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|Articles - Jan/Feb 2012|
|Thursday, January 19, 2012|
Page 1 of 2
By Lee van der Voo
On the other side of the debate about China’s aggressive push into the U.S. solar market is this: exports.
They were a bright spot on the Oregon economy in 2010, with international trade growing by 19% on nearly $18 billion in foreign sales. Nearly 5,000 Oregon companies export goods and services internationally. In September, Gov. John Kitzhaber touted many on a trade mission to Asia, stumping for Nike, Intel, wheat growers, motorcycle makers, even boat-paddle craftsmen.
China is the state’s largest trading partner, gobbling a whopping $4 billion, or 22%, of Oregon exports last year, up from $807 million in 2005. But with allegations of product dumping by China made by SolarWorld, the German company with U.S. operations and 1,000 employees in Hillsboro, and other companies in October, some trade experts say they’re worried.
Backlash is already playing out in the renewable energy world, with China making similar accusations about polysilicon dumping by U.S. companies and investigating U.S. subsidies to renewable energy. As it does, concerns about future trade tariffs are reaching beyond the solar industry to other exports.
“At the end of the day, it’s not only about SolarWorld. There are implications downstream and I always worry about the law of unintended consequences,” says Barry Horowitz, a trade expert at Portland-based CMS Consulting Services who accompanied both crab and potato reps to Asia on behalf of the Port of Portland.
As the details of U.S. solar industry’s joust with China evolve, they’re a departure from the sunny stories of four years ago, when Oregon’s budding solar industry was called “a locomotive that has already left the station, and it is accelerating” by former Solaicx CEO Bob Ford. While the industry has grown since, it hasn’t grown as expected.
An October report from the Solar Foundation estimates the industry is tied, in some way, to some 545 companies in Oregon, and supports 3,346 jobs. Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, estimates as many as 8,000 Oregonians are economically dependent on solar manufacturing. The sector includes manufacturers of top brands such as SolarWorld, MEMC (Solaicx) and Sanyo, as well as manufacturers of wafers and inverters, wafer cleaning companies, silicon recyclers and research facilities, and designers of PV tracking systems and test equipment.
Oregon’s semiconductor industry made it easy for solar companies to land here, tapping a workforce with similar talents, along with cheap power, an established supplier network, state incentives and a favorable tax structure. Many of these companies export products, helping bolster Oregon’s standing as eighth in the nation for exported goods.
But Oregon’s solar industry has fallen short of expectations. Some things were achieved: SolarWorld planned to create 1,000 jobs in Oregon by 2010, and did. Oregon also developed a solar feed-in-tariff pilot that, along with incentives and creative financing packages, began vigorously installing rooftop panels. The number of solar manufacturers also grew from three in 2007 to six in 2011. But that’s about half the 11 manufacturers the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department was recruiting in 2008. Solaicx sold to MEMC in 2010, which laid off 100 of its 140 Portland workers in December. There is no more state Business Energy Tax Credit, which once helped lure solar companies here.
While some predicted it would be Oregon’s low hydropower rates that would hamper solar power’s growth in Oregon, few bet that China could upend the sector.
Yet between 2008 and 2010, Chinese exports of solar cells and solar panels to the United States jumped 350%. By July 2011, the country’s exports to the U.S. exceeded the volume of all of solar exports in 2010.
SolarWorld was the first to formally cry foul. SolarWorld is the only company named in a coalition of seven filing antidumping petitions Oct. 19 with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission, asking for tariffs on Chinese imports, a request that has since provoked an investigation. They charge China’s subsidies to its solar manufacturers are illegal, allowing them to dump solar cells on the U.S. market for less than the cost of making them, driving prices to artificial lows to put competitors out of business.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN
As CEO and owner of five different cannabis-related businesses generating a total net revenue of $2 million, Alex Rogers could sit back and ride the lucrative wave of Oregon’s burgeoning pot industry.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
“What we’ve seen traditionally over the past few decades is a reduction of short line railroads. This is a rare opportunity to see a line being opened.”
Thursday, October 08, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
Based on several metrics, Oregon has one of the lowest performing K-12 education systems in the country. Teacher compensation is part of the problem.
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE
As we worked on the October cover, it became evident that Nick Symmonds is a hard man to catch — even when he’s not hotfooting it around a track.
Friday, October 30, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
Worldwide Leader in Sports struggles to cope with new media landscape, forcing us to adjust our behavior as consumers.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
Images from the big 2015 celebration of worker-friendly organizations that make a difference.
Monday, October 05, 2015
VIDEO BY JESSE LARSON
Profiling some of the organizations featured in the 2015 list.
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Economic diversity has proven a smart strategy for the Port of Hood River. How can other Oregon communities replicate the model?
Phone, Internet needs of small community school districts earn attention of top-five telecom provider.
Farmland LP grows its vision for organic farming in Oregon.
The Salem Convention Center has capped its tenth anniversary year by earning the prestigious “Best of the Best 2015” award from NW Meetings & Events magazine. Selected as the Best Convention/Conference Venue in Oregon by meeting and event planners from Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, the Salem Convention Center ranked above the Oregon Convention Center and the Portland Art Museum.
The Oregon Cooperative Hall of Fame honors individuals for their outstanding contributions to the successful building and operation of Oregon agricultural cooperatives.
Health insurer reports $10.2 million in net income after taxes through the first nine months of 2015.