Mining solar power in Oregon

BEND, Ore.- Gregg Patterson is used to working for a company experiencing exponential growth. What he isn’t accustomed to, Patterson said, is being apart from his family.

Patterson, who has been CEO at Bend-based solar power equipment firm PV Powered Inc. for about six months, still lives in the Portland area. He splits time every week between Central Oregon, the Willamette Valley and wherever his business travels take him that particular week.

“It is tough,” said Patterson, who was vice president and general manager at Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Imaging and Printing Group before joining PV Powered. “But my wife and I decided that this was the right thing to do.”

PV Powered makes solar power inverters, devices that convert the electricity generated from solar panels into a form that can be transmitted through the overall power grid.

For Patterson, a strong believer in renewable energy, the opportunity to work at PV – and in Bend – was enticing.

“The question is, ‘How can we become the competency center for renewable energy (in Central Oregon)?” he said. “People move here because they really value the environment, like moths flying to a light. We can be the (renewable energy) net exporter to the world.”

Recent high energy prices have spurred nationwide interest in renewable power production such as solar, and PV Powered experienced 150 percent growth in revenue last year compared with 2005, Patterson said.

The company isn’t slowing down. In addition to the 5,200-watt residential inverters PV Powered currently carries, the company also has developed 30,000-watt versions that are intended for small- to medium-size business, Patterson said.

PV Powered officials, including Patterson, are currently making regular trips to California to push that product.

“We’ll be bringing bigger and bigger products,” he said. “By 2008, we’ll have inverters all the way up to 500,000 watts.”

PV Powered Inc. employed 26 people six months ago, and now employs 38.

“We’re growing fast, and we plan on having triple-digit growth for the next few years. I mean, we won’t be disappointed with double-digit growth, but the market is there to support triple-digit growth.”

PV Powered Inc. has an office in California and has a strategy to gain a foothold in that state, move throughout the U.S., and then win over the world, Patterson said.

“We see a lot of market opportunities in Asia … especially in South Asia. So going into 2008, 2009, we’ll really be focusing on how to go about targeting the offshore market.”

Patterson said, as with many other businesses in Central Oregon, PV Powered may soon have trouble finding labor.

“I think we’re about to start struggling with that. So far, it’s been great. There’s a lot of residual talent here, people who have moved to Central Oregon for lifestyle reasons, but as we look for more engineers, it’s likely we’ll see more of a challenge.”

Patterson said the solar power market is dominated by California due to its progressive outlook and development tax incentives policy, but that a dramatic shift is taking place in Oregon and Washington.

“And that seems reasonable,” he said, “with the fact that we have to deal with how hard global warming will hit us. So we’re very bullish about the U.S. market.”

Patterson’s optimism for PV Powered Inc. is rooted in the company’s product design and cost.

“We have much fewer parts in our inverters, so we feel our product reliability will be ahead of the pack because there are fewer moving parts,” he said. “We also feel that fewer parts allow us to offer products at a more reasonable price.”

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Members of Gravitics' team and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen stand in front of a mockup of a space module interior on Thursday, August 17, 2023 at Gravitics' Marysville facility. Left to right: Mark Tiner, government affairs representative; Jiral Shah, business development; U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen; Mike DeRosa, marketing; Scott Macklin, lead engineer. (Gravitics.)
Marysville startup prepares for space — the financial frontier

Gravitics is building space station module prototypes to one day house space travelers and researchers.

Orca Mobility designer Mike Lowell, left, and CEO Bill Messing at their office on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could a Granite Falls startup’s three-wheeler revolutionize delivery?

Orca Mobility’s battery-powered, three-wheel truck is built on a motorcycle frame. Now, they aim to make it self-driving.

Catherine Robinweiler leads the class during a lab session at Edmonds College on April 29, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Grant aids apprenticeship program in Mukilteo and elsewhere

A $5.6 million U.S. Department of Labor grant will boost apprenticeships for special education teachers and nurses.

Peoples Bank is placing piggy banks with $30 around Washington starting Aug. 1.
(Peoples Bank)
Peoples Bank grant program seeks proposals from nonprofits

Peoples Bank offers up to $35,000 in Impact Grants aimed at helping communities. Applications due Sept. 15.

Workers build the first all-electric commuter plane, the Eviation Alice, at Eviation's plant on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington’s Eviation selects Seattle firm to configure production plane

TLG Aerospace chosen to configure Eviation Aircraft’s all-electric commuter plane for mass production.

Jim Simpson leans on Blue Ray III, one of his designs, in his shop on Friday, August 25, 2023, in Clinton, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Whidbey Island master mechanic building dream car from “Speed Racer”

Jim Simpson, 68, of Clinton, is using his knowledge of sports cars to assemble his own Mach Five.

Yansi De La Cruz molds a cheese mixture into bone shapes at Himalayan Dog Chew on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Give a dog a bone? How about a hard cheese chew from Arlington instead!

Launched from a kitchen table in 2003, Himalayan Pet Supply now employs 160 workers at its new Arlington factory.

Inside the new Boeing 737 simulator at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
New Boeing 737 simulator takes ‘flight’ in Mukilteo

Pilots can test their flying skills or up their game at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo.

An Amazon worker transfers and organizes items at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amazon cuts ribbon on colossal $355M fulfillment center in Arlington

At 2.8 million square feet, the facility is the largest of its kind in Washington. It can hold 40 million “units” of inventory.

A computer rendering of the North Creek Commerce Center industrial park in development at 18712 Bothell-Everett Highway. (Kidder Mathews)
Developer breaks ground on new Bothell industrial park

The North Creek Commerce Center on Bothell Everett Highway will provide warehouse and office space in three buildings.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Funko president, Brian Mariotti is excited about the growth that has led his company to need a 62,000 square foot facility in Lynnwood.
Photo Taken: 102312
Former Funko CEO resigns from the Everett company

Brian Mariotti resigned Sept. 1, six weeks after announcing he was taking a six-month sabbatical from the company.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Paper or plastic? Snohomish County may require businesses to take cash

County Council member Nate Nehring proposed an ordinance to ban cashless sales under $200. He hopes cities will follow suit.