Why Finnish battery manufacturers should set up shop in Minnesota

Flag of Finland

Renewable energy growth is increasing in the US. With US Presidential elections out of the way, an increased focus on climate change mitigation should lead to business opportunities for supply chain technologies such as battery manufacturers. Finland and Finnish battery suppliers have a strong sustainability record and don’t have much competition in the Midwest US. And Minnesota is an ideal location for setting up a shop for a Finnish battery manufacturer.

Finnish battery capabilities

One Finnish battery mineral supplier is already here in the US. Freeport Cobalt, a cobalt supplier with a manufacturing facility in Finland, has an Arizona sales office. A sustainable lithium producer Keliber is gearing up to meet Europe’s lithium needs by increasing lithium hydroxide production.

In any industry, the Finnish focus on the environment is well-known. Puustelli, Fiskars, Rapala are all well-known Finnish brands in the US. Uponor, a Finnish “intelligent plumbing and climate solutions” company, has North American headquarters at Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Why Minnesota? Reason 1 – Minnesota Solar and the renewable industry is a leader

In 2019, Minnesota received more than 25% of its energy from renewables. Buffalo Ridge area in the southwest corner of Minnesota is known for driving Minnesota’s wind industry. Minnesota Community Solar Gardens are in the top rank in the country. Minnesota Governor announced plans to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050. Xcel Energy, Minnesota’s largest Investor-Owned Utility (IOU), has similar clean energy goals. This strong renewable energy infrastructure at present and in the pipeline suggests a need for Minnesota’s energy storage market.

In addition to the growth of renewables in Minnesota, it makes sense to locate a Finnish battery company in Greater Minnesota because of the growth in electric vehicle charging infrastructure partly due to Volkswagen settlement dollars.

Reason 2 – Large Finnish population in North Minnesota

Minnesota has a large Finnish immigrant community, with more than 50% in the northeast part of the state, 30% are concentrated in the twin cities metro area, and the remaining spread over the state. Mining was a key reason for Finns to immigrate to Minnesota in the late 1800s.

Building upon Finnish history in Minnesota, the critical value proposition for locating a Finnish battery manufacturer in the state is, “Mineral and chemical production in Finland is conducted in accordance with robust environmental regulations and stringent sustainability principle.” The market opportunity is leveraging that sustainability principle in the battery minerals mining practices. There is a real need for sustainability in the battery recycling process, which appeals to Midwest and Minnesota customers.

Reason 3 – Economic development appeal to State legislators

Economic development in terms of job prospects in the state appeals to both Republicans and Democrats. Locating a factory outside the twin cities metro area is attractive for legislators worried about the rural versus urban divide.

Clean Energy Economy Minnesota (CEEM) estimates there are 61,000 plus clean energy jobs in Minnesota, with one in three jobs located in Greater Minnesota. The renewable energy industry in Minnesota is second only to the energy efficiency sector.

No competitors located in the Midwest

Chinese battery supplier, BYD, covers the west and east coasts with offices in LA, California, and Massachusetts. Another Chinese company CATL opened an office in Detroit in 2018. South Korean supplier LG Chem has an office in Holland, Michigan office, which points to an open canvas for Finnish battery supplier to set up shop in Minnesota.

Conclusion

A former Google executive leads the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Google is building a $600 million data center in Becker, Minnesota, which would most likely be powered by renewable energy. As the electric grid relies more on renewables, long-duration energy storage should increase, illustrated by Great River Energy’s 150-hour battery technology announcement.

If Finns are reading, they will set up a battery manufacturer to take advantage of Minnesota’s Finnish demographics, development-focused legislators, and robust renewable industry. No other state in the US offers those three factors.

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Rao Konidena of Rakon Energy LLC is an independent consultant focused on providing policy and testimony support, business development, and training in wholesale energy markets. Rao likes helping solar and storage developers and consumer and environmental advocate clients. Most recently, Rao was with Midcontinent ISO (MISO) as Principal Advisor for Policy Studies, working on energy storage and distributed energy resources. At MISO, Rao worked in management and non-management roles around resource adequacy, economic planning, business management, and policy functions. Rao volunteers as an engineering mentor for middle school students participating in the Future City competition. Rao is Co-President of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce – Minnesota (FACC-MN), and on the Board of Ever Green Energy and Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA).

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