Wind turbine manufacturer Abundant Renewable Energy (ARE) of Newberg will be purchased by a California-based competitor, according to announcements Monday from both firms.
The San Diego-based Helix Wind has inked non-binding agreements to acquire ARE’s business assets, along with those of fellow Oregon firm Renewable Energy Engineering, for $4 to $6.5 million.
The sale is in fact a welcome move, said Gregory Price, manufacturing representative for ARE.
“The acquisition allows us to focus on research and development, instead of marketing, logistics and other administrative needs,” he said. “Helix is interested in moving their operations to Oregon.”
The two firms have a certain difference in design philosophy — ARE’s windmills have a traditional horizontal axis, while Helix takes its name from the firm’s line of vertical-axis turbines, which resemble larger versions of the “wind catchers” on many porches.
Nonetheless, Helix will continue to market and sell ARE’s line of 2.5 and 10 kilowatt wind turbines as part of its portfolio.
“It’s not a cookie-cutter technology — site evaluation is a big part of wind power’s effectiveness,” Price said, explaining that different models perform better in different settings.
Regardless of the shape of the equipment, wind power and alternative energy is a growing business throughout Oregon. Jobs in the state’s clean energy economy grew nearly seven times faster than overall jobs between 1998 and 2007, according to a detailed study recently released by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The analysis found that between 1998 and 2007, jobs in Oregon’s clean energy economy increased at a rate of 50.7 percent, while overall job growth expanded by 7.5 percent.
“Oregon has more jobs in its clean energy sector, as a share of its overall economy, than any other state,” said Dan Lombardi, Oregon representative for the Pew Environment Group. “Oregon has attracted $70 million in clean technology venture capital in the past three years alone.”
Oregon’s growth in this sector was part of a national trend that saw job growth in the clean energy economy outperforming overall job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia. Nationally, jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a rate of 9.1 percent while the total number increased by only 3.7 percent over the same period.
In ARE’s case, demand has grown sufficiently that the firm has contracted out much of its manufacturing and assembly to Tualatin manufacturers Powin/QBF, a former parts supplier to Freightliner.
“They have the tools, the people and the experience — but the auto industry isn’t doing so well right now,” Price said, referring to Freightliner’s woes following parent company Chrysler’s bankruptcy.
A significant part of the growth is thanks to federal and state spending that help make such wind power systems (generally costing thousands of dollars) more affordable to residential and commercial property owners.
“There are quite a number of tax credits and grants that can work in conjunction — any Oregon business can get up to 80 percent of the purchase price reimbursed through state and federal sources,” Price said. “People just don’t know that the money is out there.”
Federal and state governments have also provided tax credits to manufacturers such as ARE. While such programs have drawn criticism as “propping up” the clean power industry, “the intent is for the industry to become self-sustaining, without subsidies, within another 10 years,” said Stephen Marx, deputy communications director for local Congressman David Wu (D-1st Dist.). Marx toured ARE Monday with Lombardi and Price.
“Any high-tech industry needed subsidies at first — ours is no different,” said Price, agreeing that the goal was a desirable one. “The demand is there, we just have to make sure our company strategy is sustainable.”
David Sale, Newburg Graphic – http://www.newberggraphic.com/news/2009/August/25/Local.News/newberg.wind.power.firm.sale.imminent/news.aspx