As the nation welcomed news that the economy added more than 200,000 jobs last month, and President Obama renewed his call for pursuing clean energy sources to break the United States’ dependence on foreign oil while creating new jobs for Americans, skeptics were asking if investing in clean energy would actually help our nation’s economy.
For companies, employees, and officials in Colorado, the answer is a resounding yes.
Employment in Colorado’s clean-tech industry increased 32.7 percent between 2005 and 2010, compared with a 10 percent increase at the national level, according to a 2011 study by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation (Metro Denver EDC).
Clean technology was the only sector within the state to grow in 2010, with 1,600 companies employing over 19,000 workers.
“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.”
A Cluster Is Born
In the past two years, more than 20 solar and wind companies have announced they would expand or relocate to Colorado.
The largest came when Vestas, the world’s leading manufacturer of wind turbines, announced it would invest more than $1 billion at four manufacturing plants in Colorado. Total employment in the state is expected to reach 2,500 workers by full operation.
“While Colorado is one of the top states in the U.S. for manufacturing wind turbines, we’re still not the largest,” Clark said. “However, Vestas is gaining momentum in North America with many new contracts and all of that work will be happening in Colorado.”
According to Clark, Vestas’ announcement caused a ripple effect in the state with suppliers and wind manufacturers and developers looking to the region as a place for expansion and relocation.
In 2010 alone, 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.
But it’s not Vestas alone that’s bringing in companies and investments to the state.
Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. (RES Americas), which develops, constructs owns and operates renewable energy projects across North America, moved its headquarters to Colorado in 2008.
“RES Americas chose Colorado as its headquarters namely for the quality of students studying renewable energy, legislative support of renewable energy, and access to the National Wind Technology Center,” said Doug Nieb, vice-president, human resources of RES Americas. “Colorado is becoming one of the best places that supports and encourages the growth of renewable energy in this country.”
The National Wind Technology Center is part of NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development.
College Dedicated Entirely to Renewable Energy
While NREL is a great asset for companies to have in their backyards, it was also one of the reasons 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.
In addition, Ecotech has partnered with companies in Colorado like RES Americas to help with meeting future workforce needs.
“RES Americas is very excited to partner with Ecotech Institute as it offers excellent training for students who want to get into the renewable energy industry,” said Nieb.
For more information on how Colorado is a hub for clean-tech activity, visit www.cleantechhub.org.
CONTACT: Janet Fritz, Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, +1-303-475-4194
Web Site: http://www.cleantechhub.org
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