Solar can produce clean power, and generate a lot of construction jobs, according to the industry.
Bechtel Construction, which has partnered with BrightSource Energy to build a 440-megawatt facility in Ivanpah, Calif., said today that the project will employ 1,000 people at the peak of construction. Total construction wages will come to $250 million on the project, which gets underway next year.
Meanwhile, Schott Solar said it is doubling shifts at its new facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico so that it can produce solar panels on a 24/7 basis. It has been hiring around 10 people a week since November. By the end of the year, 160 people will be employed at the PV facility (There are 350 employees if you count the people in concentrated solar thermal.)
Construction is anticipated to be one of the largest beneficiaries in the green technology movement. Why? Someone has to put those solar panels and wind turbines up. Several large military contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin have already announced plans to move into smart grid, solar and other green sectors. Construction employment tends to oscillate, but there is also large number of projects underway or in the planning stages.
Manufacturing solar panels and operating power plants produces fewer jobs than construction, but the number of jobs can be more stable because of the ongoing nature of these tasks. Several states, notably Oregon, have passed stimulus programs to bring manufacturers to their states. Roger Little, CEO of solar equipment maker Spire, has sketched out a vision of how solar module manufacturing facilities could sprout across the U.S.
Policy makers in Washington have debated whether green can produce sustainable job growth. While these announcements don't guarantee job growth, it's a hopeful sign and one worth watching.
The White House is seeking congressional and public support for offering $5 billion in tax credits for manufacturers to build new or expand existing factories to produce solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars and other renewable energy-related goods.
Energy efficiency retrofits are also expected to generate a large number of construction jobs, say advocates. In September, California earmarked $3.1 billion for retrofits. Expect to see companies like Recurve, formerly Sustainable Spaces, to expand. It specializes in energy retrofits and is trying to develop software it can sell to other contractors for retrofits. Recurve is also behind the Cash for Caulkers proposal. Another possible growth company is Renewable Funding, which provides PACE style services for retrofits.
Meanwhile, Former New Jersey Governor and nuclear advocate Christine Todd Whitman asserts that building a reactor can employ 1,200 to 4,000 people and operating a reactor can employ 400 to 700. The total economic output to a community from a single reactor can be as high as $430 million a year, she added.