Portland Mayor Sam Adams announced today that SolarWorld, a German solar manufacturer that has headquarters and a manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, will be supplying the solar array for the future headquarters of Vestas, a Danish wind turbine manufacturer and developer with a headquarters in Portland.
Gerding Edlen is redeveloping the 102-year-old Meier & Frank Depot building in Portland’s Pearl District and is working toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum certification. It should be done by next spring.
In the meantime I had to wonder: Why can’t the wind-energy company headquarters be powered by wind – and more specifically Vestas wind turbines? I made a couple calls and found a few good answers:
- For one, Vestas only makes giant commercial wind turbines. And apparently, it’s not feasible to put a commercial turbine on top of the 5-story Meier & Frank building: “From base to tip, our turbines can get up to 460 feet tall,” Vestas communications specialist Andrew Longeteig said with a laugh. “If we did, it would probably be the tallest structure in all of Oregon.”
- Even though Vestas has several commercial turbines generating wind power for Portland General Electric, there’s really no way to censure the power going into the Vestas headquarters is actually coming from Vestas wind turbines. As Jon Kaake of ColumbiaGrid told me the other day, once power is on the grid, it’s impossible to tell a wind electron from a coal-fired power electron. They’re all mixed together.
- Paul Kisling, project manager for Gerding Edlen, said his company actually asked Vestas if there were some demonstration wind turbines they could put on the building. Gerding Edlin was part of the project that put wind turbines on Portland’s 12 West, i.e. Indigo Building. They generate enough electricity to power the elevators in the 22-story structure, Kisling said. But it turns out, Vestas doesn’t make any smaller turbine models.
- Wind turbines only make sense on certain buildings in certain places, Kisling said. Like places where there’s wind! The Meier & Frank Building is on the historic register, which would mean another approval for adding turbines to the top.
- There are better incentives for rooftop solar power, Kisling said, and solar panels will produce 12.5 percent of the building’s electricity – enough for top-shelf LEED platinum status.