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May 18, 201711:37 AMOpen Mic

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Renewable energy: A place to find a sustainable job, part 2

(page 1 of 2)

Read part 1 of this article.

Nationally, solar and wind jobs have grown at rates of about 20% annually in recent years, according to the MCG and EDF report. Approximately 2.2 million energy efficiency workers are employed, which outshines the fossil fuel industry. Clean vehicles employed more than 174,000 workers in 2016. Green jobs in the government totaled 890,000 in past estimates, and now three quarters of corporate firms have dedicated sustainability budgets.

Wisconsin could be a potential contender in the green jobs sector someday. According to a Clean Jobs Midwest report, Wisconsin is home to 24,714 green jobs and is projected to grow by 4.8% over the next 12 months, resulting in an increase of 1,000 new green jobs for Wisconsinites. However, Wisconsin currently has the smallest green job workforce in the Midwest region due to unsupportive policies.

Nevertheless, opportunity is still appearing in surprising ways. A Midwest Energy News article discussed the nationally-recognized solar company, Sunrun, which has a presence in Wisconsin. Sunrun offers residential solar planning, installation, and financing. The company is teeming with employment opportunities for those interested in solar energy. Although there is a hotbed of political rejection toward green jobs in Wisconsin, the support for solar is found in progressive bipartisan attitudes. Sunrun’s senior manager of public policy, Amy Heart, pointed out that Wisconsin has some long-standing policies that are conducive to solar development.

Incentive for a major solar company to station in Wisconsin came from a record increase in solar jobs. From 2015 to 2016, solar jobs increased 45%. Sunrun commented that the opportunity in Wisconsin is very like the opportunity in South Carolina, which Sunrun hired nearly 200 employees.

A Milwaukee Business Journal article highlighted how the 2016 National Solar Jobs Census profiled Wisconsin now employing 2,800 workers compared to only 1,900 in 2015. The excitement of that growth has only just been tapped since solar makes up less than 1% of Wisconsin’s electricity production.

Data from CleanJobsMidwest.com.

 

Students may be persuaded to venture to other states that have better green energy policies, but Ken Walz, a chemistry and engineering instructor at Madison College, assured that this is not the case for most students.

Proximity seems to be the most important, Walz notes. Most students don’t want to move from Wisconsin. The biomass industry involves dairy farms or biofuel plants, which don’t relocate and offer long-term employment; the solar industry involves county to county installs, so everything is relatively close; and Dane County is one of the fastest growing solar job markets in the Midwest. However, the wind industry will most likely require relocation due to its mobile nature. New wind farms don’t recruit for permanent positions, and they recruit all over the country.

(Continued)

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