U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici spent a portion of Earth Day taking a tour of A&R Solar, a Tualatin company that installs eco-friendly solar panels on homes and businesses.
The company started in Seattle in 2007, creating a separate Oregon location in Tualatin in 2015.
Michael McCord, general manager for A&R Solar, said he was excited to have the representative touring his facility as Mark Farrell, an A&R Solar sales manager, explained the company to the Democratic representative.
He told her the company has about 100 employees and had sales last year totaling $32 million.
About six years ago, Farrell said the company expanded into the electric battery sector, thinking it would become about 10% of the company's business. However, demand has quickly grown to the point it makes up about 30%.
"When it comes to battery storage, people are interested. They really want to know how this works," said Farrell.
A&R has completed projects that include everything from installing solar panels on a pole barn to schools. They are responsible for installing an array of their panels atop Beaverton's Arts & Communication Magnet Academy as well as the new Beaverton Public Safety Center.
Both Tualatin High School and the future Art Rutkin Elementary School will soon have solar panels installed by the company as well.
Farrell said 15 years ago, schools were demonstrating how solar panels could work on a building. Today, it's a given that the structures will contain some type of solar energy products.
"A certain percentage of (a) construction budget has to go toward renewable energy and just about everyone does solar," he said. "But these days, these schools are seeing such a benefit from solar because the price has come down so much, they're like 'why don't we just (install more)' and that is typically what's happening."
The problem at the moment, he explained to Bonamici during the visit Friday, April 22, is that the U.S. Commerce Department has taken up a complaint involving a small solar manufacturer in California that reportedly failed to identify certain Chinese components in its solar panels. That could result in expansive retroactive tariffs which has caused many solar companies to place projects on hold in anticipation for what the commerce department might do.
"From our point of view, it's a huge problem and it's nationwide," said Farrell.
Bonamici said her office would look into the issue, adding that Congress is trying to get a bipartisan act passed that would incentivize the manufacturing of components in the United States for solar and other industry products.
"We fully support U.S. manufacturing," said Farrell.
At the end of Farrell's presentation, Bonamici received a tour of the Tualatin facility that included large batteries and solar panels.
"I thought it was great. I learned a lot about what they're doing here and what a great time to be here on Earth Day," Bonamici said after the tour.
Bonamici was also one of the lawmakers on hand to greet President Joe Biden at Portland International Airport during a short stop on Thursday, April 21.
"It was really great to have him here, and it's really to focus on the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed," she said, adding that the package approved in late 2021 will benefit roads, bridges, broadband wireless, transit and more.
While with the president, Bonamici said she focused her comments on the workforce portion of those ambitious projects "because we need people to do all of these jobs." That included touting Oregon Tradeswomen, an organization that supports women in the skilled trades.
Bonamici finished her Earth Day activities with a visit to Tualatin High School, where she was expected to meet the Tualatin High School Climate Action Club to discuss sustainable climate action goals. Her plans also included hearing about students' advocacy work with the Tigard-Tualatin School District's board on climate issues.
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