Hydrogen Fuel ‘Gigafactory’ to Bring 500+ New Clean Energy Manufacturing Jobs to Michigan

Employees work at a facility for Nel Hydrogen in Norway, on April 20. (AP Photo/Trond R. Teigen)

By Kyle Kaminski

May 4, 2023

A Norwegian company picked Michigan over other states to build a new hydrogen fuel factory. State officials said the project will help solidify Michigan’s dominance in developing clean energy.

LANSING—A new $400 million hydrogen fuel “gigafactory” is setting up shop in Michigan. And it’s bringing more than 500 manufacturing jobs along with it, state officials announced this week.

Norwegian hydrogen company Nel Hydrogen has decided to build its newest facility at a yet-to-be-determined location in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday. 

“Michigan is serious about leading hydrogen development and winning today’s investment proves that the best manufacturing in the world happens right here in Michigan,” Whitmer said.

Nel Hydrogen specializes in automated gigawatt electrolyzers, devices which take water and split it into oxygen and hydrogen to be used as clean fuel for zero-emission vehicles. Once complete, it’s expected to be among the largest electrolyzer manufacturing plants in the world.

Whitmer said she met with executives from Nel during a January “investment mission” to Norway and Switzerland, where she made the case for the company to expand into Michigan. The short distance from General Motors—which has collaborated with the company in the past to develop its hydrogen technology—helped seal the deal, according to state officials. 

Nel’s upcoming expansion in Michigan will also make it the first company in the country to manufacture equipment for the production of liquid alkaline electrolysis, a process which enables hydrogen fuel to be produced from water through renewable energy sources.

“The choice of Michigan is based on an overall assessment of what the state can offer in terms of financial incentives, access to a highly skilled workforce, and cooperation with universities, research institutions, and strategic partners,” Nel CEO Håkon Volldal said in a statement. 

State officials said hydrogen—which is the most abundant and lightest element in the universe—will play a key role in Michigan’s clean-energy transition away from fossil fuels.

“Hydrogen is playing a major role in redefining how the world moves and Nel is at the forefront of that evolution,” said Maureen Donohue Krauss, president of the Detroit Regional Partnership, in a statement. “Attracting such a global innovator in this rapidly emerging, cutting-edge industry speaks volumes about the talent and advanced manufacturing in our region.” 

Although a specific location for the factory has not been decided, several undisclosed sites are reportedly under consideration. Nel plans to build the facility in steps to “match supply with demand,” eventually ramping up operations to provide fuel for about 1.4 million vehicles. 

“Michigan continues to be a national leader in securing the clean energy jobs of the future,” Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said in a statement. “Global companies know that our state, with its mighty workforce and enviable natural resources and space for growth, is the perfect place to break ground. We are excited to welcome Nel Hydrogen.”

Added House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit): “Our highly skilled workforce and legacy as the center of manufacturing innovation means Michigan is an ideal location for the next generation of industry. Nel will bring hundreds of jobs and critical investment to our diverse economy.”

Recent reports show Michigan now leads the nation in the rapid development of clean energy technology. Over the last eight months, the state has also tracked more than $20 billion in clean energy investments through a series of 14 new projects related to battery and electric vehicle manufacturing. All told, that represents more than 13,000 new jobs that have been announced statewide since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, according to recent reports.

In addition to creating more than 500 new jobs, the project from Nel also aligns neatly with Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan, which aims to make Michigan carbon-neutral by 2050—with other short-term goals geared toward reducing carbon emissions and developing clean energy.

The US Department of Energy announced $7 billion in funding last year to create regional hydrogen “hubs” that will form the foundation of a national hydrogen fuel network—part of a broader $8 billion program funded through President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. State officials said Michigan is actively competing for the chance to be picked for the program.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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