In the fall of 2000, a small but visionary group of environmental entrepreneurs bet big on our clean energy future. We believed we could create jobs and spur growth by investing in secure and renewable sources of power, new ways to recycle, and the next generation of energy and resource efficient cars, homes and workplaces.
A decade later, we're no longer small -- and we're no longer going on faith. The group we founded -- Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2 -- represents business leaders who've founded 1,100 companies that have created 500,000 jobs in 41 states.
Putting half a million Americans to work is a monumental accomplishment at any time. It's near miraculous, though, to do so during the worst recession since World War II, when nearly one worker in 10 can't find a job.
The clean energy sector is just getting started. While traditional industries shed jobs, in fact, we're leading our economy into a future ripe with promise.
Just a few years ago, the wind energy sector barely existed. Now it employs 85,000 Americans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
These are good jobs. They typically pay anywhere between $41,500 a year for a machinist to $95,000 a year for a top engineer. And they're not just in states like Texas, Iowa and California, the leaders in wind energy production.
Americans are making wind turbines in South Carolina, blades in South Dakota, steel for towers in Indiana, electrical components in Ohio. Workers in other states across the country produce the concrete, aluminum, fiberglass, rubber, generators, gears and other materials and equipment that go into making wind turbines.
Other examples abound:
- Just outside of Pittsburgh, 150 laid-off workers at a once-shuttered factory have gone back to work, making energy-efficient windows for offices and homes.
- In Caledonia, Wisc., contractors have refitted an old radiator factory to produce bricks that require one-tenth the energy to produce as conventional bricks.
- Brightsource Energy, an Oakland, Calif., solar energy company, is creating thousands of construction jobs in the Southwest to build a series of state of the art solar farms that will supply neighboring states with clean energy.
The clean energy sector has created entire professions that didn't exist just five years ago. Chief sustainability officers are in demand at Fortune 500 companies. Production managers are being hired to oversee biofuels production, cogeneration operations and energy efficiency accounting.