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|Articles - June 2013|
|Tuesday, May 28, 2013|
Page 5 of 6
Manufacturing: Navigating shifting markets and subsidies
By 2011 the Portland Metro Climate Prosperity Project proudly noted that Oregon had created the largest concentration of solar manufacturers in the country. Capital totaling $1.5 billion flowed into the sector, according to Business Oregon, encouraged by government incentives to grow clean-tech industries that became a focal point of economic policy at the White House and the statehouse alike.
The results in the Portland region are real. According to the Portland Development Commission, Multnomah County alone is home to more than 12,000 clean-tech jobs created mostly over the last decade. Yet the state’s success in recruiting manufacturers like SolarWorld and Solaicx to the Portland area and Sanyo Solar to Salem has also meant exposure to young industries with volatile pricing, voracious Chinese competition, and a susceptibility to shocks as subsidies for renewable power shift with the sentiments of elected officials.
Danish wind-turbine company Vestas’ margins dropped sharply in 2011, partly on uncertainty surrounding a key federal production tax credit set to expire this year. The company rewrote its business plan and shed more than a fifth of its global workforce last year, including an undisclosed number of positions at the company’s North American headquarters in Portland.
“Ultimately, we have to figure out what the sustainable long-term U.S. market looks like in terms of megawatts and size,” says Vestas Americas president Chris Brown. “The industry is still sorting that out.”
In the solar industry, system prices fell 27% last year on the heels of similar price drops in previous years. That’s pushed up demand but also triggered a global consolidation. SoloPower recently notified the state it plans to shut down its Portland operations in June. Sanyo Solar announced 52 Oregon layoffs in April, and shortly afterward Germany-based SolarWorld, which employs about 700 in Hillsboro, began restructuring its debt to address a $624 million 2012 net loss.
Other parts of clean tech appear poised for further manufacturing growth as Oregon continues to attract startups in electric vehicles and energy storage. Last year, EnerG2 opened a 74,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Albany. It’s expected to employ upwards of 50 people producing a nanotech carbon material that allows greater energy storage for batteries and other applications. “I’m seeing Oregon as being fairly successful in attracting these types of new businesses and being a source of innovation,” says Chris Wheaton, EnerG2’s chief operating and financial officer.
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BY LINDA BAKER
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BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
What is the impact of the legal pot industry on carbon emissions? An NEBC energy forum breakfast makes the case for taking the new industry’s emissions impacts seriously.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
BY APRIL STREETER
Democratic gains pave the way for a revival of environment and labor bills as revenue reform languishes.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
BY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR
The implosion of the energy complex: The best thing for low oil prices is low oil prices.
Friday, January 30, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR
How did an errant email to the Zidell family end up fronting a story in the Oregonian this morning?
Friday, January 23, 2015
BY DAN COOK | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
A real-estate developer and a Lithia Motors executive aim to revamp the city's forlorn downtown.
Saturday, December 13, 2014
A look-in on the life of Norris & Stevens' president, plus an abridged Powerlist for the best commercial real estate firms.
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