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.”