SunPower's Portland office central to last week's blockbuster deal with Warren Buffet
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
Jean Wilson is SunPower's senior vice president for the utility and commercial Americas line of business.
When SunPower Corp. and Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Renewables announced last week a blockbuster deal to sell what will be the world’s largest solar power plant for a price likely to surpass $2 billion, it's likely that only a few Portlanders realized that transaction had roots in their own back yard.
But a SunPower office at the edge of the Pearl District is home to Jean Wilson, SunPower’s senior vice president of utility and commercial Americas business. Her companywide team of about 30 employees permitted and developed the sprawling 579-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Projects and negotiated the deal to sell it to MidAmerican.
Based in the Bay Area, SunPower is publicly traded and has been in the solar business since the late 1970s. The company manufactures solar panels and develops solar systems.
A Portlander for 20 years, Wilson joined SunPower in 2009 and put together a core team in Portland, many of them — including Wilson — veterans of Iberdrola Renewables. Members of the team specialize in the finer points of utility-scale and large commercial solar installations including transmission issues and policy and legal questions.
Sustainable Business Oregon Editor Christina Williams spoke with Wilson this week following up on last week’s news of the MidAmerican deal. Here’s an edited transcript of that conversation.
SBO: You've been at SunPower for four years, how has the business changed in that time period?
Jean Wilson: Before joining SunPower my career had always been in large-scale utility renewable energy, particularly in wind. My intent at SunPower was to grow the utility piece of the business. Solar was big in residential and in the commercial space but in 2008, the utility piece was just getting underway. That’s what I did starting in 2009, growing to a team of about 25 people on the utility side, about six of them in Portland.
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