Hydro power may drive 'green jobs' in Idaho

Renewable energy is one place the state could make job gains, said the Idaho Department of Commerce.

In 2008, the U.S. Energy Information Agency ranked Idaho seventh nationally in its renewable energy generating capacity, and an Idaho Department of Labor analysis found energy sector employers paying $2.6 billion to over 49,000 workers, 12 percent of total wages and 7.5 percent of total jobs.

A $1.25 million federal grant awarded earlier this week to the Department of Labor will be used to develop detailed information on the current and future potential of jobs in the state's power and energy industry, and in particular jobs in the area of efficient and renewable energy, also known as "green jobs."

The Energy Information Agency profile of Idaho identifies its vast hydropower resources — the sixth largest in the nation — as the source of nearly all the state's renewable energy capacity. Wind and wood or wood waste accounted for less than 7 percent combined.

But researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory have identified 6,700 additional hydropower sites that could potentially produce another 2,100 megawatts of electricity. That would boost Idaho's hydro capacity by another 22 percent.

Wind remains the most likely alternative resource for development. In 2004, the federal energy agency found no notable wind generation in Idaho. Idaho has 146 megawatts of wind power operating in Idaho according to the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance Wind Task Force report.

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