Job seekers will find more than a Rocky Mountain high if they start searching for work in Colorado: They're likely to feel a green job high, as 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 Corp.
"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," said Tom Clark, executive vice president of the Metro Denver EDC.
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 that 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.
Also in 2010, 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.
Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc. (RES Americas), which develops, constructs, owns and operates renewable energy projects across North America, started Colorado's energy rush, moving 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 of human resources for RES Americas.
A big boost to green tech education came about when Ecotech Institute, the nation's first and only college entirely dedicated to renewable energy and sustainable design, chose Colorado for its flagship campus. 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.
"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."
In fact, clean technology was the best thing Colorado had going for it in 2010, from an employment perspective. It was the only sector within the state to grow in 2010, with 1,600 companies employing over 19,000 workers.