CHAS­ING GREEN These met­ros have the best job op­por­tu­nity in re­new­able en­ergy FEA­TURED REAL ES­TATE

The Progress-Index Weekend - - SERVICE GUIDE - By Jef­fery Marino

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:

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