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BHE Renewables to buy Century Aluminum land for $500 million investment in microgrid-powered industrial site

MORGANTOWN – A subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway – the No. 7 Fortune 500 company – will buy more than 2,000 acres in Ravenswood to build the first-of-its-kind renewable energy microgrid-powered industrial site.

Gov. Jim Justice made the announcement Tuesday morning, joined by members of his team, legislators and Berkshire Hathaway leaders.

BHE Renewables is buying the site – once the home of Century Aluminum – from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority and making the $500 million investment. Sister company Precision Castparts Corp. (PCC) will be the first company to locate there to develop a titanium melt facility that will use 100% renewable energy to manufacture titanium products for the aerospace and other industries, Justice said.

Justice talked about diversifying the state economy, that Grandma Edith can’t hold a cookout because all her family members have left the state, but more and more opportunities to bring them home are arising. He talked about his rocket ship ride. “For God’s sakes-a-livin’, these people help build the rockets.

The deal was enabled by SB 4001, passed during Monday’s special session, designed to help attract companies that want to power their businesses with renewables.

SB 4001 allows the Economic Development Department to identify up to two sites for “high impact business development districts” no greater than 2,250 acres each, either owned or leased by the state or a subdivision, or on land previously used for coal mining.

Alicia Knapp, president and CEO of BHE Renewables, said, “We are uniquely qualified to deliver this project,” which she believes will “truly revitalize Jackson County.”

The microgrid site will attract additional companies, she said, and the BHE Foundation will donate $500 to United Way Allioance of the Mid-Ohio Valley. “This project demonstrates how investing in clean energy can revive economies.”

Steve Wright, president of PCC Metals and a WVU alumnus, said, “The future of this facility is going to be an outstanding opportunity” as they strive to minimize the impact of their operations and wisely use natural resources.

Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael hailed the development and the vision to “transition West Virginia to a worldwide economy that embraces renewable energy and attracts world class industries.”

Carmichael displayed the badge his father wore when he worked on the site for Kaiser Aluminum. Choking up, he said, “This makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Senate President Craig Blair and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw both praised the deal, its promise for the state, and the ongoing vision to move West Virginia forward.

Both gave credit to state Sen. Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam, who sent a letter to Berkshire chair and CEO Warren Buffett, which kickstarted everything.

Jeffries said he was driving back home from WVU, where he was learning about research there, and thought about the state’s potential and the need to reach out to investors. He made a call to state Democratic Party Executive Director Pam Van Horn and they crafted a letter he sent to nine investors.

Two weeks later, he said, he was surprised by a call from Bill Furman at Berkshire Hathaway. “I fell straight to my knees.”

Jeffries said moving the state forward crosses party lines. “It’s by working together that we have come to the place we’re at today.”

Also on Tuesday, the WVEDA voted to authorize an agreement for BHE to purchase the land, and voted to approve a high-impact economic development project designation for Timet, which is the world’s largest producer of titanium airplane parts and a subsidiary of Precision Castparts.

Justice wrapped up the event with a ceremonial signing of SB 4001, and handed out pens. Jefferies got the first one.

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