New legislation is creating a clean-energy project pulse

Will the manufacturing renaissance finally displace fossil fuels?

In early August, Singapore-based Maxeon Solar Technologies announced plans to build a $1 billion, 1,800-employee silicon solar cell and module factory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The company wasn’t enticed by the cheap labor or even the fine climate, but by the generous tax credits offered by the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed into law almost exactly a year ago. The massive Albuquerque factory is just one of dozens of new clean energy projects that have sprouted nationwide, thanks in part to recent legislation.


When, after months of wrangling, Congress finally passed the compromise law, it wasn’t generally seen as an inflation-reducing tool, despite its name. Rather, advocates hailed it as the first meaningful climate legislation to make it through a chronically dysfunctional Congress, even though it neither mandated emissions cuts nor established new regulations. Instead, supporters argued that encouraging clean technology development with some $369 billion in spending and incentives would displace fossil fuels and cut pollution. It’s a carrot as opposed to a stick approach. 

Whether emissions reductions materialize remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: The Inflation Reduction Act, in tandem with the Infrastructure and Jobs Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, is sparking a clean energy manufacturing and jobs renaissance in the West and nationwide, something previous administrations had tried — and failed — to achieve by wiping out “regulatory burdens” and cutting taxes on corporations. 

Republican lawmakers weren’t exactly keen on any of the bills: Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert called the Infrastructure Act a “socialist wish list” and said the Inflation Reduction Act was “insane” and would sacrifice “American families at the altar of climate change.” Meanwhile, one of the biggest projects inspired by the legislation is in Boebert’s congressional district: CS Wind’s expansion of its Pueblo, Colorado, turbine manufacturing plant, soon to be the world’s largest.   


The following federal grants, loans and investments for grid resilience and clean energy projects have been awarded during the last two years, with many of the funds coming directly from the Infrastructure Act or the Inflation Reduction Act. This is just a sampling of the funded projects and programs. 

$150 million

Amount of Inflation Reduction Act funds the Biden administration plans to invest in a program aimed at bringing electricity to some 17,000 homes on tribal nations that lack it. 

$12 billion

Inflation Reduction Act funds allocated to the Empowering Rural America, Powering Affordable Clean Energy and Rural Energy for America programs to help electric cooperatives update their grids and encourage rural businesses, farmers and residents to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Interior Department, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Protection Agency, Climate Power, E2, Science, Bipartisan Policy Center, Jack Conness, Maxeon.

Jonathan Thompson is a contributing editor at High Country News. He is the author of Sagebrush Empire: How a Remote Utah County Became the Battlefront of American Public Lands.