Oregon was recently recognized as the nation’s leader for solar manufacturing in a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association. According to the executive director of Oregon’s SEIA chapter, Glenn Montgomery, the success of manufacturing in Oregon can be attributed to panel manufacturers SolarWorld and Sanyo.
As one of the state’s leading solar manufacturers with over 200 employees, Sanyo has participated in the solar industry in Oregon since 2008. For Ron Craig, vice president of administration for Sanyo Solar of Oregon, there are four reasons Oregon’s the choice for the company—despite the many ways other states are trying to draw in solar companies.
The leading reason, Craig said, is land.
“Land for development for manufacturing is relatively available in Oregon,” he said. “The land is very inexpensive.” Craig pointed to enterprise zones that allow for larger manufacturing facilities, like the one Sanyo runs outside Salem.
Second, Craig said, power is cheap. For manufacturing facilities, that’s a big consideration.
“The power rates in Oregon are very competitive nationwide. There’s abundant power and very reasonable prices,” he said.
And while some states offer even cheaper power—“Idaho and Montana have cheaper power, essentially half of what we pay here in Oregon,” Craig said—they’re lacking in other areas.
In particular, the examples Craig mentioned don’t offer the workforce Oregon does.
“Oregon was always home to very large silicon wafer makers for the semiconductor industry,” he said. “Salem had the second-largest silicon wafer factory in the U.S., and it closed in 2004. So there was a very large, well-trained workforce immediately available.”
Craig said the available workforce put Oregon above some cheaper states.
“Those states [Idaho and Montana] also have their own challenges, like workforce availability,” he said.
The final reason Oregon’s on top is one familiar to homeowners and business owners throughout the state, although not for much longer: the BETC (and RETC) tax credits. BETC, the Business Energy Tax Credit, gives tax rebates to Oregon businesses that own, operate or produce alternative-energy systems.
And while most BETCs will be reduced soon under changes to Oregon law, Craig said the state preserved BETCs that apply to manufacturing. So the laws that brought lots of solar panel installations to residences and businesses in the state will continue to benefit solar panel manufacturing.
“[Other states] have different tax structures; they don’t have the aggressive incentives,” Craig said.
And while Craig named Louisiana as a state with an aggressive tax rebate program for solar that appeals to Sanyo, he said weather considerations and shipping distance to Sanyo’s base in Japan make Oregon the better choice.
Sanyo currently has a manufacturing capacity of 70 MW in Oregon, and Craig said plans for expansion are being discussed at headquarters in Japan, but nothing is confirmed.
Image courtesy of Sanyo.