It’s been two years since President Joe Biden invoked Pittsburgh before a joint session of Congress, asking why wind turbine blades can’t be made in Pittsburgh rather than Beijing and challenging U.S. businesses to create manufacturing jobs at home.
And while a turbine blade factory hasn’t yet opened, a variety of other clean tech manufacturing facilities are opening in Pittsburgh. And the world is taking note.
Just last month, London’s Financial Times featured a Pittsburgh manufacturing facility creating the next generation of batteries rooted in zinc, an alternative to lithium-ion.
New Jersey-based Eos Energy Enterprises manufactures the batteries, which are the size of home air conditioners, in a former Westinghouse building left over from a previous industrial age in Turtle Creek, Pa., just a few miles east of Pittsburgh.
London’s Financial Times took note, The Financial Times featured the facility in a larger story about a U.S. plan to become a cleantech superpower:
It’s a young cohort of workers, many people of color and military veterans.
“We’re hiring right out of high school,” says Joe Mastrangelo, the CEO of Eos, the company making the batteries.
His goal for the factory in Western Pennsylvania is to double its total capacity to 3 gigawatt-hours in 2024, producing a battery every 90 seconds once the plant is fully automated. The workforce will also double to 500.
“We’re doing this in a location that was historically an old energy economy, creating not jobs but career paths for people to get to middle class,” Mastrangelo says.
(Those without an FT subscription can read the story here.)
Locally, the companies like Eos have gained headlines for their innovation and job-creating facilities. The Pittsburgh Business Times reported that Eos set up shop in Pittsburgh in 2020 and shipped its 100th system, a connected group of batteries that are put into a container about the size of a tractor-trailer, last year.
The Pittsburgh region has gained notoriety for its leadership position in energy and metal manufacturing, but it’s less well-known for its growing role as a leader in energy storage technology manufacturing.
Entrepreneurs in this industry have been coming to the region to tap into the energy and manufacturing talent that already exists here. By doing so, they are making Pittsburgh, long n energy capital, even more important in the transition to a cleaner, greener future, the Business Times wrote.
“I think it’s really unique for the region,” Matt Smith, chief growth officer for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and a board member of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which operates Pittsburgh International Airport, told the Business Times.
“It sits literally at the nexus of our regional strengths: Robust energy research, programs that we have at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, even Penn State plays a significant role. When you look specifically at battery production, it’s definitely a growth sector. It fits nicely with what this region has to offer.”
Economists and cleantech experts say Pittsburgh stands to benefit from the federal government’s Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Congress and signed last year by President Biden. As part of the act, billions of dollars targeted for cleantech investment are designed to accelerate the country’s decarbonization effort.
And Pittsburgh is already attractive for that type of investment, officials say, because of its industrial past and a workforce with technical know-how that other regions don’t have. It doesn’t hurt that Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh call the region home, as well.
Mateo Jaramillo, CEO of Form Energy, which is making its own type of large-scale storage battery, told the Business Times the region’s history and know-how brought the Massachusetts-based company to Pittsburgh. The company set up a research and development facility in Washington County, just outside of Pittsburgh, to pilot production of its batteries.
Jaramillo said the Pittsburgh region was attractive because some of its executives had ties here and the region has companies experienced in materials.
“They [the companies Form is working with in Pittsburgh] tend to be family-owned and small. They have experience working with metals and powered metals,” Jaramillo told the Business Times. “That is a deep body of knowledge we wanted to be able to tap into.”
Eos’ CEO, Mastrangelo, was less technical in writing on his company’s website.
“I always leave our factory energized for the challenges that lie ahead and the opportunities that they create. I’m proud of this team; I’m proud of our technology; I’m proud to be in Turtle Creek.”