Survey: Colorado leading nation in solar energy jobs growth

On the energy front, the gubernatorial race in its final two weeks is pretty black and white. American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo and GOP nominee Dan Maes are unimpressed with Gov. Bill Ritter’s “New Energy Economy.”

Democratic nominee and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a former geologist who portrays himself as a friend to conventional energy extraction, also is a big backer of alternative forms of energy.

Tancredo, a former Republican congressman, said in a debate last month: “There are no jobs in the green economy. There are plenty of jobs in taking oil and gas out of the ground.” But several surveys indicate a majority of Coloradans are more worried about the environment than jobs generated by fossil fuel extraction.

Now another new survey indicates Tancredo is just flat-out wrong on the topic. Released today, a new survey from Environment Colorado and the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association indicates Colorado is sixth in the nation in solar-related jobs and is expected to increase that number by 23 percent in 2011.

Entitled “National Solar Jobs Census 2010: A Review of the U.S. Solar Workforce (pdf),” the new survey doesn’t just rely on economic forecasting, instead asking solar companies to report on their actual hiring histories and projections for the coming year.

Nationally, the survey found that more than half of all solar companies planned to increase their workforce in the coming year, with Colorado out ahead of the pack with 5,300 more jobs coming online in 2011. Fossil fuel companies, according to the study, are projecting a more modest 2 percent growth rate in jobs in 2011.

“With 300 days of sunshine and an innovative workforce, it just made sense to sponsor strong renewable energy legislation. It’s exciting to see the fruits of that labor right in my district with people getting hired on to work in this blossoming industry,” said state Rep. Max Tyler, a Democrat who sponsored the state’s 30 percent renewable energy standard by 2020 (up from 20 percent).

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