Despite uncertainty, Portland keeps wind industry bet
By Erik Siemers
Steve Casey, general manager for Moventas' Portland operations, says uncertainty over the Production Tax Credit won't stop his company's initiatives.
Moventas, a Finnish maker of wind turbine gears, has been repairing wind turbine gear boxes from a North Portland plant for years.
Last year, the company invested heavily to expand the 70,000-square-foot Portland plant so it could now manufacture new gearboxes for the U.S. wind energy market.
That it comes at a time when the fate of a key federal tax credit has made the U.S. wind industry’s future uncertain doesn’t seem to shake the company.
The federal Production Tax Credit gives owners of wind energy farms a 2.2 cents-per-kilowatt credit on their U.S. income taxes. Speculation is that Congress won’t even deal with the issue until after the election.
“But that in itself, whether it happens or doesn’t, won’t stop us in our initiatives,” said Steve Casey, general manager of Moventas’ Portland plant.
The Portland Development Commission is also standing firm in its commitment to the city’s cleantech cluster.
“For us, we’re not scared off by what we’ve seen as a very short-term variation in the market,” said Patrick Quinton, the PDC’s executive director. “If you’re not willing to take risks, then you’re not in the business to grow (young) industries. It’s part of the business we’re in.”
The PDC has committed significant resources to retain two of the cleantech cluster’s anchor tenants that in recent weeks have laid off sizable numbers of employees.
On Wednesday, the PDC board voted 4-0 to issue a $1.1 million grant as part of a deal to keep the North American headquarters of energy developer Iberdrola Renewables in Portland for 10 more years.
Just a week earlier, Iberdrola laid off 25 in Portland, citing a down cycle in the market. The company — a U.S. subsidiary of Spanish energy developer Iberdrola Renovables S.A. — downplayed any concerns over its long-term future, with spokeswoman Jan Johnson noting that the Portland operation manages more than 5,000 megawatts of energy assets nationwide. Despite the layoffs, the company has more than 20 open jobs.
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