Gov. Whitmer Announces Michigan Wins More than 500 Jobs, Up to $400 Million Investment from Norway’s Nel Hydrogen
Michigan wins new gigafactory over numerous other states, underscoring state’s leadership in clean energy, sustainability
Originally published May 3, 2023 by the MEDC
LANSING, Mich. – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced that Norwegian hydrogen company Nel Hydrogen is establishing an automated gigawatt electrolyzer manufacturing facility in Michigan. The project is expected to generate a total capital investment of up to $400 million and create more than 500 good-paying clean energy manufacturing jobs that build on Michigan’s leadership in the hydrogen space.
“We’re thrilled to bring home an up to $400 million investment from Nel Hydrogen creating more than 500 good-paying, clean energy jobs right here in Michigan,” said Governor Whitmer. “Earlier this year, I went on an economic mission to Europe to show the world what Michigan has to offer, and as a result of our efforts on the trip, we secured an investment from Nel to continue building on our leadership in cars, chips, and clean energy. As a major player in all three of these sectors, 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. Let’s keep competing with anyone and working with everyone to bring home transformational investments in manufacturing so we can spur economic growth and create good-paying jobs right here in Michigan.”
“From Day One, the Biden Administration has been committed to revitalizing America’s manufacturing industry and combatting climate change by investing in clean energy technologies,” said Secretary Raimondo. “Today’s announcement at SelectUSA from Nel is helping us fulfill both of those goals, and building on Governor Whitmer’s work to make Michigan a leader in clean energy.”
Governor Whitmer met with executives from Nel during her January 2023 investment mission to Norway and Switzerland and made the case that with its attractive business climate, talented workforce, and focus on clean hydrogen development, Michigan was the smart location for a global company to establish operations and create high-tech manufacturing jobs.
The governor was joined for the announcement at the 2023 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Maryland with Nel CEO Håkon Volldal, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, along with members of Team Michigan including Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Maureen Krauss, President of the Detroit Regional Partnership.
Over the past year, Nel has assessed a wide range of states for the location of its new manufacturing facility, before choosing Michigan for the project.
“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,” said Nel CEO Håkon Volldal. “I will also highlight the personal engagement from Governor Whitmer and her competent and service-minded team.”
The company cited the short distance to collaboration partner General Motors, headquartered in Detroit, as an additional deciding factor in the choice of Michigan. The two companies collaborated to develop further and improve Nel’s PEM electrolyzer technology.
Nel is still evaluating locations in Michigan for the new gigafactory, which will be the first facility in the United States to manufacture equipment for the production of liquid alkaline electrolysis. Through electrolysis, hydrogen can be produced from water and renewable energy. Hydrogen, the most abundant and lightest element in the universe, can play a significant role in accelerating Michigan’s clean-energy transition away from fossil fuels.
The gigafactory will be built in steps to match supply with demand. When fully developed, the Michigan facility will have a production capacity of up to 4GW of Alkaline and PEM electrolyzers. At 90 percent capacity, the facility will support approximately 1.4 million cars on a regular basis. Going forward, Nel will build on its fully automated Alkaline manufacturing concept invented at Herøya in Norway.
Nel has a history tracing back to 1927 and is today a leading pure play hydrogen technology company with a global presence. The company specializes in electrolyzer technology for production of renewable hydrogen and hydrogen fueling equipment for road-based vehicles. Nel’s product offerings are key enablers for a green hydrogen economy, making it possible to decarbonize various industries such as transportation, refining steel and ammonia.
“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. “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 and the 500 new jobs they are bringing with them to Michigan.”
“Our highly skilled workforce and legacy as the center of manufacturing innovation means Michigan is an ideal location for the next generation of industry,” said House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit). “Nel Hydrogen will bring hundreds of jobs and critical investment to our diverse economy, benefiting all Michiganders.”
Today’s announcement helps to meet goals laid out in Governor Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan. Announced in April 2022, the plan is a roadmap for Michigan to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050 with interim 2030 goals. The MI Healthy Climate Plan proposes climate action that would create tens of thousands of clean-energy jobs, spur economic development and innovation, protect clean air and water, and improve public health.
There is a critical need for U.S. manufactured electrolyzers. Investment in research and innovation through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Office has led to technology advances that will now be transitioned to gigawatt scale real world manufacturing. Further, DOE’s $7 billion funding opportunity, announced in September 2022, will create regional “H2 Hubs” that will form the foundation of a national clean-hydrogen network. This is part of a broader $8 billion hydrogen hub program – funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – which will lead to the selection of six to 10 hubs, according to the Energy Department announcement. Michigan is in conversations and actively competing for this opportunity. The hydrogen hub program is part of the Biden Administration’s larger effort to build a clean energy economy and bring clean energy supply chains to the United States. Already, private companies have announced $435 billion in manufacturing and clean energy investments in the United States since President Biden took office.
To capitalize on these opportunities, last fall Michigan announced it would be among seven Midwestern states teaming up to accelerate the development of hydrogen as a clean-energy alternative; the Midwestern Hydrogen Coalition partners Michigan with Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin to collaborate on clean hydrogen development.
“We are thrilled to be welcoming this significant investment by Nel Hydrogen as we continue to position Michigan as a leader in clean technology while highlighting our state as a climate winner,” said Quentin Messer, Jr., CEO of the MEDC and President and Chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund. “Governor Whitmer’s recent trip to Norway was critical in securing this tremendous investment in Michigan’s clean energy future. We are grateful for the ongoing legislative support of economic development programs that supported this opportunity. Today’s announcement demonstrates Michigan’s culture of innovation and commitment to providing creative solutions that make a tangible difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors.”
“The road to advanced mobility and a clean-energy future goes through the Detroit Region,” said Maureen Donohue Krauss, president and CEO, Detroit Regional Partnership. “Hydrogen is playing a major role in redefining how the world moves and Nel is at the forefront of that evolution. Attracting such a global innovator in this rapidly emerging, cutting-edge industry speaks volumes about the talent and advanced manufacturing in our region.”