Eos Energy, a company developing zinc batteries at a Pittsburgh-area plant, has received a $396 million loan from the federal government to further develop its energy storage technology.
The loan will lead to 700 additional jobs at the company’s plant in Turtle Creek in Pittsburgh’s Mon Valley, once home to giants like Westinghouse Electric. Eos currently employs 300 workers at a former Westinghouse Electric facility there.
The U.S. Department of Energy loan funds 80 percent of the $500 million Eos expansion project. Such loans were included in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which vastly increased federal investment in renewable energy.
Pittsburgh on energy frontier
The grant underscores not only the need for new energy storage technology – in this case, zinc batteries, which are cheaper than commonly used lithium ion batteries – but also the Pittsburgh region’s role in developing that energy, economic development officials say.
The city has been at the center of technology for self-driving vehicles and, over the past 15 years, the region has seen a natural gas boom.
“Eos is a great example of what’s possible in the next frontier. It’s inventing the future of manufacturing with clean energy and long duration battery storage,” said Matt Smith, chief growth officer at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a nonprofit that promotes economic development in 10 Western Pennsylvania counties.
Battery storage technologies are essential to speeding up the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy. Solar and wind energy production varies based on weather conditions, so batteries are needed to keep supply constant.
Eos uses easily obtained earth minerals to create batteries that are compact and can be used more safely for energy storage. They’re also more environmentally efficient than many current technologies.
Zinc-ion batteries are also more stable than lithium-ion batteries and have a longer lifespan.
Lithium-ion batteries, which are used in mobile phones and electric cars, are currently the dominant storage technology for large-scale plants to help electricity grids ensure a reliable supply of renewable energy.
Rush to store more
Dubbed Project AMAZE – American Made Zinc Energy – the Eos project would increase energy storage to 8 Gigawatt hours per year.
“Implementation requires us to move with speed and urgency if the energy industry is going to meet the demand for long-duration energy storage,” said Eos CEO Joe Mastrangelo.
“At such a crucial moment in our global energy transition, time is of the essence. Project AMAZE should allow Eos to fully commercialize a safe American-made energy storage.”
Companies like Eos, headquartered in New Jersey, are attracted to the Pittsburgh area not only because of the city’s rich history of manufacturing and innovation but also because of the region’s universities.
“Schools like Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, world class research institutions, are the foundation of our success,” Smith said.
Yet investment like the Eos project also gives opportunity to many who have not pursued higher education.
“Here in Pittsburgh, we’ve definitely always made things,” said Eos shift supervisor Brian Vason. “I did not go to college or have any special training, and these jobs provide opportunities that are good for the town and good for the future.”