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: green building, wind, biofuel, solar, energy efficiency, environmental remediation.

The Pew Charitable Trusts “Clean Energy Economy Report“ found that in 2007 Illinois reported 2,176 cleantech businesses that provided 28,395 green jobs. Over the decade 1998-2007 employment in the Illinois cleantech sector dropped by 2.5%, which was the same result for the overall employment figures, which also shrank by 2.5% over the same period. Over the two year period (2006-2008) Illinois saw around $109 million of venture capital invested in its cleantech sector.

In 2010 the greater Chicago metro area that includes the cities of Joliet and Naperville placed in ninth place in Clean Edge’s Top 15 Metro Areas for cleantech job activity.

Energy Background in Illinois

Illinois is one of the top electricity-generating states in the nation and a leading net exporter of electricity to other states. Unfortunately for human health and our planets well being, most of this electricity is still being generated in scores of polluting coal plants and in six nuclear power plants. Up until quite recently the state got almost all of its electricity from either coal or nuclear power — with 48% of its electricity from coal and 49% from nuclear.

In August 2007, Illinois adopted a statewide renewable energy standard requiring internal production of 25% of power generation from renewable sources by 2025 with 75% of that production generated by wind, solar, biomass, and existing hydroelectric power. This mandate is spurring development of renewable energy in the state.

The law also includes an energy efficiency portfolio standard that requires utilities to implement cost-effective energy efficiency measures to reduce electric usage by 2% of demand by 2015.

Environmental Remediation Jobs in Illinois

A new Ceres report finds that implementing two new air pollution rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency will create 1.5 million jobs over the next five years. The power sector will invest almost $200 billion total in capital improvements over the next five years. Illinois is among the states that is expected to see most new employment in environmental remediation work related to the new clean air standards. The report estimates that the state will see around 123 thousand new green collar jobs as a result of implementing these new measures.

Biofuel Energy Jobs in Illinois

Illinois lies square and center in the nations corn belt and as a result the state is home to some of the most extensive wind and biomass resources in the nation. Illinois is the third largest ethanol producing state in the nation. Ethanol plants in Decatur and Peoria alone produce more than 550 million gallons per year. According to the USDA Biofuels Strategic Production Report in 2010 Illinois was the 3rd largest ethanol producing state in the country with over one billion gallons of capacity.

The state ranked second in the nation in overall biomass resources in 2007, with 28,284,000 tons available per year. Accordingly, the state’s crop residue resources were 19,593,000 tons per year, with methane from landfills aggregating 974,000 tons per year in 2007. Each of these categories was ranked second, nationally.

Wind Energy Jobs in Illinois

Though the state lagged behind other states in developing its wind resources it is now adding capacity at a high rate. In fact, Illinois ranked second in the country in 2010 for most new wind added. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Illinois now supplies 2% of its electricity needs from wind energy. Total direct and indirect jobs supported in 2010: 5,000-10,000.

The state now ranks in sixth place nationally for overall installed wind capacity, with a cumulative capacity that stands at 2,286 MW, 498 MW being added in 2010, 239 MW added so far this year, an additional 501 MW of new capacity under construction, and 16,284 MW of new wind capacity in projects that are in the planning and permitting phase.

The wind energy supply chain in Illinois comprises of over 100 companies. Chicago is home to at least 13 global or U.S. headquarters of major wind power companies (Environmental Law & Policy Center). Illinois has three major wind industry manufacturers in state, including tower manufacturer Trinity Structural Towers and gearbox manufacturer Winergy. This has enabled many smaller manufacturers to get involved in the wind energy supply chain. Currently there are an estimated 28 facilities in Illinois that manufacture components for the wind energy industry.

Over one thousand workers in Illinois are employed in the wind energy manufacturing sector.

Solar Energy Jobs in Illinois

According to a study by the Solar Foundation, Illinois has about 530 solar-related jobs with a projected growth to nearly 700 jobs by 2011. The state is lagging behind neighboring states including Indiana in this renewable energy sector.

Solar energy jobs will be on the increase as a result of Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn announcing an over $4 million stimulus grant award for an up to 62 Megawatt (MW) Rockford Solar Project, the largest photovoltaic (PV) solar development in the Midwest and one of the largest in the United States. The project will create hundreds of new green jobs. House Bill 6202 has been signed into law, and it establishes interim solar targets to help Illinois successfully scale up to reach the state’s solar renewable portfolio standard of 6% by 2015. The new law marks a landmark achievement for solar energy in Illinois and will create over 5,000 solar panel installation, manufacturing, and maintenance jobs and significantly reduce Illinois’ carbon footprint. The Rockford Solar Project not only creates jobs in construction, installation and servicing but also countless additional jobs are generated in the sale and marketing of green power.

Green Building and Energy Efficiency Jobs in Illinois

Chicago is recognized as being at the hub of the green building movement in the U.S. and has some well known examples of trend setting buildings that lead in energy efficiency, resource use and waste reduction, water usage reduction and storm runoff reduction. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) reports that (as of 2011) the city of Chicago has the highest number of square feet of LEED certified green building projects nationally with 71 million square feet.

Energy retrofits and waste reduction programs not only save energy, reduce global warming emissions, and put more money in peoples pockets that they have to spend on other goods and services, but these programs also create desperately needed jobs in the depressed construction sector, providing employment opportunities for workers in the various trades. Green Collar Chicago has estimated that just for the Chicago area around 3,000 new jobs will be created by energy retrofits, waste reduction between 21010 and 2015.

High Speed Rail Jobs in Illinois

Chicago has long been the major transportation and commercial hub of the Midwest region of the country and it is making the investments its rail network that will help to ensure that this continues in the future.
The central location of the state makes it a natural transportation route for east-west and north-south travel across the country and the relatively flat terrain is ideal for high speed rail.

Big capital improvements to both passenger and freight rail are also underway in Illinois. High-speed rail projects in the state have received federal stimulus funding with Chicago acting as the hub of a network. Other funding has targeted the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program (CREATE), which hopes to solve the major problems associated with rail traffic in the Chicago area.

The state has received over one billion dollars in federal stimulus funds to help kick start high speed rail development and construction has begun on the Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail corridor. These improvements will cut down rail travel time between the two big cites by about an hour and are creating thousands of desperately needed jobs right now; the project is expected to create 6,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Illinois Careers in Sustainability

Sustainability is evolving and becoming more mainstream. As this occurs, it is increasingly becoming a part of business strategy within large corporations. This is particularly true in resource intensive industries and companies with workforces of more than 10,000. Colleges and universities have also increased their hiring of sustainability staff in the last year; especially in schools with enrollment of 10,000 or more and in research institutions.

Generally speaking there is more work in the sustainability field for those living in areas that are home to more large company headquarters and more large universities. As a result those living in Illinois should see a significant increase in the number of sustainability opportunities. In fact, Illinois is home to 186 Fortune 1000 companies and 186 colleges and universities. It has five research universities.

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