Oregon’s wind energy cluster includes corporate headquarters, research and development, legal services, environmental consulting, operations and maintenance, and policymaking. Major wind companies include Vestas Americas, EDP Renewables, and Iberdrola Renewables.

Industry Overview

Volatility in gas prices, climate change, and the growing fear of the future constraints on carbon energy sources have led all but 13 U.S. states to adopt policies that support renewable energy resources. European firms are investing heavily in American wind energy companies, and currency exchange rates are making manufacturing in the U.S. more desirable.  Wind energy projects provide short-term construction jobs and long term employment for operating and maintaining the wind facilities. Locally owned wind farms allow significant long-term returns on investment, which can have positive effects on local areas as well.

New economic data on the potential impacts of wind energy development are becoming available. For example, wind projects in Oregon brought over $13 million in revenue to local counties in 2010 and an estimated $7 million in annual lease/royalty payments to Oregon landowners. Wind companies have made over $4.5 billion in investments in Oregon.

Wind Energy by the Numbers

Sector

Wind Energy

Economic  Impact

Average Wage: $41,423 (2007)
Direct Employment: 8,850 (2007)
Average Wage Growth: 10% (2004-2007)
Cluster Employment Growth: 10.1% (2004-2007)
Total Direct and Indirect Jobs Supported: 2,001 – 3,000 (2011, AWEA)

Source: BLS, QCEW

Cluster Strengths

  • Logistics and ports, particularly the Port of Vancouver, allow for easy transportation access.
  • Oregon is a national leader in wind power installations and generation. Oregon ranks sixth in the US in total wind capacity.
  • Local utilities embraced wind energy as a least-cost renewable resource and neighboring California has invested in projects here to help meet their powerful standard.
  • Portland is the regional headquarters for three major utilities and is the North American Headquarters for Vestas and Iberdrola Renewables.
  • Transportation policies for trucks to haul wind turbines are more favorable than Washington’s.
  • Oregon has a strong Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

Cluster Challenges

  • Transmission challenges exist for cost-effectively integrating large quantities of variable resources. New transmission to renewable rich areas, and modernization of the grid will be needed for acceleration.
  • There is a lack of certainty around the scope and timing of federal and state incentives related to renewable energy.
  • There is a lack of sufficiently skilled workers (GIS and operating technicians, electrical and environmental engineers, and MBAs with an understanding of renewable energy, project finance, etc.).
  • There are few university programs focused exclusively on renewable energy, with the exception of the Oregon Institute of Technology and Columbia Gorge Community College.
  • Expanding wind development beyond the Columbia River plateau has been difficult.

Key Initiatives

  • Address issues in utility wind integration.
  • Address siting issues for both wind projects and transmission.
  • Develop a comprehensive plan to deal with transmission constraints.
  • Develop a vibrant supply chain for the growing wind industry by collaborating with other Oregon industries to create new business opportunities.
  • Discuss opportunities with Oregon’s manufacturing and construction sectors.
  • Provide local manufacturers with information on requirements and opportunities
  • Bring national and international wind equipment manufacturers and organizations to the NW to share knowledge and opportunities with the Northwest’s skilled and experienced manufacturers.
  • Work to improve worker training and provide incentives for manufacturers to retool into the wind supply chain.
  • At the national policy level, pass a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard and comprehensive climate legislation. Maintain the Production Tax Credit for renewable energy that is set to expire December 31, 2012.
  • Address the issue of interconnection standards/rules with the Public Utility Commission and other utilities.
  • Expand and improve the education and workforce training programs with a focus on renewable energy.

Cluster Organizations