State sticks with solar as price plummets

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011

1011_StateSticksWithSolarA flood of cheap Chinese imports is swamping the global market for solar panels, driving down prices dramatically, but Oregon officials say their investments in solar manufacturing remain solid.

“We’re feeling confident about the decisions that we’ve made as a state and the companies that have chosen to move here,” says Business Oregon Director Tim McCabe. “Everyone we’ve given an incentive to is still here and growing.”

The state has invested millions in SolarWorld in Hillsboro, Solaicx in Portland and Sanyo Solar in Salem. The latest recruit, California-based SoloPower, received a $20 million loan from the Oregon Department of Energy and $29 million in tax breaks to establish manufacturing in North Portland with plans to employ 500 people within five years. But those local subsidies are minuscule compared to the $30 billion the Chinese Development Bank lent to Chinese solar companies in 2010. Prices for solar panels have dropped by more than 30% over the past year as Chinese companies have established dominance.

SolarWorld executives have long railed against what spokesman Ben Santarris calls “the swamping of the markets by state-sponsored competitors.” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) backed that charge with a sharply worded Sept. 8 letter to President Obama, warning that, without action, the U.S. solar industry and its  jobs “may disappear.”

SolarWorld’s 1,000-employee Hillsboro facility is the largest solar panel factory in North America. The company recently shut down its production plant in California and cut 186 workers. That move came days after the news that the much-hyped solar manufacturer Solyndra would declare bankruptcy — the largest of three summer bankruptcy filings by U.S.-based solar manufacturers.

Even hard-core solar supporters such as Glenn Montgomery of the Oregon Solar Energy Industry Association acknowledge that “the news in the industry has not been good.” But Montgomery and McCabe say it is important to consider specific technologies and business plans rather than assuming that all American-based manufacturers are in trouble. McCabe notes that two of the three companies that went bankrupt this summer tried and failed to get state support for a move into Oregon, only to fail to clear due diligence tests. The companies that did receive state support “have hit every target we’ve given them” for jobs and production, McCabe says.

Ben Jacklet

 

More Articles

Reader Input: School Choice

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Which of the following would be most effective in reducing the cost of operating a public university in Oregon?


Read more...

Car be gone

Linda Baker
Thursday, August 06, 2015
070615car2goblogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Car and ride sharing services have taken urban areas by storm. Low-income and suburban communities are left at the curb.


Read more...

Portland’s long-distance bike commuters

The Latest
Monday, August 03, 2015
Matt KellyresizethumbBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

Pushing the extreme.


Read more...

Preserving the Legacy

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A New York floral and gift business takes on the iconic Harry & David brand.


Read more...

10 Innovators in Rural Health

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Telemedicine, new partnerships and real estate diversification make health care more accessible in rural Oregon.


Read more...

Storyteller in Chief: Power Player

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY LINDA WESTON

In 1996, after a 17-year career in the destination marketing industry, where I gained national standing as the CEO of the Convention & Visitors Association of Lane County, I was recruited by the founders of a new professional basketball league for women. The American Basketball League (ABL) hoped to leverage the success of the 1996 USA women’s national team at the Atlanta Olympics — much like USA Soccer is now leveraging the U.S. Women’s National Team’s victory in the World Cup. The ABL wanted a team in Portland, and they wanted me to be its general manager.


Read more...

Best Foot Forward

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE

Whether you're stepping out to work or onto the track, Pacific Northwest shoe companies have you covered.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS