Wind energy industry poised to increase velocity in Oregon

Source: By Lee van der Voo, Sustainable Business Oregon contributing writer • Posted: Friday, February 22, 2013

Renewable Northwest Project’s Rachel Shimshak says the shutdown of coal plants in the region will provide new opportunities for wind energy.

Following industry contractions, a general economic slump, national uncertainty, and a rollback of state tax credits, Oregon could be looking at an uptick in the renewable energy market as a number of utilities around the region look to power down coal plants.

Rachel Shimshak, executive director of the Renewable Northwest Project, told the wind energy community Tuesday that a rejuvenated market could arise from the shutdown of 2,500 megawatts in coal plants in the near and not-so-near future.

Shimshak and others offered their remarks at the annual American Wind Energy Association’s Northwest Summit at the downtown Hilton, where AWEA’s senior director of federal regulatory affairs, Tom Vinson, also outlined wind development trends around the nation.

Vinson noted wind had a record year in 2012 with more than 13,000 megawatts installed – more capacity than any other energy resource, including natural gas. Oregon contributed 649 megawatts to that installation, and climbed from 7th place to 5th among states ranked for wind capacity installed.

Still, it’s not exactly smooth sailing. Oregon’s marketplace saw deep cuts after posting between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2011.

And Vinson’s encouraging portrait of the industry alongside others followed strong words from Gov. John Kitzhaber, who noted a lack of federal energy planning was pushing the West toward becoming a major exporter of coal without a clear understanding of the results to energy security, domestic energy pricing or the nation’s carbon future. Last April, Kitzhaber issued a call for a comprehensive review of coal export facility plans.