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Where are new clean-energy jobs?

On June 17, Colorado Springs Utilities announced plans to purchase 50 megawatts of wind energy from Clipper Windpower, a British company with U.S. headquarters in Carpenteria, Calif. Windmills to produce that power will be located in eastern El Paso County. The wind farm is expected to generate 3 percent of CSU’s electricity starting January 2011, according to the CSU press release.Clipper Windpower has not disclosed the exact location of the proposed 103 count turbine wind farm, but CSU spokesman, Mark James, said the request for proposal that Clipper Windpower submitted indicated the site would be 30 miles east of Colorado Springs and south of Calhan.James said CSU is still negotiating with Clipper Windpower over the route for the transmission lines that will deliver the electricity to Colorado Springs.Speaking before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works July 21, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter said building the wind farm, which will include a maintenance facility, a substation and transmission lines, will generate 150 construction jobs.Ritter said the four plants that Vestas Wind Systems is building in Colorado will employ 2,500 workers.An article posted at states that the Pueblo Vestas factory began hiring 500 workers in March, with many welding jobs available. The Pueblo factory will build towers; a factory in Windsor, Colo., is already making blades; and a factory in Brighton, Colo., will make turbines.Bob Smith, associate dean of Pikes Peak Community College Division of Communications, Humanities and Technical Studies, said wind farms generally need one technician for every five to 10 wind turbines, which would mean a minimum of 10 technician jobs for the Clipper wind farm south of Calhan.Pueblo Community College is developing a program to train large windmill technicians, while PPCC will focus on training technicians to install and maintain the 15 kilowatt-per-hour windmills suitable for residential installation, Smith said.”For the first two weeks, the students have to prove they can ascend a 300-to-400-foot tower and fall 17 feet wearing a harness. They have to be very good at climbing and not afraid of heights,” Smith said. “They don’t want to train students on the technology and then find out a student has a fear of heights.”Those who do have a fear of heights and others could consider a career in heating, ventilating and air conditioning.”I would say HVAC and electronics are going to be the two core skill sets,” said Smith, whose division includes the HVAC curriculum. Students will also need a solid foundation in physics, math, mechanics and engineering, he said.Smith recently created a new certificate program, available this fall, for digital environmental controls, which are more energy efficient than analog controls, he said.Mona Newton, central regional representative for the Governor’s Energy Office, also stressed the importance of HVAC skills.”We’re seeing a lot of demand for energy efficiency professionals – people who do energy audits, install HVAC equipment, do weatherization and insulate homes,” she said.Governments, such as El Paso County and the city of Colorado Springs, will be upgrading a number of their facilities with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Newton said.Todd Hartman, GEO’s media relations manager, said there is also a demand for people who can analyze and restore buildings designed with energy-saving HVAC controls that have since deteriorated.”That’s a field you don’t hear as much about, but companies are hiring these people and those companies are growing in this state,” Hartman said.Jerry Fritz, dean of PPCC’s Division of Economic and Workforce Development, envisions small entrepreneurial companies that will train their employees on selling and installing alternative energy systems, such as wind turbines, in homes and on ranches and farms. The employees would analyze wind patterns to determine whether the wind is consistent enough and has the pressure required to generate energy, he said. They will also need to have the electrical expertise to connect energy-generating systems into a building’s existing electrical infrastructure.Weatherization is another growth area.”The state is getting $80 million over the next three years for weatherization work for low-income people. That’s going to result in a lot more homes and buildings getting improvements to their walls and attics and sealing up leaks in the home,” Hartman said. “We know that’s going to add jobs around the state.”Tim Griffin, PPCC’s executive director of strategy management, said he thinks another technology – geographic information systems – will provide clean energy jobs. “GIS is exploding because of the need to lay out energy grids and find locations for wind power,” he said.”Individuals who can gather data and transform it into information are going to have a good shot at these new, high-wage, high-tech jobs, many of which only require a two-year degree or less.”And there is solar technology.In March, Ascent Solar opened a plant in Thornton, Colo., to manufacturer thin-film photovoltaic solar modules, planning to employ 180 to 200 workers.Abound Solar, also a manufacturer of thin-film PV solar panels, created 300 new jobs when it opened its first full-scale production plant in Longmont, Colo., in April, according to to home, the U.S. Air Force Academy received $19.3 million to build a two megawatt solar array, and asked CSU to partner with them by engineering, building and operating the array.CSU’s James said the project is moving ahead with site determination, followed by environmental studies. He expects CSU to contract out the construction and then determine if they have the internal expertise required to operate the array.”This is the first time Colorado Springs Utilities and the Air Force Academy have done a large solar array, so it make take a little bit longer than people expect,” James said. The CSU press release states the project may be ready for operation by the end of 2010.Solar technology will also get a boost from the third phase of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which will roll out over the next three years. The additional stimulus dollars will allow Colorado to offer a bigger solar rebate, Hartman said, adding that the rebate should boost demand for solar panels and help the state’s 200 solar panel installers.

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