Around the Region: N.C. among U.S. leaders in ‘green’ economy jobs

Published 10:49 am Friday, July 15, 2011

North Carolina is adding “green” or “clean” economy jobs much faster than most other states in the country, according to a new report from the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.
The organization’s “Sizing the Clean Economy” report ranks North Carolina 11th for the overall size of its green economy, and sixth for the growth rate of green jobs.
North Carolina added 26,101 clean industry jobs between 2003 and 2010, giving the sector an annual growth rate of 5.9 percent during the period, said the report. The jobs added during the eight-year period raised the total number of clean economy jobs in the state to 78,881, about 1.9 percent of all jobs in North Carolina.
The Metropolitan Policy Program also reports the estimated median wage for clean economy jobs in North Carolina is $37,348, about 7 percent more than the $34,823 median wage for all jobs in the state.
North Carolina’s job growth in the green economy sector was led by the Raleigh area, which ranked second among the country’s 100 largest metro areas, with an average annual growth rate of 13.7 percent between 2003 and 2010. Only Knoxville, Tenn. topped the Triangle area for clean industry job growth during the period.
Charlotte was next in the state with 15,485 clean economy jobs in 2010, 4,268 more than it had in 2003.
According to the report, the south has seven states with at least 50,000 clean economy jobs, making it the leading region in the country for the number of green jobs. South Carolina ranked 21st in the country with 50,424 clean economy jobs, about 2.7 percent of all jobs in the state.
South Carolina’s estimated median wage for clean economy jobs was $36,373, more than 9 percent higher than the $32,936 median for all jobs in the state.
The green jobs growth rate was much higher in metro areas of South Carolina with Greenville and Charleston seeing growth of 4.9 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.
The report identifies the leading sector for green economy jobs in North Carolina was waste management and treatment (10,082 jobs), although the fastest growing sector was electric vehicle technologies, which added 1,121 jobs between 2003 and 2010.
Waste management and treatment was also the leading sector for the number of jobs in South Carolina (5,739), while professional environmental services added the most jobs (1,313) during the eight-year period.
The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association recently reported that the Tarheel state has 1,792 companies in the renewable energy industry, about 1,100 or 63 percent more than a year ago.
The association attributes the large increase to state tax credits, N.C. GreenPower, and the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard law passed by the state in 2007. The law requires utilities to produce a larger share of energy from renewable sources.
The list of registered renewable energy companies in the state ranges from a single solar panel on a home to a solar farm with about 63,000 panels.
The state estimates the renewable energy projects in the state can produce enough power to meet the needs of more than 550,000 homes.
The Asheville area was identified as one of the state’s cluster areas for renewable energy companies. Buncombe County alone has 213 registered renewable energy companies, according to the state.
The N.C. Sustainable Energy Association’s report found that rural counties have a greater number of installed renewable energy projects and a higher total capacity in all renewable energy technologies except solar. Solar is used more heavily in urban areas, which are home to many rooftop solar systems.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission approved the construction of a 300-megawattt wind farm in Eastern North Carolina. The wind farm, considered to be the single largest green energy project proposed in the state, will be located on 31 square miles of farmland in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties.
The farm, called the Desert Wind Energy Project, would be the first commercial-scale wind energy project in the southeast and one of the largest wind farms in the state if it is completed on schedule next year. The $600 million project will require many more permits at the local, state and federal levels.
The wind farm, proposed by the American subsidiary of Spanish energy company Iberdrola, would produce enough power on average for 55,000 to 70,000 homes per year.
A federal panel plans to recommend that about two-thirds of offshore ocean areas considered for potential wind farm development should be off limits for wind turbines.
Following a recent second meeting in Raleigh the panel issued maps showing that much of the state’s ocean waters are not suitable for offshore wind farms. The panel proposed restricting areas that would not produce sufficient wind energy or would interfere with military operations, fish habitats or bird habitats.
Some of the remaining areas that are considered suitable for wind farm development would be as close as four miles from the shore, a distance that is visible from the beach. Energy produced from offshore wind farms would be sold to utility companies in the state.
The recommendation from the federal panel will go to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which will establish areas available for wind farm development.
General Motors Ventures announced it plans to invest $6 million in Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer in Greenville, S.C.
GM Ventures is part of an investment group that plans to contribute a total of $30 million to Proterra, which plans to use the funds to increase production in Greenville to 400 units a year.
The company said its battery-electric commercial transit buses average about 24 miles per gallon (diesel equivalent), which is about 600 percent better than the average for diesel-fueled buses.
Proterra’s composite-bodied BE-35 can recharge its battery in about 10 minutes through its roof-mounted Fast Fill system, and it can travel about 40 miles before needing another recharge.
GM said the investment in Proterra will help the company commercialize its electric bus and fast-charging technology, while also addressing “the future challenges of urban mobility.”
Prettl Electronics Greenville Inc. announced this week it will invest $1.5 million and create 80 new jobs at a Greenville facility that will make inverters for the solar panel and wind turbine industries.
Prettl, founded in 1953 in Germany, has more than 5,000 employees in 19 countries, including about 100 in Greenville, where it has been since 1988.
The inverters produced by Prettl Electronics Greenville Inc. will convert direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) at any required voltage and frequency.
Bobby Hitt, secretary of commerce for South Carolina, said Prettl’s expansion adds jobs and strengthens the state’s already well-established trade relationship with Germany.
The Clemson University Restoration Institute is moving forward with construction of a wind-turbine drivetrain testing facility in North Charleston.
Clemson recently signed contracts with Choate Construction Co. of South Carolina and AEC Engineering for the $98 million testing facility, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2012.
Clemson received a $45 million grant for the project from the U.S. Department of Energy, along with $53 million in matching public and private funds.
The testing facility, located on the former Navy base in North Charleston, will test large drivetrain systems ranging from 5 to 15 megawatts.
State and industry officials said the testing facility, which fills a void because most existing facility can test only systems below 5 megawatts, has the potential to create a wind energy cluster, drawing thousands of jobs to the region.
Nearly all of the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturers are represented on the industrial advisory board for the Clemson facility, and a German manufacturer already announced plans to open a plant in North Charleston that will make wind turbine parts.
The Buncombe County Board of Adjustment has approved plans for a second hotel on the Biltmore Estate. Despite the approval for the 152-room lodge, Biltmore Co. is still deciding whether it will move forward with the project, according to Bruce Hazzard, a consultant on the project with Asheville-based Design Management. Hazzard said Biltmore probably won’t make a final decision on the project for at least several weeks.
The board of adjustment also granted an exception to the county’s 50-foot high limit for building’s in the commercial service zoning district, which includes the proposed building site. The seven-story hotel would be 85 feet tall. Hazzard said a shorter building would take up much more land on Biltmore Estate and assured board members that the new hotel would not be visible from neighboring property.
The existing 210-room inn on Biltmore Estate opened in 2001.
Cashiers will host the eighth annual Mountain Wildlife Days this weekend. The event, which features entertainment and education programs for all ages, will be held at the Sapphire Valley Community Center.
Mountain Wildlife Days gives area residents a chance to learn more about the wildlife and wild place of the region. Wildlife experts will bring some animals, such as birds of prey, small mammals and reptiles, to the event for exhibits. Guided hikes also will be available.
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