Friday, June 18, 2010

Green Energy Power Plants - Jobs are in Construction, not Production

Under tremendous pressure to reduce costs to get to parity with grid electricity, green manufacturing and production are being done highly efficiently, with much of the work going to semi-skilled construction laborers, not change-the-world college graduates. eSolar and Brightsource Energy are building solar thermal power plants in the Desert Southwest, most of which have about an 11:1 construction to operating job ratio. Brightsource's Ivanpah plant, which will have a rated capacity of 392 MW, will produce nearly 1,000 construction jobs, but just 86 permanent jobs. eSolar's smaller 5 MW Sierra SunTower plant created 250 construction jobs, but just 21 permanent jobs.

The Caithness 845 MW wind farm in Oregon will have just 35 permanent workers, and 400 construction jobs, similar to the 11:1 construction-operating ratio seen with solar thermal. One worker per 24 MW is about 1/4th less than a typical coal-fired plant. While it helps make wind power cheaper, it also shows how much of the opportunity with greentech will be in construction, which is not unlike data centers and other emerging technology areas. They are so automated and efficient that once they are up and running, they are better at creating wealth than jobs.

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