As president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council and SciTech Institute, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to begin writing a monthly column for Green Living Magazine to provide a perspective on the intersection between Arizona’s technology community and its environment. In my inaugural contribution, I’m highlighting the topic of clean energy and two important sectors where Arizona can lead the nation in green technology: The electric vehicle and solar.
In the electric vehicle sector, the pro-technology, pro-advanced manufacturing stance of Arizona’s state government has done a great job of facilitating the creation of carbon-free, zero-emissions vehicles locally. This has led to major investments by innovators Nikola Corporation and Lucid Motors, both of which have opened manufacturing facilities in Arizona. Being near the automotive supply chain in Mexico was another important factor for both companies choosing our state. Their success will significantly help Arizona and the world become far more green and sustainable.
Nikola is a hydrogen-powered, electric-vehicle manufacturer developing a variety of zero-emission hybrid and electric trucks to help solve the pollution problem. The company opened its new headquarters and research and development facilities in Phoenix in 2019, and piqued wide interest nationally with its initial public offering on Nasdaq. Nikola is also nearing completion of a multi-product manufacturing facility in Coolidge, representing a capital investment of approximately $600 million. The company said it aims to produce 2,500 trucks this year and turn out 20,000 trucks a year by 2023. As a leading innovator, Nikola has the potential to completely change the electric-vehicle industry with revolutionary battery advancements and is expected to bring thousands of jobs to Arizona’s technology sector.
Temporarily bumping its rivals Tesla and Rivian out of the headlines, Lucid Motors also received a lot of national attention with the introduction of a state-of-the-art luxury electric sedan built in a manufacturing facility in Casa Grande. In February 2021, the company agreed to become publicly traded through a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company with a $24 billion valuation, making it the largest deal yet between this type of “blank-check” company and an electric-vehicle startup. Lucid Motors is projecting it will create approximately 4,800 direct and indirect jobs in Arizona by 2029, which is a safe bet, given the Lucid Air electric sedan was recently awarded the 2022 MotorTrend Car of the Year.
For electric vehicles to gain in popularity, we cannot underestimate the importance of the infrastructure needed to power it. Thankfully, the introduction of the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $7.5 billion earmarked for electric vehicle charging stations across the nation that will further incentivize the use of these zero-emission vehicles.
Another industry that is critical to Arizona’s clean energy future is solar. For a long time, Arizona was a leading manufacturer of solar panels and other infrastructure necessary for both consumer and commercial solar energy. Unfortunately, a rebate aimed at incentivizing solar energy usage in our state expired and the manufacturers left. With more than 296 days of sun a year in Arizona, it is critical that we take back this lead and reinvest in solar manufacturing.
Fortunately, the solar industry is starting to see a resurgence, especially in southern Arizona, and is having a larger economic and environmental impact every year. The region is globally recognized as an ideal location for solar-energy development, including manufacturing, talent and solar-power generation. According to the Climate Action Hub, Tucson is experiencing a “solar blitz,” more than doubling the installed solar on city facilities over the last few years. Today, nearly 25% of the City of Tucson facilities are solar-powered.
The rest of Arizona must follow in Tucson’s footsteps and work to incentivize solar development. We have the land and the infrastructure necessary to make that dream a reality and become the leader in solar innovation once again.
Arizona is known for its unique and beautiful desert landscape, but we’re also known for our low river flows and high temperatures in the summer. Investing in clean energy and sustainable technology is incredibly important to reducing the impact global warming is having on our environment. It will also significantly boost our economy.
The council, along with our private sector partners and economic development organizations, are leading the charge to advocate for legislation that will incentivize investment in clean energy and cut the red tape on research and development and testing for critical innovation like electric vehicles, solar and more. This will continue to be an important part of our mission moving forward. Let’s work together to keep our state clean, beautiful and prosperous.