EDITORIAL: WV’s New Energy Future

By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV

January 10, 2023

Here in West Virginia, our people take immense pride in the energy status we’ve attained over the years as a top producer in the United States. For nearly two centuries, West Virginia has taken the reigns to help fuel our nation. Resources such as coal, oil, and gas have remained at the forefront, but recent years have brought exciting new forms of energy to West Virginia’s portfolio.  This “new energy” momentum is a golden opportunity for West Virginia to continue to grow and evolve with new technologies and innovations, just as we’ve done in the past. This is vital to retaining our energy production status for the years to come. 

This past year, our state saw an influx of renewable energy, bringing innovative thinking and enhanced opportunities for our economy and people. As 2023 begins, it’s important to put these exciting advances in perspective. West Virginia’s energy innovations will lead to our new energy future.

Senator Joe Manchin’s work to secure the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 were an historic achievement for the U.S. and West Virginia’s energy outlook. These laws are pioneering steps towards prioritizing clean energy investment, and they will provide our state opportunities to lead in the nation’s energy security going forward. One of the most impressive energy successes to come out of the year is West Virginia’s role as a leader in land reclamation projects that have repurposed closed-down manufacturing plants.  

A shining example of this is Berkshire Hathaway’s $500M investment at Jackson County’s former Century Aluminum site. BHE Renewables and Precision Castparts Corporation, both owned by Berkshire Hathaway, collaborated to transform this forgotten land into a modernized titanium melt facility powered by solar energy. This was huge news for the state, as it brings revolutionary renewable energy and microgrid-powered investment to our economy.  

Coalfield Development made major strides this year with its dedication to the Black Diamond project, a shuttered coalfield in Wayne County that will be repurposed as a regional hub for solar and renewable energy operations. 

The onset of SEVA’s SunPark, a repurposed coalfield transformed into a solar farm and recreation site, brings $320M in investment and the opportunity for 250-300 good-paying jobs. 

All of these projects are testaments to the great things that are possible when past resources are recycled and energy investments in our state are prioritized. Many other exciting projects are bringing new investment and resources to the state as well.

Clearway Energy Group’s Black Rock wind farm opened its doors in May, bringing $200M in investments to Grant and Mineral counties. This project generates carbon-free electricity for Toyota and American Electric Power, and it increases West Virginia’s wind energy generation by 15 percent, further contributing to our energy powerhouse reputation. 

The launch of GreenPower Motor Company’s pilot program that brought electric school buses to Cabell, Kanawha, and Mercer Counties. The company began its operations at its South Charleston facility in August, and it has been making strides ever since. In addition to the support the company is bringing to our school system, it has also created 200 new jobs for which our people shall benefit, with a workforce potential of 900 when full production is reached.  

The battery-manufacturing company SPARKZ with its goal of providing stable jobs for displaced coal miners emerged as an industry leader in the state.

Nucor’s $1B investment in its new steel mill in Mason County. The finished project is projected to bring 800 manufacturing jobs and will produce up to 3 million tons of sheet steel per year, contributing to the automotive, appliance, HVAC, heavy equipment, agricultural, transportation, and construction markets in the state. New energy investments such as these are here to help our state, our economy, and our people grow and flourish along with advances in technology, and initiatives like these. 

While these new projects begin, high-level conversations continue in order to stay ahead of the curve. The University of Charleston and the American Security Project teamed up to discuss the impact of renewable energy on the economy, climate, and security of West Virginia and the nation. This led to powerful discussions between the panel of experts in their respective fields, highlighting the importance of our continued investment in a diversified approach to the state’s energy profile. In September, “Charging West Virginia’s Energy Future”, an electric vehicle event at the state’s capitol building, brought together manufacturers, legislators, and answered questions about the capabilities and the benefits of EV power.  

This momentum continued in December. Commercial Metals Company is setting up a $450M new recycled metal facility in Berkeley County, the project slated to begin operations in late 2025. December 9th the inaugural West Virginia New Energy Conference was held in Charleston, which was a monumental step in advancing necessary conversations surrounding clean energy that will continue to propel West Virginia as an energy leader and prepare us for a new future.  

Motivated by the influx of investment and energy development in state, Delegate Wayne Clark announced the establishment of New Energy Caucus in the House of Delegates, scheduled to hold its initial meetings during the 2023 legislative session. This caucus will be dedicated to continued education on all topics relating to energy advancements and innovative thinking around the industry’s goals. 

The dusk of 2022 brings with it the dawn of 2023, a new year with new opportunities for advancement. This is only the beginning of forward-looking thinking which will transform our future for the better. 

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