he global clean energy technology sector, or cleantech, is projected to grow to $423.7 billion by 2026, according to a Facts & Factors market research report, and Colorado is poised to cash in on its fair share.
Colorado already ranks fourth in cleantech job concentration and eighth in cleantech venture capital investment, according to the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association (CCIA). With more than 61,000 people employed directly in cleantech and $4.6 billion in economic impact, Colorado ranks No. 5 among the top 40 cleantech hubs in the U.S.
Cleantech encompasses a variety of sectors, but they all relate to environmental sustainability, renewable energy, energy conservation or an affiliated field. Of the 62,000 Colorado workers in this field, about 34,000 are employed in the area of energy efficiency. Another 17,625 work in renewable energy; 4,318 work in the clean transportation sector; 3,044 work in grid storage; and about 2,000 work in clean fuels. Another 3,000 people work at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado — a fact that makes Colorado No. 1 in the world for cleantech research.
Two of the largest firms doing business in the cleantech space in Colorado are Vestas in Pueblo and Xcel Energy in Denver. Vestas remains one of the largest wind power manufacturing companies in the country, while Xcel Energy recently completed construction of the $743 million, 500-megawatt Cheyenne Ridge Wind Project in Kit Carson and Cheyenne counties.
To date, approximately $12 billion in wind, solar and energy storage projects have been invested into the state, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Other cleantech companies growing in Colorado include Loveland-based Lightning eMotors, Denver-based Sunrun Inc., Boulder solar energy developer Juwi, and Denver solar power developer Pivot Energy.
In addition to these firms, a number of emerging and breakout cleantech companies recently were recognized by the CCIA. These include Tellus Markets, VECKTA Energy, Starfire Energy, ElektriGreen Inc., Simuwatt and WATTMORE.
“Thanks to smart state climate policy leadership, Colorado’s clean energy economy has proven to be a core part of the state’s economy — representing more
than 2% of overall state employment.”
— Clean Jobs Colorado
“Colorado used to be loosely defined as a flyover state. That is no longer the case,” says Mary Austin, executive director of the CCIA. “Major investors are now looking to invest in cleantech in Colorado. Our quality of life is a big draw. We are moving up in the rankings.”
A recent report by the organizations E2, Colorado Solar & Storage Association and Energy Efficiency Business Coalition revealed just how bright the future looks for cleantech in Colorado. “Thanks to smart state climate policy leadership, Colorado’s clean energy economy has proven to be a core part of the state’s economy — representing more than 2% of overall state employment,” the Clean Jobs Colorado report states. “It has been resilient and robust in the face of crushing economy-wide pressures.”
The report notes that cleantech jobs are now entering other sectors of the economy, including construction, repair and maintenance, and wholesale trade. “Clean energy workers now account for more than 12% of all construction jobs” in Colorado, the report states.
“We are also a very well-educated state,” says Austin. “A large attraction for Colorado is our innovation mindset, and that includes Colorado State University, University of Colorado, and Colorado School of Mines. This is a great place for startups and R&D.”
Clean energy employment is also starting to reach parts of the state it had not previously entered. While cleantech jobs still are concentrated mostly in the Denver-Aurora and Boulder markets, sizable numbers are now being reported in places like Colorado Springs, Fort Collins-Loveland, Grand Junction, Greeley and Pueblo.
“Thanks to the inherent localness of many clean energy jobs including energy efficiency upgrades, grid modernization and wind farms, rural areas and smaller communities are increasingly benefitting economically from the clean energy transition,” the report adds.
Aiding in that cause are new investments into hydrogen technology, ag-tech, advanced transportation and energy storage. “People should also keep an eye on Bolder Industries,” says Austin. “They are doing carbon black recycling.”
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.