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Summary:

Green jobs have become a sort of mantra of late among the political left, with supporters looking to clean-energy sectors to produce companies hungry for new hires and help ease the pain of the economic downturn. Today research firm Clean Edge, known among other things for […]

800px-Flat_Holm_PV_solar_array_near_FarmhouseGreen jobs have become a sort of mantra of late among the political left, with supporters looking to clean-energy sectors to produce companies hungry for new hires and help ease the pain of the economic downturn. Today research firm Clean Edge, known among other things for its annual Clean Energy Trends reports, weighed into the discussion with the release of its first report on employment titled “Clean-Tech Jobs Trends 2009.”

While some of the findings shouldn’t astonish — solar, smart grid and biofuels are three of the fastest expanding cleantech sectors — others like the 15 hottest U.S. metropolitan areas for clean-energy jobs and a listing of median salaries for a range of cleantech work provide interesting insight.  

Given Clean Edge’s consistent bullishness on cleantech, it’s no surprise that the report is broadly optimistic about the sector’s capacity to create jobs in coming years. According to the authors, the current economic crisis could accelerate the transition to a clean-energy economy and major global trends — increasing action on carbon emissions reduction, lessening dependence on volatile fossil fuel prices and supplies, growing government leadership on clean energy — point to “huge potential growth” in cleantech employment. The number of jobs created could be in the “millions” in a wide range of cleantech sectors, but the report does not forecast more specific growth numbers or give a timescale for when those “millions” of jobs might be created. (The Clean Edge report does cite a recent Pew Charitable Trusts report that found cleantech jobs grew 9.1 percent from 1998 to 2007, compared with 3.7 percent growth for all U.S. jobs.)

The top five sectors for U.S. cleantech job activity — based on a combination of job placements, postings, and public and private investments — are solar; biofuels and biomaterials; conservation and efficiency; smart grid; and wind power, according to Clean Edge. But the report lists other key sectors, grouped under four categories, in which cleantech jobs are now emerging (see the chart below, courtesy Clean Edge).

top CT sectors image

Clean Edge worked with PayScale, a publisher of work-compensation data, to conduct a survey to determine median salary and wage compensation for a range of cleantech jobs. See the report (available for free as a PDF download), for a more comprehensive overview, but a sampling of salaries include: energy auditor for green buildings ($48,500 median pay); mechanical engineer for electric vehicles ($63,600); and solar energy systems designer ($42,600). Interestingly, the highest median salary listed was for project developers of renewable energy ($106,000) and the lowest was for insulation workers ($36,100).

Where are all these jobs being created? Clean Edge evaluated current and historical job postings, early stage and public market investment activity, cleantech job presence, and clean-energy patent activity to come up with the top 15 U.S. metropolitan areas for cleantech jobs (see list below). But the report notes that “the cleantech revolution is a highly dispersed phenomenon” and that no single place or region will control any one cleantech sector. Some “centers of expertise” not a part of the top 15 include Toledo, Ohio, for solar PV manufacturing and St. Louis, Mo., for green building design services.

tops metro areas

The report’s authors see five major trends reshaping the cleantech jobs landscape. Those trends include energy efficiency (some related jobs: green building, architect and insulation installer); an aging work force, especially at electric utilities, with rising retirement rates (some related jobs: wind energy technician and solar thermal generation specialist); an increasing number of cleantech educational initiatives with opportunities for students and instructors; the movement of manufacturing jobs closer to end-use markets (some related jobs: solar fabrication technician and wind turbine generator builder); and the smart grid build-out (some related jobs: advanced metering engineer and grid application systems analyst).

The end of the report lists a number of resources, such as books, news sites, conferences, career fairs, job boards, training sites and networking organizations. The accumulation of all this information into one, freely accessible document should be welcome news for any cleantech job hunter.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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  1. This is a very useful report to get an overview of where the cleantech sector is heading in the United States.

    I am not surprised San Francisco is at the top of job activity. When attending green events here you can truly feel the energy of having so many passionate like minded professionals together. There also seems to be more people actually employed in the green sector versus events in other cities where people want to be employed in this emerging economy. The level of discussion at these events is also getting beyond defining and explaining sustainability amongst ourselves. It seems to be moving into the direction of actually highlighting ways to solve what could be considered the more boring “traditional” business issues. This is excellent because this means we have functional businesses actually solving environmental issues, not just aspirations to make a difference.

    Quick note, the majority of my peers still in college are already looking at living in cities like San Francisco and Boston because of the density of cleantech companies there. It may be difficult for other growth oriented “new” cities like Atlanta (my hometown) to try and catch up to the momentum of these current cleantech hubs.

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  3. I would hasten to add Vancouver, BC!

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  6. Kevin Lockett Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Ohio might not be in the top 15, but we are slowly making a move on teh clean energy front.

    Kevin

    http://www.hirejam.com
    Ohio Green Jobs

    http://www.hirejamca.com
    California Green jobs

  7. I didn’t see any specific salary info for the wind industry in the article so here is what I found…

    A wind tech is someone that works on wind turbines. A wind technician’s job can range from construction to maintenance and repairs on wind turbines. Some sources on AWEA’s web site say that for every 10 wind turbines that are built, 1 new wind tech is needed for maintenance and repair. Reports of what they make vary. Some report a high hourly salary with a low per diem that totals around $65,000 per year on average in places with moderate costs of living in the U.S. Others report a medium salary with a high per diem that can total well north of $75,000 a year. Many employers also carry employee health insurance and issue a company truck for work related duties. As with everything, compensation depends on demand from employers which appears to be high. If you would like more information on where you can go to get trained, do a google search for California Wind Tech or go to http://www.californiawindtech.com

  8. Free Job Postings Post Jobs For Free Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    I loved this blog post. Thank you! I am going to read the other pages of your blog.

  9. Have you seen the new job board http://www.greenjobbaron.com ?

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    Denver need to be at the top 3, this city does somany things and there are so many new green business that help the city…

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