West Virginia is planned to be the new home of a manufacturing base for a company based more than 3,000 miles away.
Gov. Jim Justice announced Nov. 23 that DST Innovations, a United Kingdom-based technology company, has chosen the Mountain State as the home of its new American manufacturing base, agreeing on a contract with West Virginia-based Blue Rock Manufacturing to set up a new facility for energy storage development.
The development is anticipated to create up to 1,000 new manufacturing and technology jobs. The manufacturing base will be in Morgantown with an expansion planned for West Virginia’s southern coalfields.
The West Virginia facility is designed to be part of an internationally funded $1.4 billion Dragon Energy Island project that DST Innovations is working to launch in Swansea, Wales.
Like West Virginia, Wales is known for its coal mining.
“Sadly, of course, the industry is not what we want in Wales anymore,” DST Innovations CEO Tony Miles said in an announcement video released by the Governor’s Office. “But we are absolutely amazed that we can get the type of coal product we need to convert into hard carbons in West Virginia.”
Miles said the partnership plans to build a reactor next to a source of coal in West Virginia to reduce the coal to hard carbon that can be used to create batteries and supercapacitors.
“Together, from this moment on, I guess we’re bound together as nations in a very specific cause, which is to take coal products … from both countries and turn them into green energy projects,” Miles said.
Joining Justice and Miles in the announcement video were Mary Anne Ketelsen of Blue Rock Manufacturing and Rob Stewart, Swansea council leader, who voiced their support for the partnership. None of the partners gave a time frame for a facility launch.
“It’ll take us a while, of course, to train the people and build the facilities,” Miles said. “Our hope is to get both plants in West Virginia first and the reactor section alongside the planning and building of the Swansea location and obviously the training of people and creating the reactors and so on in those regions.”
South Wales-based DST Innovations was founded in 2011.
Justice, who inherited a coal mining business from his father upon his death in 1993, said that his father believed that the day would come when it would be a shame to convert a ton of coal into electricity.
“My dad used to say that over and over, but saying it and really making it become a reality — there’s a long, long stretch in between. My dad believed that that coal was worth so much more, and what you’re doing is making it happen,” Justice said, addressing DST Innovations and the partnership. “So from the standpoint of what you’re doing in Wales and the standpoint of what you’re bringing to the United States, I love it.”