Officials: Eastern Washington could be clean energy hub

For the Basin Business Journal | April 7, 2024 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — Eastern Washington could be ground zero for clean energy, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, said Feb. 22.

“I think there’s going to be a corridor, from Moses Lake all the way over to Coeur d’Alene,” Cantwell said. “That’s what I think is gonna happen. And this corridor is also going to connect from Moses Lake to the Tri-Cities.”

Cantwell was speaking at Group14’s BAM-2 facility in Moses Lake, which is under construction and expected to be the largest advanced silicon battery material factory in the world when it opens later this year, according to company-supplied materials. Group14 manufactures silicon battery materials that can increase the storage capacity of lithium-ion batteries like those found in both electric vehicles and smartphones, replacing less-efficient graphite, which must be imported from China.

“This new battery technology can power emission-free vehicles that will go farther, that will be the nation’s cheapest. If you think about our electricity supply here and the huge benefit that we have in Washington, it costs about the same to fully charge an EV in our state as it does to just buy one gallon of gasoline. And that’s even before the technology that’s going to come out of this facility. So that means you’re going to help deliver something that’s going to be even faster, and even more economical.”

Cantwell was joined by U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who stressed the importance of American-made materials in battery technology.

“Although Moses Lake is creating this ecosystem where you have all of these battery companies coming, there’s others happening across the country,” Granholm said. You guys are making anodes, but we’re making cathodes in Tennessee. We’re making separator material in Indiana … We want all of the pieces in the United States, to be able to make sure that we are not relying upon countries whose values we may not share for a key component of our electricity energy source.”

Earlier that day, Cantwell and Granholm had joined Gov. Jay Inslee for a round table discussion with local leaders.

“Former Vice President Gore wrote ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’” Inslee said at the round table. “But there’s (also) a convenient truth, which is that our efforts to defeat climate change are creating jobs by the thousands. And to see this happening in Central Washington is such a joy. We’re now witnessing the largest industrial revolution since the transition from the horse to the automobile.”

“Vehicles now are becoming (able) to have a two-way conversation with the electric grid,” Granholm said. “So when you have a battery on your car and you can plug it in and it’s bidirectional charging, that means that battery can also give energy to your home or maybe to the grid, as well as pull energy from the grid. That is another form of resilience, that the technology that you are building here will enable the country to move forward.”

The technology is still in its infancy, Cantwell said.

“All of you are really becoming a testbed for next-generation energy technologies that are going to help our nation be competitive in the future of all sorts of innovation, but clearly the next opportunities in battery technology. So thank you for being pioneers.”

“We used to be, in the earlier part of the century, a nation that watched all of these manufacturing jobs go away,” Granholm said. “China bigfooted us on a lot of this technology, including on batteries and critical materials and processing of that. China processes 90% of the materials for batteries. And so the fact that we are bringing this capability back to the United States makes us a stronger nation … The U.S. is back, baby.”