President Biden visited the Twin Cities on Monday to tour a manufacturing plant in Fridley, and tout his investments that address climate change and attempt to make the United States the leader in clean energy manufacturing.
The plant, run by engine manufacturer Cummins, announced a new line of hydrogen engines in March and is converting 100,000 square feet of their assembly lines to produce electrolyzers, which shocks water with electricity to produce hydrogen. Cummins says the investment is made possible because of increasing demand and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), as well as their goals to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“As a result of this legislation, we saw demand for U.S.-made electrolyzers skyrocket. And what we’ve seen here today is our ability to capitalize on that demand, and create 100 new jobs here in Fridley,” said Cummins Senior Vice President Tony Satterthwaite. Cummins’ Fridley facility will be the first in the United States to manufacture them.
The IRA, which passed Congress in August 2022, invests in green jobs and technology. The act brings $8.5 billion in large-scale clean power generation and storage to the state, as well as associated jobs, over the next seven years.
The bill also calls for investment in technical trade programs to train people to work at these jobs. “We’re working with companies, community colleges, technical schools, union members, and apprenticeship training programs to make sure this happens,” said Biden.
Cummins currently employs about 2,000 people across its three Minnesota facilities—its two other facilities in Shoreview and White Bear Lake—1,000 at the Fridley plant, 600 of whom currently work on generators that will be retrained to produce electrolyzers. They will also hire an additional 100 people to support its production.
Although hydrogen is the most abundant element in the atmosphere, it is also hard to isolate by itself. It can be obtained by shocking water into hydrogen and oxygen in an electrolyzer, but most of the hydrogen produced today involves blowing hot steam on methane gas. Aside from Cummins’ efforts in Fridley, St. Cloud received $1.09 million from the state to install an electrolyzer at its wastewater treatment plant.
Despite the investment, most hydrogen fuel cell vehicles mostly exist in California, with some examples being used in public transit facilities in Illinois and Ohio. And although no Minnesota agency has immediate plans to use vehicles powered by hydrogen, New Flyer in St. Cloud is one of two bus manufacturers in the United States who produces hydrogen-fueled buses.