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2014 Clean Energy Industry Report
Since 2011, MassCEC has tracked the growth of the Commonwealth’s clean energy economy, surveying businesses across the state about their hiring over the past year, as well as their thoughts on the clean energy sector as a whole. The Massachusetts clean energy sector has grown each of the past four years and now represents a $10 billion industry, accounting for 2.5 percent of the Gross State Product.
The Massachusetts clean energy industry creates thousands of jobs every year
Clean energy firms have added more than 28,000 clean energy workers to their payrolls since 2010.
And, these companies show no signs of slowing down. In fact, employers expect to add another 11,700 jobs over the coming 12 months, a 13.3 percent growth rate. The Massachusetts clean energy industry is expected to exceed 6,000 employers and 100,000 workers by early 2015.
Lives in: Lowell
The students of the Plymouth School District were brimming with excitement as they watched the ribbon cutting on a new solar electric array that will help to power the district for years to come. And Sarah Field, of Borrego Solar, the company who installed the system, couldn’t have been happier. “I love going to ribbon cuttings and seeing all the people benefitting from our work,” she said. “Especially the kids, they get so into it because of how cool it is.” The Plymouth ribbon cutting was a learning experience for the students, Field said, not just in how solar electricity works, but in what the industry represents for potential future careers. “They hadn’t seen something like this up close,” she said. “Now they’re talking about going into solar careers.”
Field, 41, never saw herself working in solar until 2008 when the electrical contracting business where she had worked for 10 years went bankrupt, and she happened upon a job listing Borrego Solar had posted online. Field didn’t have any experience in the solar industry, but thought the job seemed interesting and would build upon her work in the electrical business. “It seemed like a really good fit,” she said.
Working out of Borrego Solar’s office in Lowell, where she lives, Field’s job involves shepherding projects through the company’s different departments from the design stage, through permitting and finally to installation and, of course, the ribbon cutting.
During her time at Borrego Solar, Field has seen the company and industry grow dramatically in Massachusetts. By the summer of 2014, Borrego was responsible for more than 60 Megawatts of installed solar capacity, roughly 10% of all the solar installed in the state. Field plans to stay with Borrego Solar for as long as she can, helping to spread the greater message of the environmental and economic benefits of solar electricity. “We need to make people aware of the benefits of solar,” she said. “We’re doing something that really helps.”
Lives in: Northampton
Northeast Sustainable Energy Association
After graduating from Amherst College with a degree in environmental studies, Jeremy Koo faced a conundrum familiar to college graduates across the country. “Where do I go next?” the San Diego-native asked himself. Koo, 23, had been interested in sustainability issues during his time at Amherst College, but wasn’t sure there was a job for him since he didn’t have a background in engineering or the technical expertise to install equipment like solar panels. After a year of teaching music, which he also studied at Amherst, Koo decided he wanted to explore what opportunities he had available to him through his sustainability studies. “I felt it was important to take advantage of my education and to give back; to bring some good to the rest of the world,” he said.
Through MassCEC’s Internship Program, which pairs Massachusetts clean energy companies with paid interns, Koo was connected with the Greenfield-based Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), a membership organization that promotes sustainable energy practices. Following an internship during the summer of 2013, Koo was offered a full-time job to join the 10-person team at NESEA. His main responsibility would be to help organize the hundreds of speakers needed for the group’s marquee BuildingEnergy conferences, held annually in Boston and New York City. The conferences, which draw thousands, are the organization’s biggest events to help facilitate its mission, to bring together people in the building trades to share ideas and discuss best practices for sustainable building and construction. Koo is responsible for arranging the speaking program and ensuring everything, big or small, is taken care of before attendees arrive.
Though he’s still young and not sure where his career will take him, Koo, who makes his home in Northampton, is sure there will always opportunities for him to work in the clean energy and sustainability fields. “These problems aren’t going away,” he said.
Lives in: Marion
Civil Engineer, President
When deciding what type of engineering to focus on, Susan Nilson was drawn to civil engineering because of the different opportunities it presented. Recently, one of those opportunities was an interesting challenge – help design the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, the first facility in North America designed to support the construction, assembly and deployment of offshore wind projects. “It’s such a unique project,” Nilson said. “It’s something I’m proud to be a part of.”
Nilson, 43, played an integral role in the design and construction of the first-of-its-kind project through her role as President of CLE Engineering, which is headquartered in Marion and has offices across the country. “Our firm was the designer of the structure for the entire port. I worked to make sure calculations were correct, all the components were coming together, coming up with alternatives and vetting those out – a lot of research was done to prepare for this project,” she said. In the end, they decided on steel, cellular coffer-dams to form the retaining wall – a design that could support the needs of the budding offshore wind industry in Massachusetts.
Nilson earned a bachelor’s degree of science in civil engineering from University of Massachusetts Amherst and a master’s degree of science in civil engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle. Though the New Bedford project is the first of its kind in North America, it isn’t the first foray into clean energy for CLE Engineering. Previous endeavors for the company, which has roughly 50 employees working on projects across the country, have included things like the interconnection and transmission of electricity generated from renewable energy sources.
For Nilson, the excitement of working on a first-ever project is only eclipsed by the excitement of helping to launch a new U.S. industry near her Marion home. “You are rooting for New Bedford, to see something transform in your backyard,” she said. “This is outstanding for the region, and especially exciting for me being a resident and business owner in this area.”
Lives in: Boston
Senior Software Engineer
A conference table that converts for ping pong and treadmill desks belie the tough work underway at Retroficiency, a software-based energy efficiency company based in Boston and working to use big data to analyze and improve building energy use.
“People work really hard, so, when we can, we try to enjoy ourselves,” said Matt McDaniel, a 31-year-old software engineer who has been with the company since 2011.
A Palmer native now living in Boston, McDaniel didn’t see himself entering the clean energy sector when he graduated from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in 2004 with a degree in computer science. But after a stint working in the social media field, the opportunity to join Retroficiency presented itself and McDaniel was thrilled to find a career that went beyond the normal database and data storage opportunities typically available for software engineers. “We solve real-life energy problems,” he said.
During his time at WPI, McDaniel was able to do some clean energy work in the field during his course work. After joining Retroficiency, McDaniel honed his renewable energy and energy efficiency skills. The company uses software to work with clients, mainly utilities and energy service providers, to analyze their energy use and find ways to make that use more efficient, saving energy and money. Through the software that McDaniel helps to design and support, Retroficiency can help customers identify energy inefficiencies and remedy them by means such as ramping down heating systems when buildings aren’t being used and ensuring that heating and cooling systems aren’t operating simultaneously. “The cost to make these changes can be practically free,” he said.
Though working for a startup certainly has its perks (see the ping pong conference tables and treadmill desks), McDaniel said he’s most excited about working with the cross section of professionals Retroficiency’s more than 30 employees comprises. “Working with engineers, scientists exposes you to a lot of different ideas,” he said. “The coolest thing about the job is the cross-pollination.”
Lives in: Marlborough
Chaves Heating & Air Conditioning
You don’t need to study clean energy to find yourself working in the rapidly-expanding sector, as Chris Boule discovered. For four summers as he studied marketing, Boule worked for a friend’s carpentry business, unaware the job was setting him on a path towards a career in the fast growing Massachusetts energy efficiency sector. It was while he and his colleagues were working on a construction project that Boule met Manny Chaves, the owner of Chaves Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. A Hudson-based company employing roughly 40 workers, Chaves Inc. was expanding its energy efficiency operations and looking for hard-working people to join this new branch of the business, and offered Boule and two colleagues jobs in December 2013.
Boule, a 23-year-old living in his hometown of Marlborough, had been unable to find a job using his degree in marketing, and was excited to join the growing sector. Following several training programs over a few months, Boule began work as an energy auditor, visiting clients’ homes to assess energy usage and to help homeowners find ways to lower their utility bills. Boule uses his carpentry skills and energy efficiency training to spot areas where air may be escaping the home, leading to wasted energy during particularly hot or cold weather. Exploring the different nooks and crannies of each house is what he enjoys most. “I really like going up into an attic and figuring out how the people before me did things. No house is a carbon copy, I never know what to expect,” he said.
Working through programs like MassSave, which provides financing for residents making energy efficiency upgrades, Boule helps clients get the greatest savings possible, both environmentally and economically. “Our clients want to save money - they can be penny pinchers,” said Boule. “I want to make the whole house as efficient as possible.”
Boule said he enjoys his work and believes his future is bright. “This will be a good industry for a long time to come,” he said. “I am just glad I took the opportunity when it came.”