by Chris de Morsella, Green Economy Post Chris is the co-editor of The Green Executive Recruiter Directory. Follow Chris on Twitter @greeneconpost

Major Green Industries with a significant presence in the state are: Solar, Wind, Biofuel, Smart Grid, Fuel Cells, Hydro, geothermal, Green Building and Energy Efficiency.

Colorado has a strong presence in solar, wind and biofuel renewable energy as well as a pretty well developed general green jobs market that have been experiencing robust growth even in a very difficult economy. The Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. reports that employment in the cleantech sector grew by 32.7 percent between 2005 and last year, which is more than triple the increase nationally. According to a study conducted by green job search engine in 2010, Colorado is the fifth top state hiring for green jobs.  Being the only sector that experienced growth in 2010, with 1,600 companies employing more than 19,000 workers, cleantech is a bright spot in the Colorado jobs market.

According to the Pew Center of The States Clean Economy Report (227) Colorado had 1,778 cleantech businesses and over 17,000 green jobs. It experienced a robust green job growth of 18.2% on average for the decade (1998-2007) compared with an 8.2% growth rate in the general economy. In the biennial period 2006-2008 Colorado had more than $600 million of Venture Capital invested in the cleantech / green economy sectors. Colorado is also listed in fifth place in Clean Edge’s second annual U.S. Clean Energy Leadership Index that analyzes and ranks how all fifty states compare across the clean-energy spectrum.

In 2007 Colorado had around a 6% share of the U.S. wind market; nearly 6% of the national photovoltaics market, and about 5% of the U.S. biofuels market. For comparisons sake the size of the state’s economy overall is about 1.7% of the U.S. national GDP. This clearly shows that the wind, solar and biofuel renewable energy sectors are making a larger contribution to the state’s economy than its overall position would indicate.

Colorado is home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), one of the leading research, development and deployment facilities of the Department of Energy on renewable energy and energy efficiency. This leading institution attracts some of the best talent in the country and will help anchor the green economy in the state. The NREL has combined forces with three universities in Colorado to participate in a renewable energy collaboration that has also expanded the renewable energy R&D efforts in the state.

Solar Energy Jobs

According to the National Solar Jobs Census 2010 Colorado is the sixth ranked state in the country for the number of solar jobs and has over 250 operating solar companies that are either local or are national or global solar firms with a strong Colorado presence. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research report that Colorado is the fifth biggest solar market in the U.S. including in number of solar PV installations. Colorado is well positioned to benefit from this renewable energy sectors rapid growth. The U.S. solar power market grew by a record 67% last year, making it the country’s fastest-growing energy sector. Solar PV installations are booming in the state.

Colorado has over 800 MW of solar energy capacity in the development pipeline including: the Alamosa CPV plant which will have a 30MW capacity making it the world’s largest concentrating photovoltaic facility when it is constructed; Abound Solar Manufacturing, LLC has been offered a conditional commitment for a $400 million loan guarantee to manufacture state-of-the-art thin film solar panels at two facilities, one of which will be located in Colorado.

Wind Energy Jobs

In the wind energy sector Colorado ranks in twelfth place nationally for the size of its market and in 2010 it provided employment for 5,000 – 6,000 people in this sector counting direct and indirect wind jobs. The state has managed to attract some major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the wind energy sector, including Vestas Wind Systems which has selected Colorado as a manufacturing hub for its U.S. manufacturing presence with plans to open three additional facilities in the state. Other important wind sector capital equipment suppliers have also announced plans to locate manufacturing and assembly plants in Colorado. Currently there are 16 facilities in Colorado manufacturing for the wind industry. Currently operating and announced wind sector manufacturing is expected to provide 3,000 green jobs and $700 million of investment in wind.

Energy Efficiency

A recent study conducted by Economic Research Associates of energy efficiency and renewable energy as an economic development strategy in Colorado found an energy bill savings of $1.2 billion for Colorado ratepayers, with a net gain of 8,400 jobs.

Other Green Job Sectors Including: Geothermal, Smart Gird, Biofuels and Hydro

Colorado has lots of low temperature hot water geothermal resources that are being used for heating and it also produces equipment, such as power and cooling systems components needed by geothermal projects in other western states.

The smart grid large scale demonstration project in Boulder, Colorado by Xcel Energy is helping Colorado companies position themselves to grab a piece of this huge market as it materializes over the next years.

The micro-hydro sector seems to be gaining traction in this mountainous state. Colorado is estimated to have about 1.4 GW of potential micro-hydro power generation capacity and achieving this goal has received support from the state government.

Colorado has many of the resources to build a strong biofuels industry and it is home to a some growing algal biofuel companies such as Solix BioSystems, a leading provider of integrated solutions and services that enable large scale cultivation of algae; and some major ethanol companies including Biofuel Energy Corporation, headquartered in Denver.

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