Small wind struggles in Oregon
By Lee van der Voo, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
Northern Power wind project in Vermont
In 2009, Northern Power Systems hired two workers in Oregon, set up a small office, and forged the partnerships it would need to expand its business of selling small wind turbines in Oregon.
Since then, however, the company has pulled out — leaving only one employee behind who now works in other states. Potential partners abandoned hopes of diversifying their own revenues through small wind.
Following widespread fears that Oregon's Business Energy Tax Credit won’t survive the next political season, a circumstance likely to leave the small wind market without the tools it needs to grow here. The American Wind Energy Association considered taking its annual Small and Community Wind Conference & Exhibition elsewhere instead of bringing it to Portland this week.
"Wind is dead in Oregon," said Brett Pingree, vice president, Americas for Northern Power Systems, and also program chair of the conference now underway at the Oregon Convention Center.
"We came to this conference trying to make lemonade out of lemons," he said, citing uncertainty about the BETC, and the number of wind projects that went unfunded in the last round of tax credit awards in Oregon.
The turnout at the conference shows the strength of the small wind industry, and the dedication and drive of the entrepreneurs now steeped in the fledgling market. More than 1,000 attendees from at least three continents attended seminars and showcased their technology. In a public exhibition hall, the latest designs in wind turbines reached floor to ceiling, ranging from vertical turbine ideas to wind-powered streetlights to data analysis systems.
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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