A national standard is likely to become law soon, congressional observers said. President Obama supports it, and there are enough votes in Congress to pass it. That will give renewable businesses additional security.
The wind industry last year added 8,300 megawatts of capacity, enough to power roughly 7 million homes, Clendenin said. In 2007 and 2008, wind companies added more than 70 new manufacturing facilities and created 85,000 jobs.
"The stimulus will go a long way toward maintain momentum through the recession," Clendenin said.
Geothermal companies between August 2008 and this month saw a 25 percent increase in projects under development. Those projects added 5,500 megawatts of power, enough to power about 5.5 million energy-efficient homes.
The geothermal industry has not projected how many jobs stimulus spending could create. But it anticipates doubling or tripling in size in the next three to five years.
"In the near term, we're seeing double-digit growth that's compounding itself," said Gawell with the Geothermal Energy Association.
If the stimulus does as it is intended and creates jobs, there may not be the right kind of workers immediately available to fill them, said Mackler with the National Commission on Energy Policy.
The power sector's work force is generally older, with the average age in the mid-50s, Mackler said. Over the next decade, those people will begin to retire. Projections for replacement workers show that those learning the needed skills are really just enough to take the jobs of those retiring, he said. There may not be enough people to fill additional new jobs.
"That's going to require a whole new set of workers with different skills," Mackler said. "There's going to be a huge demand for workers."
Training to work as a journeyman electrician takes five to six years, he said, counting both trade school and apprenticeship time.
The lack of workers could restrain the country's ability to ramp up use of renewable power, Mackler said.
Others say they do not anticipate problems finding workers. When Siemens opened its wind blade factory, it had 3,000 people apply for the initial 250 jobs, Hazel said.
Workers who have lost jobs in traditional manufacturing plants also could fill in some of the gaps, industry experts said, while construction workers displaced by the real estate downtown could work on solar projects.
The stimulus package includes $500 million to prepare workers for green energy jobs, money the Department of Labor will provide to training programs. But some corporate leaders worry about what they describe as a long-standing gap between business demands and the training provided through state- and city-run programs. Those programs normally receive federal money.
Currently, those programs do not offer much training for green jobs, said Wince-Smith with the Council on Competitiveness.
"We have not done as good of a job in the U.S. as we should have in linking training to job need," Wince-Smith said.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500