The Growth of Clean Energy Jobs by State
As the world is slowly moving towards a carbon-free future, job prospects within the renewable energy industry will see a boom in the coming years. Ranging from environmental scientists to renewable energy generation technicians and engineers, clean energy jobs are growing.
Between the shuttering of coal plants and companies making efforts to use renewable sources of energy, the United States on its own could see the creation of 5 million net new jobs within the energy-supply sector, driven by clean energy.
These jobs offer a more sustainable and high-paying alternative for the current and new workforce, especially in some of the country’s highly fossil-fuel-dependent states.
Based on analysis presented by Princeton University, the above infographic visualizes the forecasted change in energy-supply jobs in every state from 2019 to 2030 and up until 2050, in a net-zero scenario.
Shift in Energy Supply Jobs by 2030: Texas on the Forefront
Between 2020 and 2021, jobs in the oil and gas sector saw a 9% decline in Texas, a reduction of more than 55,000 in the state. Despite this, Texas is still one of the largest oil and natural gas producers, employing the highest number of people.
A rapid rise in employment in the clean energy industry will compensate for this decline in fossil fuel sector jobs. Texas fossil fuel unions have also signed onto the climate action plan and vowed to create more jobs in the clean energy sector.
In the process, Texas will see nearly 135,000 net new energy-supply jobs by 2030, more than any other state.
Here’s a look at the number of forecasted net new energy-supply jobs in the rest of the country:
|State||Forecasted Net Change in Energy-supply Jobs (2019-2030)|
Note: Negative values indicate a decline in energy-supply jobs by 2030.
Shift in Energy Supply Jobs by 2050: Wisconsin Advances
Wisconsin has stated its desire to transition to 100% clean energy by 2050, growing the state’s economy by more than $21 billion.
According to Princeton, Wisconsin could also introduce more than 46,000 net new energy-supply jobs by 2050, a tremendous leap over the state’s 863 new jobs forecasted through 2030.
|State||Forecasted Net Change in Energy-supply Jobs (2019-2050)|
Note: Negative values indicate a decline in energy-supply jobs by 2050.
The state of Wyoming has the second-highest change in energy supply jobs, going from 2,400 jobs by 2030 to nearly 62,000 by 2050. Meanwhile, California, Florida, and Texas will continue their commitment to being leaders and introducing more clean energy-supply jobs by 2050.
The only states that will see a decline in clean energy jobs between their 2030 and 2050 totals are the northeastern states of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
Most states have taken measures to create more sustainable and high-paying jobs without leaving the current workforce in the lurch. On average, U.S. states will see an increase of 105,000 energy-supply jobs by 2050.
As the states and the country make this transition and federal and private investment in the renewable energy industry increases, it’ll be interesting to keep track of how new clean energy jobs impact the economy.
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What Are the Five Major Types of Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is the foundation of the ongoing energy transition. What are the key types of renewable energy, and how do they work?
The Renewable Energy Age
Awareness around climate change is shaping the future of the global economy in several ways.
Governments are planning how to reduce emissions, investors are scrutinizing companies’ environmental performance, and consumers are becoming conscious of their carbon footprints. But no matter the stakeholder, energy generation and consumption from fossil fuels is one of the biggest contributors to emissions.
Therefore, renewable energy sources have never been more top-of-mind than they are today.
The Five Types of Renewable Energy
Renewable energy technologies harness the power of the sun, wind, and heat from the Earth’s core, and then transforms it into usable forms of energy like heat, electricity, and fuel.
|Energy Source||% of 2021 Global Electricity Generation||Avg. levelized cost of energy per MWh|
Editor’s note: We have excluded nuclear from the mix here, because although it is often defined as a sustainable energy source, it is not technically renewable (i.e. there are finite amounts of uranium).
Though often out of the limelight, hydro is the largest renewable electricity source, followed by wind and then solar.
Together, the five main sources combined for roughly 28% of global electricity generation in 2021, with wind and solar collectively breaking the 10% share barrier for the first time.
The levelized cost of energy (LCOE) measures the lifetime costs of a new utility-scale plant divided by total electricity generation. The LCOE of solar and wind is almost one-fifth that of coal ($167/MWh), meaning that new solar and wind plants are now much cheaper to build and operate than new coal plants over a longer time horizon.
With this in mind, here’s a closer look at the five types of renewable energy and how they work.
Wind turbines use large rotor blades, mounted at tall heights on both land and sea, to capture the kinetic energy created by wind.
When wind flows across the blade, the air pressure on one side of the blade decreases, pulling it down with a force described as the lift. The difference in air pressure across the two sides causes the blades to rotate, spinning the rotor.
The rotor is connected to a turbine generator, which spins to convert the wind’s kinetic energy into electricity.
2. Solar (Photovoltaic)
Solar technologies capture light or electromagnetic radiation from the sun and convert it into electricity.
Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells contain a semiconductor wafer, positive on one side and negative on the other, forming an electric field. When light hits the cell, the semiconductor absorbs the sunlight and transfers the energy in the form of electrons. These electrons are captured by the electric field in the form of an electric current.
A solar system’s ability to generate electricity depends on the semiconductor material, along with environmental conditions like heat, dirt, and shade.
Geothermal energy originates straight from the Earth’s core—heat from the core boils underground reservoirs of water, known as geothermal resources.
Geothermal plants typically use wells to pump hot water from geothermal resources and convert it into steam for a turbine generator. The extracted water and steam can then be reinjected, making it a renewable energy source.
Similar to wind turbines, hydropower plants channel the kinetic energy from flowing water into electricity by using a turbine generator.
Hydro plants are typically situated near bodies of water and use diversion structures like dams to change the flow of water. Power generation depends on the volume and change in elevation or head of the flowing water.
Greater water volumes and higher heads produce more energy and electricity, and vice versa.
Humans have likely used energy from biomass or bioenergy for heat ever since our ancestors learned how to build fires.
Biomass—organic material like wood, dry leaves, and agricultural waste—is typically burned but considered renewable because it can be regrown or replenished. Burning biomass in a boiler produces high-pressure steam, which rotates a turbine generator to produce electricity.
Biomass is also converted into liquid or gaseous fuels for transportation. However, emissions from biomass vary with the material combusted and are often higher than other clean sources.
When Will Renewable Energy Take Over?
Despite the recent growth of renewables, fossil fuels still dominate the global energy mix.
Most countries are in the early stages of the energy transition, and only a handful get significant portions of their electricity from clean sources. However, the ongoing decade might see even more growth than recent record-breaking years.
The IEA forecasts that, by 2026, global renewable electricity capacity is set to grow by 60% from 2020 levels to over 4,800 gigawatts—equal to the current power output of fossil fuels and nuclear combined. So, regardless of when renewables will take over, it’s clear that the global energy economy will continue changing.
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Animation: Visualizing the World’s Biggest Wind Turbines
The tallest wind turbines can reach over 200 meters and cost more than $12 million to manufacture and install.
The World’s Biggest Wind Turbines
Since the early 2000s, wind turbines have grown in size—in both height and blade lengths—to generate more energy per unit.
Today, the tallest turbines can reach over 200 meters (650 ft) in height and cost more than $12 million to manufacture and install.
The above infographic uses data compiled from company portfolios to showcase the biggest wind turbines currently being developed and to put these huge structures into perspective.
The biggest turbines are all located over water. The so-called offshore turbines can be taller than those onshore, which means they can harness more wind energy and produce more electricity.
MingYang Smart Energy, a Chinese wind turbine manufacturer, is in the process of building the biggest wind turbine so far.
Their new MySE 16.0-242 model is still under construction and is expected to be online by 2026. It will be 264 meters tall, with a blade length 118 meters long and rotor diameter of 242 meters. It features a nameplate capacity of 16 megawatts that can power 20,000 homes per unit over a 25-year service life. The first commercial turbine will be installed at the MingYang Yangjiang Qingzhou Four offshore wind farm, which is in the South China Sea.
Here are four of the biggest wind turbine models on the market right now, the companies that are making them, and where the prototypes are being installed:
|Model||Company||Nameplate capacity (MW)||Location||Height (m)||Blade Length (m)||Rotor Diameter (m)|
|MySE 16.0-242||MingYang Smart Energy||16 MW||🇨🇳||264||118||242|
|SG 14-236 DD||Siemens Gamesa||14 MW||🇩🇰||Site Specific||115||236|
|Haliade-X||General Electric||14 MW||🇳🇱||260||107||220|
These huge structures can be two times taller than a typical turbine currently in operation, generating almost four times more energy.
Prototypes for two of the top four turbine models—the SG 14-236 DD and V236-15.0— are scheduled to be installed in 2022 in Denmark, a country that was a pioneer in developing commercial wind power during the 1970s, and is home to the world’s largest wind-turbine manufacturer, Vestas.
From our list, General Electric’s Haliade-X is the only turbine currently online; the prototype has been operating since October 2021 in the Netherlands.
Wind Energy’s Rapid Global Growth
Wind generated 6.6% of the world’s electricity in 2021, up from 3.5% in 2015, when the Paris Agreement was signed, making it the fastest-growing source of electricity after solar.
A number of countries have achieved relatively high levels of wind energy penetration in their electricity grids.
Wind’s share of electricity generation was nearly 50% in Denmark and sits above 25% in countries such as Ireland, Uruguay, and Portugal. In the United States, wind supplied 8.4% of total electricity generation.
|Country||Wind Share of Electricity (%)|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||21%|
Source: Ember’s Global Electricity Review 2022
Note: Countries with populations fewer than 3 million in 2021 were not included in this ranking.
The global wind turbine market size was valued at $53.4 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $98.4 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 6.3%.
As one of the fastest-growing segments of the energy sector, wind energy generation will continue to grow as wind turbines also scale up in size.
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