Permitting – In both the manufacturing and energy deployment sectors, there are opportunities to improve the permitting process. Though the state has worked hard to streamline it, the permitting process for manufacturing operations is often difficult to navigate, requiring a significant amount of time and money without offering much added value. Companies that operate in multiple jurisdictions are also faced with inconsistent requirements and fees.
The Solar Energy Cluster is still in its formative stage and requires public support – be it access to low-cost capital, incentive programs and/or grants – to offset the above market cost of clean technologies relative to the well-established and artificially low cost fossil-fuel based technologies. Adequate financing tools are needed throughout the supply chain. The manufacturers rely on state programs such as the BETC and SIP to reduce their capital investments in property plant and equipment. Energy developers similarly leverage the BETC and property tax exemptions to achieve an acceptable return on investment that is necessary for a solar project to move forward. Likewise, installers utilize the BETC and the RETC to tip the scale of affordability on commercial and residential distributed generation.
The Solar Energy Cluster’s #1 initiative is to guarantee continued financial support of clean technology manufacturing and deployment throughout the state. Since 2007 – just a few short years ago – Oregon propelled itself to the forefront as a national leader in renewable energy by establishing a strong RPS and increasing the BETC for renewable energy technologies. As a result, over 1000 new jobs were created in the manufacturing supply chain alone, and hundreds more in energy deployment. While Oregon’s unemployment level consistently exceeds the national average, the solar energy cluster has expanded. Moreover, a significant number of job opportunities cater to both the manufacturing and construction industries, both of which have suffered greatly during this economic recession.
Oregon’s solar energy industry has enjoyed a long tradition among the renewable energy technologies in Oregon. Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association (OSEIA), the state’s trade group exclusively focused on the solar energy cluster, was established nearly 30 years ago in 1981. Up until recently, OSEIA was largely composed of residential and commercial installers throughout the state. Since 2007, however, the make-up of the group has evolved due to the influx of solar manufacturers.
OSEIA holds its annual meeting in January, and it also hosts the NW Solar Expo – the largest solar expo and conference in the Pacific NW –typically in April of each year. In addition, periodic events are hosted throughout the year in regions around the state.
The cluster participants cover a broad spectrum of roles from mid-to-upper level managers of large international manufacturers and national installers to policy and operations staff of mid-sized companies to sole proprietors deploying residential systems in their local communities. The cluster includes PV manufacturers, distributors, commercial and residential installers, professional service providers, utilities, and public and non-profit advocates.
Notable traded-sector companies include SolarWorld, PV Powered Inc., Platt, Sanyo Energy Corporation, Solaicx, REC Solar, and Solar City.
Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association