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Oregon’s big summer solar slump

August 20, 2013

solar-panelsBy Taxpayer Foundation of Oregon

Three of Oregon’s solar companies are laying of hundreds of employees as 2013 marks a terrible year for the solar industry.   The solar industry has been heavily supported by taxpayer funds through tax credits and other financing operations.

Salem’s Sanyo Solar announced the layoff of 52 workers, but will continue to employ about 150 people. In April, SoloPower notified the state it would lay off 29 workers and suspend its Portland operations in June. SoloPower plans to move its headquarters from California to Portland.

SolarWorld, a German-based solar panel manufacturing company, announced its decision to lay off 100 employees at its Hillsboro plant. The layoffs, expected on August 31st, will be permanent. The decision is part of a restructuring plan, including financial restructuring, that began in February and will conclude late this year or in early 2014. The company expects to employ 650 workers at the plant after the changes.

Competition from government-subsidized Chinese solar manufacturers has put pressure on U.S. companies by selling below-cost Chinese products in the U.S.. SolarWorld joined others in filing a trade complaint with the U.S. Department of Commerce against the Chinese companies, which was upheld. Even though tariffs have been imposed, profits have declined as prices of solar panels continue to drop.

Todd Meyers of the Washington policy Center stated in a recent media interview, “What we’re seeing in Oregon, what we’re seeing in California and what we’re seeing in Washington, D.C., is eventually the money runs out, and these programs go with them.”   The changes are forcing a public debate on the efficacy of government involvement in hand picking energy projects.

New wind farm faced opposition in Baker County earlier this summer.  The vice chairman of the Baker County Planning Commission is among the voices who spoke out against wind farms during a July hearing.   Among the opposition points is the increased cost of electricity and negative effect of tourism.

Also this summer, Louisiana has passed a bill that phases out their state tax credit for solar energy projects which will be fully expired in 2017. Those changes will be felt wider than just the state property limits.

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Discuss this article

John Fairplay August 20, 2013

Government decisions are dramatically distorting the energy market, driving up costs, and hurting the economy and consumers. Government has no business choosing which kinds of energy projects are built (Keystone Pipeline) or which ones receive taxpayer largesse so that they have a chance to be competitive (solar & wind). Consumers are paying more for all kinds of energy because of government interference in the market.

Bob Clark August 20, 2013

Rooftop solar doesn’t make much sense in the Willamette Valley which is where a lot of Oregon and local government subsidies have gone, and now other ratepayers have to pay for these uneconomic rooftop systems. Even the lead energy resource analyst at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council has called roof top solar power as pure window dressing.
There is some promise for solar in large scale desert complexes (The Willamette Valley tends to have rather poor capacity factors of 10 to 15% versus 20% and higher in desert locations, such as Lakeview Oregon). The all in cost of these systems are estimated to be in a range of 10 to 20 cents per KWH generated. This is not really competitive with natural gas generation in the 6 to 8 cent range, but is competitive with nuclear power (if you can ever actually build such generating resources anymore domestically).

raysun August 20, 2013

John, Fossil fuels tax credits are several times more than solar. 72 to one. $72 for fossil fuels to $1 for solar. Now about this largess?????
Bob, There are currently two natural gas liquification terminals under construction in North America. Built by the Chinese. They wil drastically change the price of natural gas.

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