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Ten US States With The Most New Clean Energy Jobs

In honor of Labor Day in the U.S., here's an update on where clean energy jobs are popping up. More than 38,000 U.S. jobs will result from five dozen "clean" energy and transportation projects announced from April-June of this year, spanning energy generation, manufacturing, transmission/smart grid, energy efficiency, and public transportation, according to a report by nonprofit group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). That's up slightly from the same period a year ago (37,400), and triple the job announcements from the first three months of this year (12,000).

Looking only at power generation, job announcements have more than doubled in both the past quarter and past year, to more than 13,000 in 2Q13, according to E2 (the vast amount of them are for solar projects). The big difference has been in projects moving through development and construction and coming into operation. Except California, there are only one or in some cases two projects per state. Four states in E2's top-10 list for 2Q13 have never been there before, while one state makes a return appearance.

E2 tracks each state's new job announcements and recent history via various energy sector publications, media aggregators, and online alerts, all of which pull in reports, corporate statements, and public announcements from national, state, and local sources. The group acknowledges its data collection is not intended to represent the entire national picture, but that multiple sourcing adds a measure of vetting and verification, especially at the local level, explained Judith Albert, executive director, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). Many of the clean energy job announcements are heavily weighted toward construction, by definition a short-term or temporary metric as opposed to operations & maintenance. Albert pointed out, though, that construction is a key U.S. economic contributor, and that project-related construction jobs, and residential solar jobs in particular, have absorbed some of the impact of the housing market crash.

Taking stock of new clean energy jobs is increasingly important with all the money being poured into the sector, and how that's become something of an ideological/political football, noted Albert. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics previously compiled "green goods and services" updates which spanned a very wide range of industries (critics say too broadly), but that program was axed this spring, a casualty of the federal government's sequestration. The Ecotech Institute, Brookings, and Pew all do similar "clean jobs index" tallies. Responding to the Obama administration's grand climate change plan this summer, the National Resources Defense Council (NDRC) proposed new carbon emission standards that it claims will also add 200,000 jobs.

These efforts are important "to bestow reality on what is clean energy & what it means to the overall economy," Albert said. Detailed analyses are performed for fisheries, forestry, and manufacturing sectors, she pointed out -- so why not equal focus on clean energy jobs? "There's an old saying," she said: "You can't manage what you don't measure."

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State: Nevada
Rank: 10
Projects tallied: 3
Clean energy jobs from projects in operation: -
Clean energy jobs from projects in progress: 44
Clean energy jobs from projects announced: 536
Total: 580

Nevada ranked tenth in E2's clean energy jobs announcements for 2Q13. A new battery plant opened by K2 in Henderson is expected to add 200 jobs, while Boulder Solar Power's 350-MW facility is expected to create up to 370 jobs from construction to operation & maintenance. Also, TGP Dixie Development's 70-MW geothermal plant and 230-kV transmission line would create another 166 jobs.

Future green job expansion is likely, as Nevada's major public utility NV Energy plans to shutter over 500-W of coal plants and increase investments in renewable energy. Also, the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians are mapping out 1.5 GW of renewable energy projects, starting with a 250-MW solar farm; last year the tribe received approval for a 350-MW solar farm, the first utility-scale project on American Indian tribal lands. Apple's ~20-MW solar array at a Reno data center amounts to another 100 jobs, while MGM Resorts' planned 6.2-MW rooftop solar project at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas could top 1000 jobs.

Special note: the Geothermal Resources Council (GRC) Annual Meeting and Geothermal Energy Association's (GEA) Geothermal Energy Expo are happening in Las Vegas at the end of this month.

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State: Alaska
Rank: 9
Projects tallied: 1
Clean energy jobs from projects in operation: 612
Clean energy jobs from projects in progress: -
Clean energy jobs from projects announced: -
Total: 612

Alaska has a long way to go to scratch the surface of its renewable energy potential: just 14 MWh of existing generation out of more than 9 million MWh potential. Roughly 32 MW of wind energy was installed in 2012, resulting in about 300 construction jobs, E2 notes. Small hydro also is perhaps Alaska's biggest untapped resource. Pursuing energy & resource development in Alaska is complicated, of course. For renewable energy interests, much of the state's potential is essentially landlocked; there's far more than local populations could use, and with no broad grid infrastructure to manage it or transmission to export it to demand centers that need it. There are efforts ongoing in southeast Alaska to address this, starting with hydropower exported to nearby Canada and through to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) to tap markets across western North America.

More tangibly, E2 cites a $51.5 million additional state commitment to the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation's Home Energy Rebate and Weatherization Program, which will create more than 600 jobs. It also will save residents millions of dollars in heating costs, E2 points out.

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State: Texas
Rank: 8
Projects tallied: 1
Clean energy jobs from projects in operation: -
Clean energy jobs from projects in progress: 2,000
Clean energy jobs from projects announced: -
Total: 2,000

Texas is in a class by itself in terms of wind power: the state has more than 12 GW installed capacity (the entire U.S. has ~60 GW), it added 1.3 GW of new wind capacity in 2012, and wind contributes more than 9 percent of ERCOT's electrical generation. A major new wind turbine test facility is being planned here.

But Texas also has a surging solar sector, with usable land (not just rooftops) that's double the solar potential of any other state. It also has one of the lowest costs for installed solar PV. Solar is particularly well-suited for many rural applications in the state. And the forthcoming Center for Solar Energy at Texas A&M/Central Texas in Killeen will spur up to 2000 new jobs, projects E2.

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State: Missouri
Rank: 7
Projects tallied: 1
Clean energy jobs from projects in operation: -
Clean energy jobs from projects in progress: -
Clean energy jobs from projects announced: 2,750
Total: 2,750

Missouri lands on E2's clean jobs map for the first time -- and its neighbor Kansas as well -- thanks to the proposed $2 billion "Grain Belt Express Clean Line" HVDC transmission line upgrade project, which will stretch across the two states (and potentially into Illinois and Indiana) to pipe up to 3.5 GW of renewable power. It's currently in early development facing several years of approval; construction is planned to start in 2016 with commercial operation in 2018. Estimates are for 5,000 construction jobs to build the transmission line and wind farms, and another 500 permanent jobs for operations & maintenance; jobs also could be generated if manufacturing is built out for turbines and towers and associated gear.

At a smaller scale, Kansas City recently committed to install solar PV at dozens of municipal buildings. That could make it one of the solar-friendliest cities in the entire Midwest.

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State: Kansas
Rank: 6
Projects tallied: 2
Clean energy jobs from projects in operation: -
Clean energy jobs from projects in progress: -
Clean energy jobs from projects announced: 2,758
Total: 2,758

Kansas is another state where wind energy has taken hold. Roughly 1,000 jobs have been announced in that sector since 2012. Most recently, in addition to the aforementioned HVDC transmission deal, E2 cites 30 jobs added by Siemens at its wind nacelle manufacturing plant in Hutchinson, Kansas (presumably to fulfill a new batch of turbine orders) and eight jobs from Nordex in support of a 70-MW wind farm.

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State: Oregon
Rank: 5
Projects tallied: 2
Clean energy jobs from projects in operation: -
Clean energy jobs from projects in progress: 3,067
Clean energy jobs from projects announced: -
Total: 3,067

In Oregon, E2 points more toward the state's "clean transportation" efforts, which include the TriMet light rail project (2700 jobs) and a planned Advanced Transportation & Technology Center at the Linn Benton Community College. Energy efficiency is also in the spotlight, with a "Cool Schools" initiative to offer low-interest loans that should create more than 400 jobs.

On the renewable energy generation front, it's a mixed bag for Oregon. Invenergy and Caithness are developing large wind farms here, and the state is at the forefront of U.S. offshore wind development efforts. Meanwhile, Oregon State is establishing a wave energy test center. And a proposed removal of hydro restrictions is parked in committee.

On the solar side, Oregon arguably isn't seeing as much large-scale solar adoption as it could, though smaller-scale solar energy examples abound. and it's also in the spotlight for domestic solar energy attrition, with recent cutbacks at SolarWorld, Solopower, Sanyo Solar.

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State: Illinois
Rank: 4
Projects tallied: 2
Clean energy jobs from projects in operation: 2,700
Clean energy jobs from projects in progress: -
Clean energy jobs from projects announced: 700
Total: 3,400

Illinois, which returns to the E2 top-10 list, has added hundreds of jobs for electric car manufacturing over the past year and a half, notes E2. The City of Chicago's building retrofit efforts could create another 2,000 jobs and save $35 million annually. And ComEd's planned smart grid/smart meters and transmission improvements could create more than 3,400 jobs throughout the state.

Most Illinois residents want to see more renewable energy, and the state is trying to improve its RPS laws to accommodate more purchases. The state has significantly hiked its projected annual green power usage, now sourcing nearly a third of its electricity use from wind energy. Illinois is ranked fourth in the country for wind installed capacity (3.6 GW).

On the solar side, Exelon City Solar, on a 41-acre brownfield in Chicago's West Pullman neighborhood, is among the biggest urban solar power plants in the country. And Invenergy has a fairly large solar project (20 MW) near Chicago, which came online last year. (Want more info on solar energy in Illinois, and the entire U.S.? Join us in Chicago Oct. 21-24 for Solar Power International.)

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State: Maryland
Rank: 3
Projects tallied: 2
Clean energy jobs from projects in operation: -
Clean energy jobs from projects in progress: -
Clean energy jobs from projects announced: 4,400
Total: 4,400

Two things stood out for E2 in Maryland's clean jobs profile in 2Q13. First is a $2.6 billion expansion to Baltimore's light rail Red Line, aiming to reduce both traffic and carbon pollution -- and create 4,200 construction jobs by 2021. Meanwhile, EcoCorp's expansion of biogas facilities to convert agricultural waste into methane gas would translate into 200 more jobs.

Maryland's strong policy support has also put it among the most solar-friendly states in the country, including 2,000 solar jobs since 2007 and 400 in the past two years.

The state also is moving to the forefront of the U.S. onshore wind race, with an expected auction of hundreds of megawatts of wind lease areas within the next few months.

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State: Hawaii
Rank: 2
Projects tallied: 1
Clean energy jobs from projects in operation: -
Clean energy jobs from projects in progress: -
Clean energy jobs from projects announced: 5,000
Total: 5,000

Hawaii is uniquely positioned to adopt renewable energy, with multiple abundant resources that can already compete against high energy costs, and the country's most aggressive goals: generate 40 percent clean energy, plus reduce energy usage by 30 percent, by 2030.

Toward the latter end, E2 report calls out a $300 million government initiative to upgrade government buildings with energy efficiency improvements at government buildings, adding new appliances, lighting, and air conditioning at airports, universities, prisons, and wastewater treatment facilities, potentially adding 5,000 jobs.

In renewable energy news, SolarCity broke ground in May on the first phase of one of its SolarStrong projects, the 24-MW solar PV site for 6,500 military family residences at Ohana Military Communities. In June Hawaiian Electric (HECO) sought regulatory permission to negotiate PPAs with five projects (wind and solar) across Oahu totaling 64 MW, plus allow resubmissions for another 20 projects. In July HECO submitted its Integrated Resource Planning Report and Five-Year Action Plans, with deactivations and upgrades of existing facilities and fast-tracking utility-scale renewable energy projects and smart grids.

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State: California
Rank: 1
Projects tallied: 12
Clean energy jobs from projects in operation: 4,383
Clean energy jobs from projects in progress: 1,050
Clean energy jobs from projects announced: 3,736
Total: 9,169

Is there any surprise who's number one in clean energy jobs? California had far and away the most project announcements (12) in 2Q13 spanning both clean energy and clean transportation, which could end up creating more than 9,000 jobs. Half of them come from a June announcement by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for 600 MW of residential solar. The rest came from other project announcements spanning wind, solar (commercial and utility-scale), biofuels, electric buses, and light rail projects. (Elon Musk's Hyperloop concept doesn't count...yet.)

Lead image: Invisible builder in a helmet on a green background, via Shutterstock

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Jim is Contributing Editor for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, covering the solar and wind beats. He previously was associate editor for Solid State Technology and Photovoltaics World, and has covered semiconductor manufacturing and related industries, ...

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