Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Green shoots appear in Oregon

From the Registerguard:

Uni-Chem, a South Korean leather fabricator that is diversifying into the solar business, told the Associated Press Saturday that it plans to buy the west Eugene plant from Hynix for $50 million.

Uni-Chem could invest up to $1 billion to convert the Eugene plant to solar production and employ up to 1,000 employees in Eugene, said Roger Little, CEO of Spire Corp., a Massachusetts company that is working with Uni-Chem to retrofit the Eugene plant.

Local community, business and work force leaders all were cheered by the prospect of Hynix’s mothballed Eugene computer-chip plant churning out solar cells in a couple of years.

It would bring much-needed jobs to the community, help rebuild the anemic tax base, and strengthen Eugene’s position in the clean-energy industry, they said.

It also would give a tremendous “psychology lift … to our regional business community and our citizens,” said Dave Hauser, president of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce.

From the Oregonian:

SolarWorld, the German photovoltaic giant, is expanding its solar manufacturing foothold in Oregon sooner than expected, with a second facility nearing completion on its Hillsboro campus.

On Sunday, the company announced its new 210,000 square-foot facility, to be done in November, will house module assembly lines, the last step in the production of finished solar panels.

The expansion, which comes just a year after the company's launch in Hillsboro, will make SolarWorld the only company to sell solar panels made entirely in Oregon, starting from the first step of growing crystals out of silicon.

In Hillsboro, SolarWorld's new facility will help reduce costs with a greater economy of scale. By 2011, the company hopes to have 350 megwatts of capacity, a measure of a solar factory's output, and 1000 employees.

"The bottom line is that its sooner and more than we planned," said company spokesman Ben Santarris. "We're moving faster and doing more. We'll be fully-integrated in Oregon."

Both projects are legitimate good signs for the state. Both plants are a few years away from reaching their full potential but they are good signs nonetheless.

It is all but certain green energy will lead us out of the recession but what role with Oregon play in this? Green technology isn't competitive with traditional energy sources yet. The only reason we use it is because it is subsidized by the government.

If the industry's expansion and immediate future isn't based on fundamental factors such as cost per kilowatt, what is it based on? There is a high probability that this will be the next bubble and Portland could be one of the epicenters.

I have a lot to learn in this area and I'm sure you have a few stories and web links that might help all of us understand the economics of green energy and Oregon's role in it.

Please post in the comment section.