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|Wednesday, February 29, 2012|
BY LINDA BAKER
Wandering around the new Vestas headquarters in the Pearl District the other day reminded me of Ozymandias, that Percy Bysshe Shelley poem about the inevitable decline of all things, no matter how mighty. But whether the mighty in this case refers to the wind industry, which grew exponentially over the past few years but now faces an uncertain future, or the oil and gas industry, which has flourished for decades but is now up against a changing world, I cannot say.
What I can say is the City of Portland is continuing to bet on the potency of the wind energy sector. Last month, the Portland Development Commission voted in support of a $1.1 million grant to help keep the North American headquarters of energy developer Iberdrola Renewables in Portland. Vestas A/S, the Danish wind turbine-maker that has its U.S. headquarters in Portland, received an $8.1 million, 15-year interest-free loan from the city two years ago for its $66 million Pearl District headquarters that is slated to open this spring.
Although uncertainties over federal energy policy—not to mention the revamping of Oregon’s Business Energy Tax credit last year —may limit that investment, PDC remains “firmly committed” to building a local clean energy cluster, said agency director Patrick Quinton. “We view our investment as a long-term bet."
Quinton said aggressive renewable energy mandates will continue to grow the sector and that “fundamentals” are not what drives the local industry. “It’s the assets we have in terms of talent, location, and the relationship between multiple companies."
It’s an inspiring monument to an industry many hope will soon recover its ascendancy. But a month or two before opening, the building’s permanence feels uncertain. Then again, rapidly rising gas prices and yet another looming conflagration in the Middle East don't exactly ensure the future of the oil and gas industry.
At this point in history, it's unclear exactly who are the mighty — or if they will fall.
Linda Baker is managing editor of Oregon Business.
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