Ecotech Institute Applauds Colorado for its Leadership in Renewable Energy

I recently came across a fantastic report published by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. The report evaluates Colorado’s energy industry in two subclusters: (1) fossil fuels and (2) cleantech, which includes companies that use renewable energy sources and materials such as solar, wind energy, biomass and green transportation.

Of course, as president of Ecotech Institute, the first and only college entirely dedicated to renewable energy and sustainable design, I was thrilled with the cleantech statistics in the state we call home.

Because the report is so robust, this recap is truly an opportunity to call out data and facts that illustrate why Colorado is a hub for cleantech activity, where thousands of jobs and a promising future in the green landscape exist. It’s great to see that government funding, public policy and private industry are all supporting Colorado’s growth as a leader in the cleantech space.

Below I have highlighted some great statistics and have pulled bulleted information verbatim from the report. To download the full report to get more details on the bright future of the Colorado cleantech industry, visit:


Colorado is a leader in the cleantech subcluster and has seen a large jump in the number of related jobs. In fact, while cleantech jobs increased nationally by about 10 percent in the last five years, that number soared to more than 30 percent in Colorado. Much of that growth was in wind power and solar energy companies.

Key findings:

· The cleantech subcluster directly employed about 19,420 people in Colorado in 2010.

· With nearly 54,100 energy workers in approximately 3,570 companies in 2010, the state continues to position itself as a hub of energy industry activity in both the fossil fuels and cleantech sectors.

· About 1,600 cleantech companies operated in Colorado in 2010.

· The number of Colorado cleantech companies increased 9.6 percent between 2005 and 2010, compared with 4.2 percent growth nationally.

· According to Headwaters Economics, the number of cleantech jobs in Colorado increased 30 percent from 1995 to 2007, or about 17,000 jobs. The study cited more than $796 million in venture capital investments that bolstered Colorado’s green economy between 1999 and 2008.


In 2010, more than a dozen companies chose Colorado as the place to develop new wind farm and solar power projects. According to a study by professors at Arizona State University, Colorado ranked as the second-most attractive location for businesses hoping to export solar power. When it comes to wind energy, Colorado is one of six states that generate more than five percent of total electricity from wind, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Some of the wind turbines company announcements in 2010 include:

· Vestas Technology R&D located a research and development center in Louisville. The new center focuses on improving wind turbine efficiency and reducing energy costs and will employ engineers, scientists, and support staff.

· New York-based American Zephyr Corp. relocated its distribution, sales, and support center to Louisville. Within the next few years, the company plans to manufacture all of its wind turbines parts locally, rather than importing its parts from outside the U.S.

· Broomfield-based Renewable Energy Systems (RES) Americas unveiled plans for a windpower complex in eastern Colorado. Located in Lincoln and Elbert Counties, the Cedar Point Wind Project will be the second-largest wind farm in the state and will use Vestas wind turbines for the project. The finished project should generate enough energy to power 68,000 homes.

· Vestas will expand its U.S. presence when it opens its second blade factory in Brighton in 2011. The Windsor blade factory opened in March 2008, followed by the nacelle factory in Brighton and the world’s largest tower factory in Pueblo in 2010. Combined, the four manufacturing facilities, which are located on three campuses in Brighton, Windsor, and Pueblo, represent an investment of about $1 billion in the state since 2007. The company plans to double its workforce in the next year to fulfill turbine order demands and expand annual production capacity. In addition, Vestas announced a $2.5 million, 80-acre expansion to the company’s Windsor manufacturing facility that will serve as storage space for wind blades.

Some of the solar company new announcements in 2010 include:

· SMA Solar Technology AG, the largest solar inverter manufacturer in the world, was named “Deal of the Year” award winner in 2010 by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. The Germany-based company was recognized for its significant economic impact to the region through capital investment and job creation. In 2010, the company hired 200 workers at its northeast Denver plant and could add up to 500 more positions by the end of 2011.

· North Carolina-based power company Cogentrix Energy LLC plans to build the world’s largest concentrated photovoltaic power plant north of Alamosa. The 225-acre power facility will utilize lens-based technology that could power up to 6,500 homes.

· SkyFuel, Inc. relocated its corporate headquarters from Albuquerque to Arvada. The company’s parabolic solar power collector research and development center is already located in Jefferson County and the company cited its proximity to National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Colorado’s growing cleantech environment as key factors in their location decision.

· California-based SunPower Corp. and Colorado Springs Utility are building a 6-MW solar Power facility at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The 30-acre project is slated for completion by 2011.


Colorado continues to be a hub for energy-related venture capital and ranks as one of the top five states in terms of capital generated for energy-related projects.

· Through 2010, federal stimulus support designated more than $768 million to Colorado for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including funding for energy tax incentives for individuals and businesses in Colorado through the State Energy Program.

· The combination of Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard of 30 percent by 2020 and production tax credits demonstrates Colorado’s commitment to renewable energy technology development and research. Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter unveiled the Governor’s Energy Office Revolving Loan Program and the Green Colorado Credit Reserve Program, both stimulus-funded loan programs aimed at renewable energy companies and companies making renewable energy improvements to their buildings.

· The Governor’s Energy Office program has a $13 million budget, $12 million of which will go towards large renewable energy companies that have struggled to obtain bank loans and $1 million of which will be used to support energy efficiency projects for small businesses.


Colorado is becoming a leader in the cleantech space not only through the companies doing business in Colorado and the jobs created, but also through the research that is being done.

· Legislation passed in 2007 created the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, a partnership among the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder), the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, and NREL. The Collaboratory conducts world-class research through its six research centers. The centers develop new energy technologies and help transfer them to the private sector.

· Colorado is one of only five states to have initiated an industry association dedicated entirely to cleantech—the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association (CCIA). Formed in 2008, CCIA provides data and research, develops statewide and federal policy initiatives, partners with industry and research institutions, and provides education and training to the cleantech sector.

· Golden-based NREL is the DOE’s only laboratory dedicated to renewable energy efficiency research and development across 12 research areas including advanced vehicles and fuels, concentrating solar power, biomass, and buildings research. In 2010, NREL began construction on its Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIP) devoted to renewable energy technologies and their integration into existing energy infrastructure. The $135 million project will house office space, laboratories, and a state-of-the-art data center for up to 250 NREL researchers and support staff. In addition, NREL is planning a 137,000 square-foot addition to support the laboratory’s newly completed research complex. Federal stimulus funds will pay for the $39 million project slated for completion in 2012 and will incorporate numerous energy efficiency advances in the facility designed to accommodate 500 NREL workers.


Colorado is recognized for its natural resources as well, with its climate and geography playing a large part in what the state offers.

· Wind Power—Colorado ranked ninth in the nation for total installed wind power capacity and 11th in potential wind power capacity in 2009. (American Wind Energy Association, 2010)

· Biomass—Colorado expanded biomass resources to include dead and dying lodgepole pines, municipal solid waste, and biosolids derived from wastewater treatments that can qualify under the higher RES goal of 30 percent by 2020. This points to Colorado’s ability to harness existing and potential biomass resources in the state. Colorado could produce an estimated 2.6 million dry tons of biomass for energy each year. (Governor’s Energy Office, 2010)

· Solar Energy—Colorado had the sixth-highest installed solar generation capacity, with the majority of capacity generated in southwest Colorado. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has classified the southwest Colorado region a high potential solar resource area that could satisfy about half of the state’s peak power demand. (SNL Financial, 2010; Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 2010)

· Water—Colorado is at the headwaters of five major U.S. rivers. The state produced nearly 2,040 megawatt hours (MWh) of hydroelectric power in 2009. Estimates from the Governor’s Energy Office suggest that almost two million MWh of hydroelectric power could be developed across the state. (U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, 2010; Governor’s Energy Office, 2010)

· Colorado ranked 14th in the nation in 2008 for the percent of electricity generated from renewable sources. (U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, 2010)

As you can see, these findings are incredibly encouraging for Colorado and for our nation. As we continue to look for the best ways to run our economy, businesses and homes, renewable energy will be at the forefront. It’s not longer just for the “hippie culture” as more and more average Americans and businesses are embracing renewable energy and the benefits it offers. At Ecotech, we’re proud to be a part of this energy revolution and we pride ourselves in being the first school entirely focused on creating an educated workforce that understands the intricacies of what it takes to work in the cleantech industry.