Dean Solon and Hamlet Tunyan at Create Energy HQ's Rocket Room in Portland, Tennessee.

Green Wave Of Renewable Energy To Crash The Red State Party

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The political divide here in the US may seem pretty cut and dried when the topic turns to renewable energy, but don’t be fooled. The energy transition is gaining steam in practically every state, regardless of what their lawmakers say or do, with Louisiana and Tennessee providing the latest in a long series of examples.

Renewable Energy & The Dreaded ESG

State-level renewable energy opponents have coalesced their efforts around attacking the environment, social, and governance (ESG) guidelines popular with many financial firms and businesses these days. Decarbonizing is a primary feature in the environment slot, and that explains why the fingerprints of fossil energy stakeholders can be found in new state laws aimed at tipping the legislative scales against ESG broadly, and renewable energy more specifically.

However, the naming and shaming of ESG in the halls of the state legislature does not always track with the aims of the local development authorities, or with state economic development offices. CleanTechnica keeps finding examples of generous incentive packages offered to clean tech manufacturers to put down stakes in red states, despite the anti-ESG rhetoric of other public officials.

The Inflation Reduction Act is also incentivizing clean tech manufacturers to set up operations in professedly anti-ESG states. In particular, we’re noticing that states in the Southeast are attractive to manufacturers due to a long history of “right to work” legislation, fostering a rich pool of non-union workers.

To ice the cake of disconnection, earlier this month plans were announced to set up a new stock exchange in Dallas, to cover Texas and other states in the Southeast. Coincidentally or not, the TXSE project includes Louisiana, Tennessee, and almost every other state in the former Confederacy, in addition to Texas.

As for disconnect, if you guessed that the leading ESG-friendly financial firm BlackRock is one of the chief investors in the TXSE, run right out and buy yourself a cigar.

Louisiana Catches Renewable Energy Fever

Into this picture steps Louisiana. Red-state politics aside, Louisiana’s own in-state offshore construction industry is credited with providing the equipment and engineering skills behind the Block Island offshore wind farm. Block Island was commissioned for commercial electricity generation all the way back in 2016 as the very first renewable energy installation of its kind in the US. Block Island’s five wind turbines have set the stage for a string of massive wind farms along the Atlantic Coast.

To be clear, the Block Island wind farm is not located in Louisiana waters. That distinction went to Rhode Island, where the political winds were more amenable to offshore wind. Now Louisiana seems determined to take up the renewable energy leadership mantle again. The state is poised to become the first on the Gulf Coast to tap into offshore wind resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

Virtually all of the offshore activity in the US comes under a federal leasing program, but Louisiana will be an exception. The state has laid plans to plant some of the turbines in waters that come under its own authority.

Of Course, Green Hydrogen

If you’re wondering what’s motivating the sudden interest in offshore wind, that’s a good question. The wheels were set in motion when former Democratic governor and renewable energy fan John Bel Edwards was in office. For some reason, the current leadership has not made a serious effort to stop the momentum.

We’re guessing that’s because the powerful Louisiana ammonia industry is pushing to replace fossil-sourced hydrogen with green hydrogen, which deploys renewable energy to push hydrogen gas from water, leading to the demand for more wind and solar power, too.

Last summer, the Louisiana Economic Development office announced that it was putting together an incentive package for the firm Monarch Energy to set up a green hydrogen plant in Ascension Parish. In September, the Louisiana branch of the leading US energy firm Entergy followed up with word that it would provide enough renewable energy — namely, solar power — to run the Monarch facility.

Supplying clean kilowatts for the green hydrogen plant is just the tip of Entergy’s plans for Louisiana. “Entergy Louisiana recently made the largest renewable power expansion request in state history by filing a request with its regulator, the Louisiana Public Service Commission, for approval to add an additional three gigawatts of solar power to its generation portfolio,” Entergy explained in a press statement last September.

Doing the math, that’s 3,000 megawatts, a big jump up from Louisiana’s current roster of just 617 megawatts.

Tennessee To Be A Renewable Energy Titan

Turning now to Tennessee, we find this red state poised, somewhat incredibly, to host a new solar manufacturing facility aimed at both the domestic and overseas markets.

That’s right, overseas. When was the last time a US solar manufacturer exported solar panels in any significant quantity? If you can track that down, drop us a note in the comment thread.

The company behind the new factory is ReCreate, a new project of Create Energy founder and CEO Dean Solon, and the CEO of RECOM Technologies, Hamlet Tunyan. The firm will deploy Create Energy’s existing facility in Portland, Tennessee.

“This new venture will disrupt the solar market by establishing a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility dedicated to producing up to 5GW of modules and cells for the North American and EU markets,” ReCreate stated in a press release on June 14.

Neither Create nor RECOM has surfaced on the CleanTechnica renewable energy radar yet, so we have some catching up to do. In the meantime, ReCreate follows a now-familiar pattern of red states hosting new factories that produce the tools for killing off fossil fuels in other states.

Tennessee ranks a lowly #30 among the 50 states for installed solar capacity, but if all goes according to plan those five gigawatts’ worth of ReCreate solar modules will replace coal, gas, and oil power all over North America and Europe.

Tennessee is also heading for an energy makeover of its own. When Ford announced plans for a new mega-campus in the state back in 2021, the company anticipated that more renewable energy would become available. “BlueOval City was designed with sustainability top of mind, and the company’s goal is for the Tennessee Electric Vehicle Center assembly plant to be carbon neutral and use carbon-free electricity,” Ford reminded everybody earlier this year.

Who’s Afraid Of The ESG?

CleanTechnica has already spilled plenty of ink on the anti-ESG movement in Texas and elsewhere, so we won’t repeat ourselves here. If you’re looking for new examples, here’s a recent one from Tennessee featuring an attack on — you guessed it — BlackRock.

Louisiana already jumped the gun on BlackRock back in 2022 and now it is taking aim at other A-list financial firms with an interest in the energy transition.

Nevertheless, home-state businesses are following the ESG money, one recent example being the the A-list engineering firm APTIM, headquartered in Baton Rouge. The firm is pitching a 2040 net zero goal, though it has reportedly provided more financial support to Republican candidates than Democrats.

“Looking forward, we will continue to prioritize making meaningful reductions in our carbon footprint, and we plan to formally integrate nature-based considerations as reporting standards advance,” explained a spokesperson for the firm just last week, on June 12.

Who’s afraid of the ESG, indeed.

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Photo (cropped): ESG or not, two entrepreneurs aim to make Tennessee a renewable energy powerhouse, with a proposed 5 gigawatt solar factory.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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