Sunny future for ecoroofs

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Ecoroof with solar, 79 SE Taylor St. in Portland

Ecoroof with solar, 79 SE Taylor St. in Portland

It may be the largest combined solar and ecoroof installation on the West Coast, but it's also an example of Portland's growing — and exportable — expertise.

Columbia Green Technologies Inc. and Solterra Systems, the companies behind the 5,600 square-foot ecoroof installation that was completed this month on a historic building in Portland's Eastside Industrial District, haven't been able to turn up a bigger combined solar-ecoroof project.

"We believe it to be one of the largest combo solutions in the Northwest," said Vanessa Keitges, Columbia Green's president, playing it safe.

The rooftop configuration designed by Columbia Green and installed by Solterra Systems — both companies have offices in the building at 79 SE Taylor St. — features 210 solar modules made by Sanyo and 12 different plant varieties.

Last week, a group of roof specialists from Australia and New Zealand toured the installation and met with Columbia Green about licensing their ecoroof technology for use on the other side of the globe. The technology includes growing trays manufactured in Camas, Wash., different kinds of water-capturing and filtering materials, and a proprietary recipe for the medium in which plants grow.

"We don’t have time to grow into these places ourselves," Keitges said. "The market is happening so quickly for us."

After three years of a direct sales model, Columbia Green has transitioned into a partnership mode, licensing its ecoroof technology to partners in places such as Belgium and Canada — in addition to pending deals with New Zealand and Australia.

Under this model, Keitges expects the company to ramp up to about $20 million in sales in five years. Keitges and a group of private investors bought the business for $1.9 million three years ago. The company has three employees.

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