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Oregon Set to Lead Nation in Solar, Photovoltaic Production

Dec/Jan 09
Oregon is focusing resources on "all things renewable," according to Tim McCabe, director of the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department. After targeting solar and renewable energy over the past few years, the state clinched several projects in this niche, including Solar World in Hillsboro, which opened the largest solar cell manufacturing facility in North America in October; Solaicx, a silicon manufacturer for solar energy applications, in Portland; and Sanyo Solar in Salem.

"During our last legislative session, we introduced a Business Energy Tax Credit to attract renewable energy manufacturers," says McCabe. This means a possible savings of up to $20 million per year in tax credits for renewable energy companies. He says the targeted recruitment efforts resulted in the addition of about new 60 companies in this sector.

Governor Ted Kulongoski's commitment to renewables is reflected in the Renewable Portfolio Standard that mandates the state to supply 25 percent of its electricity needs from new renewable sources by 2025. Another mandate directs that by 2025, 100 percent of the state's government buildings will be run by renewable power.

Readying workers for the new niches is imperative. "We are working closely with community colleges and industries in workforce training," says McCabe. Solaicx is partnering with Portland Community College to create a signature workforce training program, and Columbia Gorge Community College has devised a new curriculum for wind turbine repair. Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems in Portland employs about 300 people with more employees expected, and Spanish wind energy company Iberdrola is growing in Portland.

The state's diverse industries include timber products; motor and mobile homes; high technology, sporting goods and apparel. The largest private employer in Oregon, computer chip maker Intel, runs its largest manufacturing facility in Hillsboro.

Imports offer another promising area for revenue. After recent trips to Japan and China by the governor, Nissan announced its intention to test market its all-electric vehicle in Oregon in 2010. To encourage the electric and hybrid car industry, the state plans to build charging stations throughout Portland and, in the future, to establish charging stations at rest stops along Interstate 5.

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