CHASING GREEN These metros have the best job opportunity in renewable energy FEATURED REAL ESTATE
Clean energy in the form of wind, solar and hydroelectric power comprised 18 percent of all U.S. electricity production in 2017, up from 15 percent the prior year. In 2017, the solar industry alone employed nearly 100,000 U.S. workers, up 20 percent from 2015, and today the wind and solar industries employ more than 300,000 Americans.
Many state and local governments are getting proactive about tapping into this burgeoning industry to develop their economies. Especially across America’s heartland, where corn and wheat fields once dominated the landscape, local governments are sponsoring programs to build wind and solar farms next door to the traditional ones.
Using the ZipRecruiter Best Job Market Index, we dug into the metropolitan statistical areas that provide the best opportunity for employment in renewable energy. Then we leveraged multiple factors to determine the overall quality of life in these areas. Our top three:
1. Springfield, Illinois
Of the nearly 200 metro areas included in our study, Springfield topped our list. This is undoubtedly the result of the state government’s passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in late 2016.
While still in its infancy, the bill has set aggressive goals for developing Illinois’ renewable energy sector. The legislation promises to provide up to $220 million per year through 2030 to develop wind, solar and hydroelectric facilities, which will create thousands of clean energy jobs. The act also requires Illinois utilities to get 25 percent of their retail energy from renewable sources by 2025.
In response to this requirement, clean energy developers have descended on areas surrounding Springfield to claim land for solar and wind farms. In the short term, this will bring construction jobs to the area. It will also require electrical engineers, earth scientists, environmental experts and IT specialists to maintain and improve the facilities.
2. Rochester, Minnesota
In 2015, Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede signed a proclamation committing the city to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.
While mayoral proclamations may not always carry the weight of state legislation, buy-in from stakeholders such as the Rochester Public Utility and Destination Medical Center (the heart of the Mayo Clinic and Rochester’s largest employer) has led to the creation of the citywide Energy Action Plan.
Rochester expects to bring more than 50,000 jobs to the city by 2040, many of which promise to be in service of helping Rochester achieve its lofty clean energy goals.
3. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
In 2017, over 30 percent of all South Dakota energy was produced by wind, thanks in part to the 13 mid- to large-scale wind energy projects underway in and around Sioux Falls. Although South Dakota is a leader in wind energy production, it still lags behind many states in large-scale solar production, leaving plenty room for future growth.
Rounding out the top 10: