The NY Times published an article this weekend about SolarWorld investing in Oregon. Specifically, the solar giant is continuing work on its solar panel facility in Hillsboro, Oregon – just outside Portland.
This is newsworthy for a couple of reasons. Putting aside the obvious thrill that renewable energy supporters experience when hearing about a new plant, the most exciting thing is the fact that SolarWorld is continuing with its significant investment in the midst of a global recession. As noted by the Times:
“Buoyed by the potential promise of a green economy, Mr. Klebensberger, who heads the American branch of SolarWorld AG, a company based in Bonn, Germany, is ramping up production of solar cells in a retrofitted factory that had its grand opening last October — in the teeth of the financial crisis.”
The company is investing $500 billion in its Oregon plant, which currently produces enough solar cells to fit 1,700 panels per day. Its the biggest facility of its kind in the country. Still, some may be surprised at the influx of funds, given that Oregon suffers the second-worst unemployment in the nation.
Don’t tell that to employees of SolarWorld, or the residents of Hillsboro!
“SolarWorld’s presence is a welcome boon. Its employees enjoy being in start-up mode, while others like the cachet of working for a renewable-energy company — which goes down well in outdoorsy Oregon.”
Even though production and demand for solar panels have slowed during the economic crisis, incentives to encourage renewable energy are boosting the industry overall. Add that to the fact that the U.S. is not a huge solar manufacturing company, compared to other – perhaps “unlikely suspects” like Germany. This means that, while somewhat risky, investment in solar in America is a great opportunity. Specifically, Oregon has put its money where its renewable mouth is, providing SolarWorld with $40 million in business tax credits.
It also helps that the corporation has access to a great number of employees that are “green” with experience. Since October 2008, SolarWorld has obtained 500 qualified workers – about half of its goal of 1,000 employees by 2011. Each Monday, new employee orientations are held. Talk about a green jobs opportunity!
Still, SolarWorld has some economic challenges ahead. Solar panel prices have declined due to economics. There is rising competition among other panel manufacturers. But the company expects Q2 and Q3 results to look better than the first results of the year. Given that we have reached (or are close to the) bottom of real estate markets, people will likely take the risk of investing in their homes again. People are looking to invest in the future – whether for an economic or environmental purpose… or both!
SolarWorld is investing in Oregon because it believes that solar energy will help provide green jobs, as well renewable resources so desparately needed.
I think they have their priorities in the right place.