Science & Technology



America’s green manufacturing boom, from EV batteries to solar panel production, isn’t powered by renewable energy − yet

James Morton Turner, Wellesley College, The Conversation on

Published in Science & Technology News

Panasonic’s new US$4 billion battery factory in De Soto, Kansas, is designed to be a model of sustainability – it’s an all-electric factory with no need for a smokestack. When finished, it will cover the size of 48 football fields, employ 4,000 people and produce enough advanced batteries to supply half a million electric cars per year.

But there’s a catch, and it’s a big one.

While the factory will run on wind and solar power much of the time, renewables supplied only 34% of the local utility Evergy’s electricity in 2023.

In much of the U.S., fossil fuels still play a key role in meeting power demand. In fact, Evergy has asked permission to extend the life of an old coal-fired power plant to meet growing demand, including from the battery factory.

With my students at Wellesley College, I’ve been tracking the boom in investments in clean energy manufacturing and how those projects – including battery, solar panel and wind turbine manufacturing and their supply chains – map onto the nation’s electricity grid.

The Kansas battery plant highlights the challenges ahead as the U.S. scales up production of clean energy technologies and weans itself off fossil fuels. It also illustrates the potential for this industry to accelerate the transition to renewable energy nationwide.


Let’s start with some good news.

In the battery sector alone, companies have announced plans to build 44 major factories with the potential to produce enough battery cells to supply more than 10 million electric vehicles per year in 2030.

That is the scale of commitment needed if the U.S. is going to tackle climate change and meet its new auto emissions standards announced in March 2024.

The challenge: These battery factories, and the electric vehicles they equip, are going to require a lot of electricity.


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