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: biofuel, wind, solar, smart grid, energy efficiency, sustainability.

Minnesota is a big wind energy state, especially in relative terms. It gets almost 10% of its electric power from the wind and the state has big untapped wind resources. It is also a big bioenergy state and actively supports this sector of its economy. The state is also recognized as a leader in pursuing energy efficiency and in developing the smart grid as well.

The Pew Center of The States Clean Economy Report found that in 2007 Minnesota had 1,206 cleantech businesses and that the state had 19,994 green jobs. Its green sector grew 11.9% for the decade of 1998-2007 compared with 1.9% for the overall economy. Between 2006 and 2008 the state saw nearly $50 million of venture capital invested in its cleantech economy.

Renewable Energy Jobs in Minnesota

Minnesota made into the top ten — in eighth place — in Clean Edge’s second annual U.S. Clean Energy Leadership Index, which is an analysis and ranking of how all 50 states, and the individuals, businesses, and organizations that operate there, compare across the clean-energy spectrum, based on analysis and ranking of how all 50 states, and the individuals, businesses, and organizations that operate there, compare across the clean-energy spectrum.

In 2009 the state had 116 renewable energy companies and employed 2,848 people in renewable energy direct and indirect jobs. In 2010 from another source it is estimated that there were between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs directly or indirectly tied to wind energy in the state.

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy, Inc., the state’s largest utility and one of the nation’s largest utilities, must derive 30% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020. The state’s Renewable Energy Standard also requires that other electric utilities supply 12% of energy for Minnesota consumers from renewable sources by 2012, 20% by 2020, and 25% by 2025.

Minnesota has been diligent in providing tax incentives, loans, and grants that help support its ranking in the top five ethanol-producing states and the top ten biodiesel-producing states in the country. The state has 3 biomass plants and plans for two cellulosic ethanol plants have been announced which would each use forestry residues as feedstock. A typical 30 MW biopower plant employs about 120 workers (in plant and outside). In addition Minnesota is home to 19 operating bioethanol facilities and 3 biodiesel facilities.

Minnesota recently approved the construction of a $6.1 million photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing plant in Mountain Iron at a former mining dump site. The plant will initially produce approximately 2 MW of solar modules per year with the capability to expand to 10 MW per year. Construction began in September 2010.

By 2010, Minnesota had recorded 606 PV installations with a total capacity of four MW, which is – nearly double the capacity in 2009 according to OES.

Minnesota houses two major original equipment manufacturer (OEM) wind facilities. Approximately 9.4% of Minnesota’s electric power was provided by wind in 2009; enough electricity to power the equivalent of 630,000 homes. The state added an additional 396 MW of wind-generating capacity in 2010 and it ranked in fourth place among all states for total installed capacity, according to a new report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). It also ranked fifth in terms of the most new wind capacity installed in 2010. As of 2010 the state had 2,192 megawatts of total wind energy capacity installed.

According to the National Renewable Energy Lab, Minnesota has the resources to provide nearly 25 times the state’s current electricity needs.

Energy Efficiency and Smart Grid Jobs in Minnesota

In spite of a general weakness in new construction due to the global recession, one building-related field has continued to grow: retrofits tied to improving the efficiency of facilities. Investments in energy efficiency by government and the business sector is starting to skyrocket which mean there will be many more jobs in the energy efficiency sector over the next few years.

Minnesota ranked in eighth place of the top states in the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy 2010 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. Minnesota should expect to see a continuation of energy efficiency job growth over the next few years.

In 2010, the Minnesota Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps to weatherize low income housing was recognized by USDOE for outstanding performance in the number of low-income homes it has weatherized using ARRA funds. Minnesota was recognized as a national leader in weatherization and a role model for other states.

Xcel Energy the big Minnesota based utility is running one of the nation’s preeminent smart grid pilot projects down in Boulder Colorado, where it also operates. The company has wired up the city in its SmartGridCity project from which it hopes to gain expertise and experience operating a smart grid and discover what pitfalls to avoid and opportunities that can be gained.

Many Minnesota companies are seizing opportunities already—and are poised to grow their businesses even more as smart grid grows. The University of Minnesota is becoming known for its research into this area, which promises to turn into a one trillion dollar remaking and renovation of the nation’s current antiquated grid. The University is working with public and private industry partners to help position Minnesota as a leader in the development and deployment of smart grid technologies, products and services.

Minnesota 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 Minnesota should see a significant increase in the number of sustainability opportunities. In fact, Minnesota is home to 32 Fortune 1000 companies and 113 colleges and universities. It has one research university.

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