NCSE’s advanced energy industry already employs nearly 394,000 Tennesseans in more than 20,300 businesses, contributing nearly $46 billion to the state’s GDP.
This is a significant change and represents a 13.4% departure from Tennessee’s total of $343.45 billion in 2021.
In the year Projects announced in 2022 will do nothing but boost that GDP and the cleantech sector.
Just before Thanksgiving 2022, LG Chem announced that it has signed an MOU with the state of Tennessee to invest more than $3 billion to establish a new cathode manufacturing facility in Clarksville. The new plant, the largest of its kind in the United States, covers 420 acres and has a goal of producing 120,000 tons of cathode material per year by 2027. It will produce batteries for 1.2 million clean electric vehicles with a range of 310 miles (500 kilometers). .) for a fee,” the company said.
The company said Tennessee was the best choice “due to its proximity to major customers, ease of transportation of raw materials and active cooperation of state and local governments … In addition to the benefits of investing in manufacturing on American soil, LG Chem’s location in Tennessee provides materials and recycling partners to global customers.” It thinks it is the hub of the supply chain where they work together.
Also in November, First Solar announced it had selected Lawrence County in north Alabama as its fourth U.S. photovoltaic (PV) solar module manufacturing site, creating 700 jobs and attracting $1.1 billion in investment.
The company’s plant at Mallard Fox Industrial Park is expected to be operational by 2025, with an annual production capacity of 3.5 GWDC. The new fully vertically integrated facility will join three plants in Ohio, including one slated to come online in the first half of 2023, as part of First Solar’s expanded domestic manufacturing footprint. First Solar is unique among the world’s 10 largest solar manufacturers as it is the only US-headquartered company and is headquartered in China. The recent investment is expected to bring the company’s total investment in American manufacturing to more than $4 billion.
“TVA has one of the largest clean energy RFPs in the market today, 5,000MW of carbon-free power,” said Joseph Burchfield, TVA’s strategic advisor. “What we found were supply chain challenges. A company like First Solar that has the ability to have a presence in our region can help TVA and other utilities address some of their carbon goals in a cost-effective manner. That particular product for Solar, like every other project, had a fairly brutal timeline. The opportunities they saw to coordinate their products with these utilities helped drive that, and some federal resources began to flow into the broader clean energy sector.
Burchfield said First Solar recognized the opportunity to not only establish an operational footprint, but to expand its footprint into regions of the country where it could develop partnerships with their facilities and solar power projects. “For example, there is a solar development in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and First Solar was one of the partners for those modules,” he says. This is one example we will see repeated many times over the coming years as they increase their production capacity.
Assisting in the development of advanced manufacturing
The First Solar project was the second major solar manufacturing plant to land in the TVA state recently, following Qcells’ May 2022 announcement of the Korean company’s new $171 million solar panel manufacturing facility in Dalton, Georgia.
“Georgia has become America’s clean energy manufacturing hub, and we are proud to contribute to the state’s thriving manufacturing economy,” said Justin Lee, CEO of Qcells.
The expansion, located near the company’s existing 1.7 gigawatt plant in Dalton, will bring Qcells’ total U.S. capacity to 3.1 gigawatts, equivalent to one-third of the nation’s solar module production capacity.
“The space between execution and desire is where innovation resides. TVA was created as an innovative company and is uniquely positioned to demonstrate these technologies to the rest of the industry – both in the US and around the world.
– Jeff Liash, TVA president and CEO, on approval of pilot project in Mississippi to determine suitability of closed coal ash sites for utility-solar projects
TVA target market specialist Adam Murray said those projects — like the region’s family of EV projects — have sparked interest from suppliers. “Having Wacker Chemistry has been key for us,” he said of the German-based maker of the multibillion-dollar polysilicon and pyrogenic silica complex in Charleston, Tennessee, near Chattanooga. So is the availability of skilled manpower. Companies that make inverters or wafers, for example, are “looking for a mature workforce locally,” says Murray’s Meryl Harris. “Many of the skills needed on the EV side and the way employers work in the Southeast align with the supply chain on the solar manufacturing side.”
Such advanced manufacturing skills have been developed since the automotive industry discovered the region and pioneered the TVA Megasite program. As it happens, the last certified megasite left in the program — all the others are occupied — just landed in Columbus, Mississippi, where clean-tech investment is happening with a new aluminum plant and a new look. Biocarbon production facility in Golden Triangle Industrial Park from Steel Dynamics, which will invest $2.5 billion and create 1,000 jobs with an average salary of 93,000.
As it happens, the first TVA megasite was also located in Columbus, when Russian-American JV SeverCorr picked it up 16 years ago. The Seversal operation was later acquired by Steel Dynamics in 2014.
As with those company names, sometimes target markets also evolve. “Automotive has always been one,” Murray says. “EVs were unified four years ago. We completed our last review a few months ago. We are expecting automotive and aerospace/defense. What we’ve added is clean technology, which spans a few industries and aligns better with some of TVA’s larger goals as far as clean energy. It includes hydrogen projects, solar panel manufacturers, alternative fuels, long-term battery storage and advanced nuclear power.
Adam Murray, Target Market Specialist, TVA
In December, another project landed in the Valley, as Ultium Cells, a JV between LG Energy Solutions and GM, announced it would expand its battery cell manufacturing operations in Spring Hill, Tennessee, investing $275 million of the JV’s initial $2.3 billion. Investment 18 months ago. Four hundred new works bring the page count to 1,700.
The state said in the announcement that since 2017, companies have pledged to create nearly 12,000 new jobs and have invested $16 billion in EV-related projects in Tennessee. With more than 180,000 electric vehicles produced in the state since 2013, Tennessee ranks No. 1 in the Southeast for EV manufacturing.
It’s only natural that the rest of the cleantech world follows those pioneers into the region where they’ve found success.
Additional renewables and potential small modular nuclear power plants will undoubtedly help TVA achieve its carbon goals of a 70% reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Paying for the jobs that come with these industries,” says Mere, including the possibility of foreign direct investment from advanced cleantech companies from Europe and Asia.
“That’s what’s so promising about this industry,” Birchfield said. “We as economic developers are not coming out to introduce a new generation, but to identify the supply chain in a 20- to 30-year project to decarbonize the system.”
For the next generation.