BRITE Energy Innovators

‘The powerhouse’: A roadmap to making Voltage Valley, Northern Appalachia an energy storage hub

The Northern Appalachia region, which includes the Mahoning Valley, is well-positioned to become a hub for the fast-growing energy storage industry, according to a Cleveland State University study commissioned by BRITE Energy Innovators in downtown Warren.

Among the most important takeaways: It’s cheap to live here, and the Youngstown area, specifically, has a workforce that’s 3½ times more specialized in the proper field.

“As we’re part of national conversations to reshore manufacturing and secure a domestic supply chain, this study confirms how Northern Appalachia not only compliments but is critical for the creation, production and adoption of energy storage technologies,” Sara Daugherty, BRITE’s chief of staff, is quoted in a news release. “For instance, the study identifies how our region is positioned for the uptick in lithium battery manufacturing for the transportation sector.”

Powering up
Energy storage products like those lithium batteries — which allow power to be captured and used later — have become one of the nation’s main strategies to reduce carbon emissions, according to BRITE.

According to the study conducted by CSU’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, the Department of Energy expects energy storage consumption to reach 2,500 gigawatt hours per year by 2030. Four years ago, it was about 500 gigawatt hours, the data shows.

“While consumer electronics drove much of the energy storage industry in the 2010s, the DOE now projects transportation applications, pushed by electric vehicle adoption, will drive energy storage industry growth in the 2020s,” it reads.

Among the region’s other strengths: It’s home to “strong research institutions” like Youngstown State University and it has a high concentration of engineers and a wide manufacturing base.

Youngstown’s workers are more than 3½ times more specialized in materials engineering, compared with the national average, according to the study. That’s second only to Erie, Pennsylvania, whose specialization is four times higher.

Youngstown’s average price of goods, services and housing is also nearly 15% lower than the national average, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data — the lowest among the 14 metropolitan areas surveyed for the study.

“Northern Appalachia’s legacy in the energy industry makes it a natural fit for the development of energy storage manufacturing clusters,” said Mark Henning, research associate at CSU’s Energy Policy Center, who authored the study.

“These legacies have led directly to occupational specialization in key engineering and technical fields compared to the U.S. in general. This, coupled with the low cost of doing business in Northern Appalachia, gives the region a strategic advantage for cluster development for energy storage. This is further supported by the research culture found in the regional universities and laboratories.”

Read the full article by Mahoning Matters here.

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