Colorado leads renewable energy growth, employment

Colorado leads renewable energy growth, employmentColorado is leading the nation in clean technology job growth with several new wind and solar energy companies relocating to and expanding in the state.

President Barack Obama renewed his call for economic growth through investment in renewable energy resource development last week. While he lauded the economic benefits of going green, Colorado employees enjoyed new work in the clean tech sector, according to information released by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. Employment in Colorado’s clean technology sector grew by 32.7 percent between 2005 and 2010.

More than 20 solar and wind companies have announced they would open or expand offices in Colorado within the last two years, according to the release.

“Obviously business follows public policy,” said Janet Fritz, spokeswoman for the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. “The passage last year of new clean energy standards will help. It shows companies that there is demand here for clean energy.”

The state has been working to lure clean technology companies into the state and has tried to promote an atmosphere where the companies will feel welcome and able to thrive, Fritz said.

It doesn’t hurt that Colorado is home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is dedicated to testing and bringing new renewable energy technology to market. The state is also now home to Ecotech Institute, the nation’s first college dedicated entirely to renewable energy and sustainable design.

Probably the biggest boon for the renewable energy industry in Colorado came when Vestas, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of wind turbines, moved four manufacturing facilities into the state. The company is expected to employ more than 2,500 people in Colorado by the end of the year.

“That really helped to catalyze growth in clean tech,” Fritz said. “It began to attract suppliers.”

As some big names in wind and solar like Vestas and Abound Solar have gathered in Colorado, and renewable energy funding companies like Main Street Power have launched here, community economic developers like Fritz are seeing the potential for Colorado to become a hub for clean technology companies.

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 technology jobs, executive vice president of the economic development corporation Tom Clark was quoted in the release. “And we’re still growing and adding jobs.”