Geological Survey reports that 95% of titanium is made into titanium dioxide and used as a white pigment in paints, paper and plastics.

Titanium production is energy- and carbon-intensive because of the high temperatures required to heat and separate materials, so the use of renewable energy at the TIMET facility will make the process more sustainable.

The Ravenswood microgrid is designed to provide 70% of the facility’s estimated annual power load, said Dan Winters, vice president of communications and public relations for BHE Renewables. The remaining load will be provided by the local power grid.

BHE Renewables will own and operate the microgrid, supplying its energy directly to the TIMET facility under a power purchase agreement.

Solar construction underway

The company recently began the prep work necessary to install what will ultimately be a 106-MW solar array.

"We'll start to grade here pretty soon, get it nice and flat," Sprouse said. "And then [we'll] start putting the solar panels [up],” he added.

The microgrid will also include a 50-MW long-duration battery energy storage system (BESS). BHE Renewables will use lithium iron phosphate battery technology in the BESS, which has a longer life span, requires little maintenance and is less prone to thermal runaway than other battery chemistries.  

The construction and commissioning of the solar and battery systems will be completed in phases, keeping pace with the TIMET facility as it expands.

When operations at the new facility begin in early 2025, the microgrid will provide approximately 18 MW of solar, according to Winters. 

“Our goal is to match TIMET's schedule," Sprouse added. "The amount of power that we're going to provide to them over the next three years will increase as their needs go up, then we'll meet those needs."

BHE Renewables and Precision Castparts, of which TIMET is a subsidiary, are both owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.

About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. I have over 30 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the renewable energy, electric vehicle and utility sector, as well as those in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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