Texas is a big state in so many ways, including in its growing presence in the national green economy. For example Texas leads the nation in wind energy production and provides 10,000 jobs for its citizens in wind. According to a study conducted by green job search engine GreenJobSpider.com in 2010, Texas was the fifth largest state in the nation for hiring for green jobs.
The Texan economy is also very large and varied giving the state a lot of different strengths that can help it become competitive in several important green economy areas in addition to wind energy. For example Texas is developing an important smart grid cluster in Austin leveraging that cities high tech prowess and startup friendly environment.
Texas had three of its metro areas place in the Clean Edge top 15 list of metro areas with cleantech job activity. These were Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, at 8th place, Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, in 10th place and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, at 13th place.
The Pew Charitable Trusts “Clean Energy Economy Report “ found that in 2007 the state of Texas reported 4,802 clean businesses and provided 55,646 green jobs; 40,617 of these jobs are tied to conservation and pollution mitigation.
Over the decade running from 1998- 2007 clean sector employment grew in the state at a rate of 15.5% versus 6.7% for the general economy as a whole over the same period. Clearly the green economy is an economic locomotive helping to bring prosperity to the state and growing at well over twice the rate as the Texan economy as a whole.
In the two year period of 2006 – 2008 $717 million of new venture capital was invested in cleantech enterprises in Texas, which puts it near the top and well above big states such as New York which by comparison had $209 million.
According to the Brookings Institute Clean Jobs Report, in 2010 Texas had 144,081 clean jobs, which make up 1.3% of all jobs in the state. Texas has seen an increase of 3.2% clean jobs annually since 2003 with a total of 28,887. The estimated median wage in Texas is $35,613, but the median salary for clean economy jobs in the state is $37,926.
Although Texas is not a big geothermal state its suppliers of power and cooling systems components are amongst the suppliers of this type of industrial equipment to the geothermal energy areas located in the Western states. For this reason the state derives some economic benefit from continued growth in that renewable energy sector.
Wind Energy Jobs in Texas
Texas has by far the largest wind market in the nation; if Texas were a country it would be the sixth biggest wind energy country in the world. Texas is home to seven of the nation’s top ten largest wind farms, including all of the top five.
Wind energy was responsible for 7.8% of Texas electricity generation in 2010 and this is expected to continue to rise as more capacity is added to an already substantial base. In fact on March of 2011, Texas passed a major milestone with its installed wind energy capacity surpassing the key 10,000 MW level. Another 12,700 MW of wind power projects are being considered by various developers, which will more than double the existing capacity.
A recent economic study by The Perryman Group concludes that nearly 10,000 Texans currently are employed in the wind energy sector, whether in manufacturing, headquarters, construction or maintenance and support. Of the jobs in Texas tied to wind energy, the report estimates 3,876 are permanent jobs within the industry. The report goes on to estimate that the building of new transmission lines under the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) proposal approved by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) will lead to $30.6 billion in economic output and produce 41,181 jobs.
The state is home to numerous wind energy manufacturers as well. This growing base of wind energy manufacturing and servicing in Texas include: wind turbine manufacturer DeWind, five major tower manufacturers, blade manufacturer Molded Fiber Glass as well as many other component suppliers. Currently at least 35 Texas facilities manufacture components for the wind energy industry. Six more wind energy manufacturing facilities have been announced for the state and these will add to the already more than one thousand wind energy manufacturing jobs that already exist.
Solar Power Jobs in Texas
The National Solar Jobs Census 2010 reported that Texas has a strong national solar presence. In fact the state is the #3 ranked state for solar jobs with an estimated 6,400 solar jobs in 170 solar firms. Texas is also a top ten state for solar photovoltaic (PV) installation (in 10th place) according to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research.
There is also a growing thin film solar manufacturing base in the state lead by well funded startups such as CIGS maker HelioVolt, based in Austin. It has announced plans to begin offering its high performance CIGS thin film panels this year.
Biofuel Jobs in Texas
Texas is the nation’s leading producer of biodiesel, with 72.9 million gallons produced in 2007. Texas has 22 commercial biodiesel plants and 12 more under construction.
South Texas will be home to a proposed research and development program to develop advanced algae derived JP8 jet fuel. The project will be part of PetroSun’s initial commercial algae-to-biofuels facility in Rio Hondo, Texas. The algae farm is estimated to produce at least 4.4 million gallons of algal oil and 110 million pounds of biomass annually. The South Rio Grande region is considered to be one of the nations most favorable regions for producing algal biofuels along with adjacent regions in the southern border regions of Arizona and California.
Smart Grid Jobs
Texas has already deployed millions of smart meters to residential, commercial and industrial customers, giving the state a good start in building the backbone for a statewide smart grid system. It has also passed policies aimed at quickening the smart meter adoption rate in the state. The state is second only to California in terms of existing smart grid deployment.
The City of Austin, Texas, using its unique position of having a state-owned grid operating with a city owned utility, Austin Energy, to undertake a smart grid initiative that is collaborating with 15-20 public and private organizations, including leading smart grid firms and the University of Texas. The city utility also operates the nation’s largest green power program and this is a further tie in with its smart grid project. The UT-Austin is playing a central role in researching, developing and commercializing new smart grid
technologies and providing an incubator to help new clean tech companies in the area succeed.
One of the program’s principle aims is to train or retrain workers for jobs ranging from electricians,
installers, repair workers and technicians, to higher-paying jobs such as project managers and
civil, electrical, and mechanical engineers. The goal is to prepare 25,000 people in Central Texas for careers in areas related to the smart grid over ten years.
Austin Energy has been working on what it terms Smart Grid 1.0 for several years now and the system is beginning to take shape. It has added a telecommunications network, combining both fiber and wireless parts; smart grid hardware including meters, sensors, network gear, computers, servers, and storage; and the necessary software layer of applications, databases, and integration and management tools. The system now covers 1 million consumers and 43,000 businesses; has more than a half a million smart grid devices added to the network; and involves more than 100 terabytes of data. The city owned utility run project is already moving into a second phase of smart grid deployment, which in a nod to the cities rich music history has been called the Pecan Street Project, and that is beginning to add demand side management capacities to the grid and to begin realizing the promise of the smart grid. Freescale Semiconductor Inc., Applied Materials Inc., Austin Energy, Cisco and Dell Inc. are among the companies participating in this project.
The Pecan Street Project announced that it has acquired a site and will soon begin construction of a smart grid interoperability research facility; construction is scheduled to begin in September 2011 and active operations to commence in March 2012. The project has as one of its aims aims to provide the city with 300 MW (a power plant’s worth) of renewable energy produced within city limits.
Some other companies that are making smart grid plays in Texas are: Oncor and AT&T based in Dallas and CenterPoint Energy and Reliant Energy both based in Houston.
Sustainability Jobs in Texas
Sustainability is evolving and becoming more mainstream. As this occurs, it is increasing 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. All these trends are driving many organizations to bring on hire sustainability professionals or increase the number of sustainability professionals working their organizations. Colleges and universities have also increased their hiring of sustainability staff in the last year.
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 Texas should see a significant increase in the number of sustainability opportunities. Texas is home to 118 fortune 1000 companies and 224 colleges and universities. It also has six research universities.