By Kurt Batdorf HBJ Editor
ARLINGTON — Gov. Jay Inslee, known for his green credentials, came to OutBack Power’s new engineering facility in the former Bayliner plant to see the future of “green-collar” jobs.
“When you think about the growth potential of Washington’s economy, you have to think about Arlington and OutBack Power,” Inslee said. “Arlington can become the Middle East of (green) power.”
OutBack Power, a division of Alpha Technologies Inc. in Bellingham, opened the doors to the public and elected officials Aug. 22 to show off what it’s doing now in the buildings where Bayliner boats and Meridian yachts provided good-paying jobs in Arlington until the company closed the doors in 2009 in the depths of the Great Recession.
The City of Arlington didn’t want to see the manufacturing facility go to waste, so it teamed with new owner Brent Nicholson to quickly redevelop the property into the Arlington Advanced Manufacturing Business Park. OutBack Power is the newest of several tenants who started moving in early in 2012.
OutBack Power moved from five separate buildings nearby that the company outgrew. Alpha Technologies spent about $1 million to remodel the former Bayliner offices into OutBack’s new digs. Company co-founder Greg Thomas appreciates the new building and its reliable heating and air conditioning system, which didn’t always work in the old buildings.
“We needed more space, better space,” Thomas said. “We’re moving up in the world and you’ve got to grow up.”
OutBack Power now has about 70 employees and Thomas said the 42,000 square feet in the new building gives the company room to grow and add workers, “especially engineers.”
OutBack’s workforce has expanded 27 percent so far this year, said Mark Cerasuolo, the company’s senior marketing manager.
“OutBack will represent Alpha’s major growth sector in the years ahead,” said Fred Kaiser, chairman and CEO of Alpha Technologies.
He said the company will continue to invest 5 to 10 percent of its revenue into research and development efforts.
OutBack’s engineers design control systems that integrate photovoltaic solar panels with electrical systems, battery storage and the public power grid. OutBack Power’s products are deployed on seven continents in civilian, commercial, public and military applications, said Michael Dixon, senior manager for business development.
During a tour of the new facilities, he showed where his engineering colleagues design equipment, conduct simulated load tests and monitor sine waves in their equipment and on the electrical grid.
Then we met Ken Lorenzen, who has to find ways to minimize electromagnetic interference with other electrical devices, such as cellphone users and the radio antenna at the Arlington Airport across the street.
“It’s like Whack-a-Mole,” Lorenzen said. As soon as he limits EMI radiation in one spectrum, it’ll pop up elsewhere.
Sitting on the roof of OutBack’s new Arlington building are solar panels that can generate 8,000 watts of electricity, which gets used throughout its R&D areas.
Dixon said OutBack built its reputation on “microgrids” that serve remote outposts and Third World villages, even ships and tanks.
Inslee said he likes the idea that the technology used to electrify far-flung corners of the world is coming back to its source.
“Clean energy is an area where Washington state can and should and will lead,” the governor said.
Inslee said it’s a moral imperative to use green technology to counter the wildfires, shrinking snowpack and other effects the state is feeling because of climate change.
“You have a moral success story in Arlington to support a sustainable climate,” Inslee said. “People don’t associate Washington state with solar energy, not yet, but they will.”
Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102; firstname.lastname@example.org.