La. slowly adding ‘clean energy’ jobs, but has greater potential

Louisiana barely registered on projects adding clean energy and clean transportation jobs during the second quarter, but the state has enormous untapped wind energy reserves, according to a report from Environmental Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit business group.

At least 58 clean energy and clean transportation projects were announced nationwide during the second quarter. Those projects will create an estimated 38,600 jobs, up slightly from the same period in 2012.

Louisiana was among two dozen or so states whose clean energy project announcements added 100 jobs or fewer. California was first, with 12 projects that could create 9,000 jobs.

Louisiana had 44,373 green goods and services jobs in 2011, an increase of 1.3 percent from 2010, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Green goods and services jobs accounted for 2.4 percent of all the jobs statewide.

Green goods and services include 325 industries, ranging from soybean farming and poultry hatcheries to oil and gas extraction and manufacturers of low-emission office furniture.

Louisiana economic development officials and experts have touted green jobs and clean tech industries as a potential source of growth for the state.

In the past 20 months, Louisiana’s clean energy highlights include biofuels industry projects that will generate more than 160 jobs, and Blade Dynamics Michoud facility, which may create more than 640 manufacturing jobs.

In addition, Environmental Entrepreneur’s profile of Louisiana lists offshore wind resources capable of producing more than 1,100 percent of the state’s electricity needs.

In July, Metairie-based Southern States Renewable Energy announced plans for the state’s first wind farm. The proposed $40 million project would install eight 498-foot-tall wind turbines near the Port of West St. Mary. Southern States said the coastal winds in the area would allow the state’s first wind farm to produce 20 megawatts of electricity at peak operation.

Bill Gallardo Jr., who is heading the effort, said Thursday the company is negotiating a power purchase agreement with Cleco and is also in discussions with other potential electricity purchasers.

Experts say some of the best wind in the United States can be found offshore of Louisiana at heights of roughly 500 to 900 feet. The winds are especially strong near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Environmental Entrepreneurs Executive Director Judith Albert said the continued creation of clean energy and clean transportation jobs is good news with Labor Day just around the corner.

More than 500 clean energy and transportation projects have been announced since September 2011.

“Clean energy jobs are alive, well and growing,” Albert said. “Smart policies like renewable energy standards at the state level, coupled with federal policies like President Obama’s climate change initiative promise to keep that growth going.”