Is clean energy helping the nation recover from the great recession? For employers, employees and local government officials in Colorado, the answer is a resounding yes!
Employment in Colorado's clean-tech industry increased 32.7% between 2005 and 2010, compared with a 10% increase at the national level, according to a 2011 study by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation.
"Colorado ranks fourth nationally in the total number of clean-energy jobs and we're still growing and adding jobs," said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver EDC. "With the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in our backyard, the nation's second-highest renewable energy standard and copious amounts of wind and sunshine, our region truly has become a hub for clean-technology."
Clean technology was the only sector within the state to grow in 2010, with 1,600 companies employing over 19,000 workers. In the past two years, more than 20 solar and wind companies have announced they would expand or relocate to Colorado.
Vestas, the world's leading wind turbine manufacturer, announced it will invest $1 billion at four manufacturing facilities in Colorado, bringing its total workforce there to 2,500. Vestas, despite a loss in its first fiscal quarter, is well positioned for growth, having received 3 orders in the past 4 weeks for a total of over 200 large turbines for projects in Kansas, California and Canada.
Vestas is just one of many examples of clean technology companies in Colorado. Another is RES Americas, which develops, constructs owns and operates renewable energy projects across North America, moved its headquarters to Colorado in 2008. Aluwind, a supplier to Vestas, Juwi, a German-based renewable energy company and REpower Systems, a leading turbine producer in Germany, all moved their headquarters to Colorado.
Colorado has the unique advantage of being host to The National Wind Technology Center, a part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.
Education is also playing a central role in helping Colorado become a leader in clean technology. Ecotech Institute, the nation's first and only college entirely dedicated to renewable energy and sustainable design, chose Colorado last year for its flagship campus.
"Ecotech Institute chose to launch its first location in Colorado for many reasons, including its location, entrepreneurial culture, and passion for green job growth," said Michael Seifert, president of Ecotech Institute. "Colorado's culture, natural beauty and green-leaning attitude fosters greener lifestyles, education and careers."
Since last July, 230 students have enrolled in two-year programs for wind and solar energy technology, electrical engineering technology, energy efficiency, environmental technology and general renewable energy training.
Colorado seems to have found a winning combination of private enterprise, local and federal government programs and educational organizations. Will other states follow?
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