Colorado has diverse renewable energy resources and ambitious green goals.
For instance, Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility provider, in December announced plans to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030 and to cut them out entirely by 2050. “We listen very closely to what our communities and customers are asking for,” Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy Colorado, told 5280 at the time. “They’re clearly asking for reliable, low-cost, zero-carbon energy. We have our eye on that bar and we’re going to see what we can do.”
But, beyond alternative energy pledges and other similar initiatives, this effort is creating a large and growing industry across the state that’s making an impact here in Denver South in particular.
In fact, of the 62,071 clean energy workers in Colorado, according to the 2017 Clean Jobs CO report, more than 15,400 of them are in Denver South. That includes 11,270 people working in green industry in Arapahoe County and 3,380 people in Douglas County. The report found that Colorado’s clean energy jobs are efficiency related (i.e. making homes and businesses more efficient), with renewable energy following as the second-largest category, representing 22.6 percent of clean energy businesses. The report also found that most clean energy companies are small, with nearly 88 percent of the firms employing fewer than 50 staff.
Those are the numbers we’re paying attention to here at Denver South. And here’s how they’re impacting our region.
Capturing the Wind
Nearly 18 percent of Colorado’s electric grid is powered by wind, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This accounts for approximately 79.3 percent of total renewable generation in the state, ranking Colorado fourth for wind energy employment in 2017.
Companies are taking note, too. The Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association announced in early 2019 that it plans to add its fifth utility-scale wind farm in eastern Colorado, which is expected to be in operation by 2020. This is on the heels of a similar investment by Xcel, which opened the state’s largest wind farm on the eastern plains in the fall of 2018.
…And the Sun
We all know that Colorado is a sunny place. What isn’t so commonly known, however, is that there are more than 380 solar companies in Colorado capitalizing on that sunshine, and employing more than 4,000 people throughout the state, according to the Colorado Energy Office.
Denver itself has ranked ninth nationally for the total installed solar photovoltaic capacity according to the 2018 Shining Cities report by Environment Colorado, with more room to grow.
The state offers tax incentives for households that install solar panels on their roofs, making the game a bit different than large scale wind generation. But, it’s catching on, and more and more people are considering how to harness the sun’s power without a panel on their roof.
Pivot Energy recently launched community solar projects in RiNo, Stapleton and Green Valley Ranch, allowing users to subscribe to power from a centralized array of solar panels. This model is even being used to make energy bills more affordable for low-income families.
And, companies are still working to get panels on as many roofs as possible. Just recently, solar company SunRun announced that its expanding its Denver headquarters to a nearby 118,000-square-foot office. Another solar company, Freedom Forever, announced that it plans to start operations in Colorado, building a 20,000-square-foot office in Centennial. In addition to the dozen employees it has for new Colorado operations currently, it plans to hire 100 more in 2019.
According to the Advanced Energy Economy, there are 5,900 jobs in Colorado across the biofuels industry, namely in corn ethanol, biomass, and other non-petroleum fuels. These jobs amount to 9 percent of advanced energy employment statewide as compared to 2.8 percent nationally.
Although biofuels currently contribute less than 5 percent of the state’s electric grid, companies are hard at work to change that. (Hence, the employment numbers above.) Gevo, a leading renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company, is located in Englewood.
So long as the wind keeps blowing and the sun keeps shining, we can anticipate that the power created by renewable resources will continue to grow, as well. And with it, so will the number of jobs and businesses.