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The Newest Shovel Award—It's Green!

Louisiana leads with green, earning the first-ever Green Shovel for its commitment to renewable energy. The state's significant cleantech investments highlight a national shift toward sustainable development.

Q2 2024
Many of the latest economic development projects are tied to environmentally friendly aims, and that's no accident. Numerous manufacturing launches and expansions have been facilitated by federal programs such as the Inflation Reduction Act that took effect in mid-2022. Many others are reacting to climate change and the general demand for planet-friendly, sustainable growth, which includes coming up with more green, renewable sources of energy. Area Development believes it’s a category project worth honoring.

No state has taken this environmental project trend to heart more than Louisiana. The state's economy has long been closely tied to the energy sector, and in the past year, it has landed a huge roster of energy-related projects at a scale deserving of more than its Gold Shovel award. What makes this past year different from previous years is that nearly the entire list of big projects is tied not just to energy, but to renewable, sustainable energy. For that reason, Louisiana gets Area Development's first Green Shovel.

2024 Green Shovel Award: The Winning State

  • Louisiana (3 to 5 Million Population)

The state's 10-figure cleantech investments are listed in the main article, and they're impressive. Alongside those are several others, including the Koura expansion in Iberville Parish intended to support the production of lithium-ion batteries, a carbon-free hydrogen plant proposed by Monarch Energy in Ascension Parish, Kindle Energy's generation plant in Iberville Parish that'll power half a million homes with electricity generated from natural gas and carbon-free hydrogen, plus projects from Element 25, Capchem USA, and ADA Carbon Solutions.

It's an impressive lineup of green deals, but it turns out that green is a popular color outside Louisiana, too. Look elsewhere and you'll find such prominent developments as the half-billion-dollar Ingka Investments solar farm proposed in Alabama, a Silver Shovel state. In the Silver Shovel state of New York, GE Vernova's Onshore Wind facility in Schenectady is making wind turbines that will produce clean energy in various windy places. First Solar is investing in its Ohio operations, including an R&D innovation center, and Illuminate USA is building a solar panel factory in the Silver Shovel-honored Buckeye State. Virginia and Gold Shovel winner Texas are also among those celebrating green developments.

On top of that, check the related article about automotive projects. You'll see that a major share of the biggest recent deals are tied to manufacturing electric vehicles and the batteries that make their motors go. Many of those deals are also facilitated by Inflation Reduction Act incentives.

Clean Tech Projects Of The Year (2023)

Company State # Jobs Inv. Amt.
Dai Nippon Printing Co.Linwood, North Carolina352$233 million
First SolarIberia Parish, Louisiana715$1.1 billion
GotionManteno, Illiniois1,600$2 billion
Hanwha Q Cells Co., Ltd.Cartersville, Georgia2,000$2.3 billion
Illuminate USAPataskala, Ohio850$220 million
LG Energy SolutionQueen Creek, Arizona2,000$4.1 billion
Nel Hydrogen – |Proton Energy Systems IncorporatedPlymouth, Michigan517$400 million
Redwood Materials, Inc.Storey, Nevada701$1.1 billion
SEG SolarHouston, Texas500$60 million
Silfab SolarFort Mill, South Carolina800$150 million

Driving Automotive Development into the Future
Look through the lists of the past year's major economic development projects shared by state officials and you get the feeling that it has been the year of the car. Or perhaps even more accurately, the year of the electric car. The map is dotted with developments tied to both internal combustion and electric vehicle manufacturing, and many of the biggest deals are related to the increasingly sophisticated batteries needed to power the electric ones.

In Platinum Shovel-winning South Carolina, for example, Volkswagen-owned Scout Motors is gearing up to open an EV plant near Blythewood. Several of the state's other major projects are linked to EV batteries or the materials inside them. North Carolina, a Silver Shovel winner, also has big automotive developments, the biggest being an $8 billion investment at Toyota Battery Manufacturing North Carolina that will add capacity for powering EVs and plug-in hybrids. That state's Project of the Year is an Epsilon Advanced Materials plan to spend $650 million on a graphite anode manufacturing facility in Brunswick County, also supporting EVs.

Silver Shovel winner Nevada boasts a $3.6 billion expansion of Tesla's Gigafactory Nevada, a project worth more than 6,000 jobs, and the state also is watching Redwood Materials power up its battery business. In Gold Shovel Georgia, massive battery cell plants are planned by partnerships involving SK On and Hyundai Motor Group as well as LG Energy Solution and Hyundai Motor Group., while Hyundai Mobis is pumping nearly a billion dollars into an EV power electric system plant in Richmond Hill. LG Energy Solution also has a battery plant on the way in Queen Creek, Arizona, a state honored with a Gold Shovel.

In Alabama, a Silver Shovel winner, Hyundai is getting ready to build the next Santa Fe and is pumping $290 million into its Montgomery plant. And Silver Shovel winner Tennessee is bustling with automotive-related developments, including multiple projects from Cosma International, Hanon Systems, and Magna Seating.

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