West Virginia officials have been quietly meeting with representatives of a battery manufacturing company.
Some representatives from the battery businesses spent Wednesday 2. Nov morning meeting with Gov. Jim Justice and other state economic development leaders about the possibility of a new facility in Weirton.
A group from an unnamed company was seen being escorted around facilities and shown the governor’s office suite in the Capitol in Charleston, by Department of Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael and Department of Commerce Acting Secretary James Bailey.
The meetings come as the state is seeking to boost its manufacturing sector amid flagging coal production.
Some of the representatives for the state have been working to lure a battery-making gigafactory — a large industrial facility where electric vehicle batteries and other energy storage devices are produced — to West Virginia for several years.
In August 2022, Gov. Jim Justice unveiled plans to bring electric school buses to the state to fanfare, then in October, he told WBOY 12 News: “I’m a real believer in diversification, my family has been in the coal business forever, but absolutely West Virginia needs to be diversified. We don’t need to forget our coal miners. We don’t need to forget our gas workers and our fossil fuels and we need to be proud of them but at the same time we need diversification and we need to be all encompassing, and I have been that. Whether it be solar or it be, you know, green power.”
West Virginia has been working to position itself as a hub for the emerging battery industry. This year, lawmakers passed legislation aimed at making it easier for developers to build utility-scale solar farms in the state.
West Virginia leaders are motivated to draw manufacturing jobs and infrastructure to the state. In September lawmakers convened for a special session to allow Berkshire Hathaway energy to bypass PSC regulations in the construction of an industrial plant in Jackson country.
Net metering regulations normally limit the size of industrial solar projects to 2 megawatts, however the BHE facility (as well as most industrial facilities) will require much more energy to support their operations. It is believed they wouldn’t have chosen to build the facility in West Virginia if they were not able to bypass the limit.
With coal production on the decline, the state is also hoping to boost its manufacturing sector and create new jobs. So far, efforts have been focused on courting emerging technology leaders within the solar, technology and battery space. Only time will tell if these meetings will result in any concrete plans for a new factory in Weirton—but it’s certainly something we’ll continue to follow with interest.
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