One wouldn’t normally think a visit to Texas would reveal much about the Pacific Northwest. At least I didn’t until I visited Austin for a cross-renewables expo of cleantech companies from around the world, where I learned a lot about what’s happening on the national scene. Oddly though, I walked away thinking one thing – “The Northwest is doing A LOT.”
In fact, the trip back from Austin could’ve been a cleantech expo in itself – I shared a cab to the airport with employees of Seattle-based 3TIER and Bellingham’s Alpha Energy, chatted at the boarding gate with a fellow from Issaquah’s NAES, sat on the plane next to a board member of the National Hydropower Association and rode the escalator with a reporter from a leading renewable energy trade publication. And that was just one flight to Seattle…who knows what a flight back to Portland or Spokane might’ve looked like – cleantech activity is happening everywhere in the Northwest.
Why here? Because our region has all the pieces of the puzzle – innovators and brains; favorable policy and leaders that champion clean energy; and to some extent, the money.
Brainpower and innovative spirit is heavy throughout the Northwest. The University of Washington’s TechTransfer and Washington State University lead the academic charge in Washington, while the Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) is undertaking groundbreaking cleantech initiatives too (geothermal anyone?). Or what about the Clean Tech Open, an incubator business competition showcasing the region’s most promising cleantech ideas?
The policy is in place and continuing to improve. For example, Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program has enabled several companies’ growth and Idaho built the Renewable Energy Enterprise Zone Program to foster expansion.
Our policy leaders are at the forefront nationally – Washington Senator Maria Cantwell is making a splash with her CLEAR Act proposal, while Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden recently went to battle with the Department of Defense to ensure big wind energy will be a reality.
And what about financing? Sure, money towards cleantech could be flowing more freely everywhere throughout the US, but the Northwest boasts respectable firms like Cascadia Capital, OVP Venture Partners and the Northwest Energy Angels. The interest is there, and increasingly, so are the dollars.
Okay, so I didn’t hear about all these pieces of the Northwest cleantech puzzle – innovators, policy and money – only on my plane ride back from Austin, but that flight did pleasantly remind me: the Northwest is doing A LOT. Keep the progress coming…