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Green Energy Creates Jobs? Prove It

During the second quarter, 700 megawatts of wind power were installed in the U.S., bringing the total to more than 1.2 gigawatts for the year, according to the American Wind Energy Association. That's the lowest level of wind power installation in the U.S. since 2007, and more than 50% less than what was installed in the same periods of 2008 and 2009. The trade group expects wind power installments in the U.S. to decline by 25% to 45% in 2010 compared with 2009.

Shares of Broadwind Energy (BWEN), another company cited in the Biden report, are down more than 70% this year.

In another Recovery Act effort, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center received $24.7 million from the Energy Department to construct a wind-blade testing facility, the largest of its kind in the world. Biden's report said the project "could change the wind turbine manufacturing industry in America" when it's finished in February. However, only two new wind power facilities added during the first half of 2010, according to the AWEA.

While the wind power market could rebound, it's unclear if wind projects will create the jobs they intended to because there's no reliable data. Fortunately, the state of the solar job market is more encouraging.

The Solar Foundation conducted the first study of jobs in the green energy industry, surveying 2,400 companies. The think tank estimated that solar hiring would increase 26% next year to add 24,000 jobs. More than half of solar employers nationally plan to increase their workforce in the next year.

The Solar Foundation study discovered that there are 16,700 locations in the U.S. with 292,847 workers involved in the solar supply chain. About 32%, or 93,000 employees at these solar employment locations, spend at least 50% of time on solar business.

The study found that manufacturing remains a driver of job growth for the sector. However, that conclusion contrasts with recent new about U.S. alternative-energy companies moving manufacturing jobs abroad.

Evergreen Solar (ESLR) moved its manufacturing operations to China even though the Massachusetts government had supported the creation of a state-of-the-art plant in the U.S. Energy Conversion Devices (ENER) recently said it was shipping more than 100 jobs from Michigan to Mexico.

"Solar is a global market. Despite some manufacturing moving overseas, domestic manufacturing is still growing," said Solar Foundation Executive Director Andrea Luecke. "U.S. markets could surge strongly in next couple of years prompting ever greater solar employment in the U.S."
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