wind turbines

Ohio had 126,000 green jobs in 2010, many of them in its renewable energy industry

Ohio's clean economy has created 126,855 green jobs in the state, many of them in the renewable energy industry. Clean energy can further boost the local economy by transforming Ohio's coal-dominated, imported energy supply. More than 80 percent of Ohio's electricity comes from coal, and the state spends $1.59 billion each year to import it -- that's more than $300 per household.[1] Continuing to harness Ohio's own renewable resources - including wind, solar power, biogas, and sustainably-sourced bioenergy –- will keep more money at home and expand Ohio's workforce.

Ohio has the sixth-highest number of green jobs in the nation, and more than 29,000 of them are in manufacturing.[2] Ohio's clean economy is also adding jobs at a much faster rate than the state's overall economy: the clean economy increased by 8.5 percent from 2007 to 2010, while Ohio's economy as a whole lost nearly 350,000 jobs over the same period, a decrease of roughly 6.1 percent.[3]

Ohio's alternative energy portfolio standard, established in 2008, is helping drive renewable energy job growth. The standard mandates that 12.5 percent of Ohio's electricity must come from renewable sources by 2025.[4] Eight utility-scale solar projects and 27 wind farms have been announced or are under development, creating good job opportunities for Ohioans.[5]

The renewables map shows current and future Ohio facilities generating energy from wind, biomass, solar power, and biogas.

Wind Energy

wind turbines

Ohio increased its wind capacity more than tenfold in 2011

Ohio's wind energy capacity grew exponentially in 2011, increasing from less than 9 megawatts to more than 110 megawatts by the end of the year. Further projects, both planned and under construction, are slated to bring the state's wind capacity up to 1,386 megawatts by the end of 2012.[6] Ohio is ripe for further wind energy development, especially in the northwestern part of the state: from Sandusky toward Toledo, and along the shores of Lake Erie, the state has a potential capacity of more than 54,000 megawatts.[7]

Wind energy production delivers cleaner air, brings billions of dollars into the state, and creates new employment opportunities for Ohioans. A 2011 report from the Environmental Law and Policy Center found 106 wind supply chain businesses in the state, employing 7,500 workers.[8] In addition to those jobs, there are hundreds of more people working to build the wind farms that are sprouting up across the state.

While Ohio's first wind facilities -- like the 7.2 megawatt AMP–Ohio/Green Mountain Energy Wind Farm in Bowling Green, completed in 2004,[9] and the 0.23 megawatt turbine at Cleveland's Great Lakes Science Center [10] -- were relatively small in scale, recent projects and turbines are much larger. A 99-megawatt farm in Paulding County began generating electricity in October 2011.[11] In Cleveland, Lincoln Electric installed the largest known urban wind tower in North America in summer 2011.[12]

Larger projects still are in the works: Iberdrola is nearing completion of its 304 megawatt Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert and Paulding Counties. The project will provide power to about 76,000 homes annually, as well as $1.1 million to landowners and $2.7 million in taxes annually. More than 500 construction jobs were created for the project, as well as 15 to 20 permanent jobs for operating the farm.[13] Other large onshore wind projects scheduled to come online in 2012 include the Invenergy Hardin County Wind Farm and the National Wind Northwest Ohio Wind project.[14]

Ohio's further plans for large facilities include the first offshore wind project in the Great Lakes. The Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation is expected begin construction on a 20-megawatt facility in the waters of Lake Erie near Cleveland in 2012. Officials hope the project will jumpstart offshore wind energy development in the region and revive the local manufacturing sector. The project's initial phase would produce enough energy to power between 5,000 and 6,000 homes.[15]

Biomass Energy and Cellulosic Ethanol

farmers in field of switchgrass

Credit: Gretz, Warren - NREL Staff Photographer

The potential of using switchgrass to produce cellulosic ethanol is being actively explored in Ohio. Switchgrass is native to central Ohio's prairie lands,[16] and Ohio State University soil scientists have been working for several years to examine its impacts on the surrounding soil -- especially carbon sequestration -- and the number of tons of biomass per acre that switchgrass can yield in Ohio.[17] Researchers are also investigating the biofuel potential of giant miscanthus, a perennial grass native to Asia, in southern Ohio.[18]

Ohio has a number of incentives for the use of alternative fuels, the purchase of an alternative-fuel vehicle, and the construction or purchase of an alternative-fuel refueling station or equipment. See the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center at the U.S. Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Solar Energy

solar panels

Credit: PSEG

Ohio ranks second nationally in solar panel production

Ohio gets a good sunlight with an annual daily average of three to four kilowatt-hours of solar energy per square meter, roughly twice that of central Germany.[19] But the benefits of Ohio sunshine transcend electricity generation: the state's manufacturing base has attracted the solar industry to set up shop -- and create jobs -- in Ohio. Between 2003 and 2010, Ohio's solar PV sector was one of the fastest growing segments of its economy, increasing at an average annual rate of 18.4 percent.[20] At the beginning of 2011, Ohio ranked second nationally in solar panel production.[21]

Building on its history as a glass-making center, Toledo is making a name for itself as solar manufacturing hub, proving that green energy can boost Ohio's economy. Phoenix-based First Solar employs about 1,200 people at its recently expanded plant in Perrysburg, outside Toledo,[22] and is one of 11 businesses in the area involved in solar manufacturing.[23] Throughout the state, Ohio's 63 businesses[24] in the solar supply chain are helping jump-start local economies, including Cincinnati, where Melink Corporation recently completed a 1.6 MW solar canopy with The Cincinnati Zoo. The largest publicly accessible urban solar installation, the canopy shades visitors' cars and generates 22 percent of the zoo's annual energy needs.[25] The zoo estimates about a dozen local businesses worked on the project.

solar canopy

The Cincinnati Zoo solar canopy.
Photo credit: Cincinnati Zoo

Ohio utilities must generate one-half percent of their electricity from solar power by 2025, according the state's renewable energy standard.[26] In solar capacity terms, that's roughly 300 to 400 megawatts. To date, Ohio's largest solar installation is the 12-megawatt PSEG Wyandot Solar Farm, which began operations in 2010, but larger projects are under way.[27] Turning Point Solar plans to build the largest solar photovoltaic plant east of the Mississippi near Cumberland, Ohio. The 50-megawatt plant, located on the site of a former strip mine, is in its advanced development phase, and the first 20 megawatts are scheduled to come online in 2013.[28] Ohio residential and business rooftops provide opportunity as well: a 2008 NREL study found nearly 27,000 megawatts of potential rooftop solar capacity in the state.[29]

The state has long recognized the economic and environmental benefits of this resource. A state easement provision allows property owners to create easements to maintain their access to sunlight.[30] Every year since 2005, Green Energy Ohio has organized a Solar Tour of solar-powered and solar-heated homes in the state. You can even take a virtual tour, via Google Maps, of more than 200 clean energy sites throughout the state.

Biogas Energy

Methane from Ohio livestock farms could power almost 14,000 homes

Ohio is home to more than 75,000 farms, about half of which have livestock.[31] Ohio farmers could potentially capture nearly 50,000 tons of methane -- a potent greenhouse gas -- annually from livestock manure,[32] or enough to generate more than 165 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, which could power about 14,000 homes a year.[33] Farms in western and north-central Ohio, particularly in Mercer, Darke and Wayne counties, have the greatest potential to convert manure into biogas.[34] Beyond electricity, biogas can be used for a variety of end-uses, including heating, cooling, cogeneration, and vehicle fuel.[35] Yet despite its widespread benefits, currently, just six dairy farms and one poultry operation in Ohio use biodigesters, producing about 38,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually.[36]

Researchers and companies in Ohio are beginning to realize the commercial potential of this resource. Cleveland-based Quasar energy group built its first biodigester in 2007 in Akron to process biosolids from the city's water treatment facility, which in turn helps power the energy-intensive facility.[37] More recently, Quasar broke ground on an addition to its biodigester in Zanesville. Using technology developed by the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center at Ohio State University, the new, integrated system will increase the types of waste the digester can process, adding to the 7,800 annual megawatt-hours of electricity the facility currently generates.[38]

The EPA's AgSTAR program has a comprehensive handbook on developing biogas technology. The site includes FarmWare, a free decision-making software package that can help you assess the feasibility of biogas on your farm.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service lists Ohio-based companies that provide equipment and design services for anaerobic digesters.

Learn More

The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy & Efficiency lists federal, state, local government and utility incentives for renewable energy projects in Ohio.

NRDC Smarter Cities

Columbus, OH

Cleveland, OH


  1. [1] http://www.eia.gov/electricity/state/ohio/ and Deyette, Jeff and Freese, Barbara, "Burning Coal, Burning Cash: Ranking the States that Import the Most Coal," Union of Concerned Scientists (Cambridge, MA; 2010), via http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_energy/Burning-Coal-Burning-Cash_full-report.pdf. Per household figure based on U.S. Census number of households counted in 2010 (5,127,500), via http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/39000.html.
  2. [2] http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ggqcew.pdf
  3. [3] http://www.brookings.edu/research/interactives/aggregate-clean-economy#/?ind=1&geo=1&vis=4&dt=2&z=0&x=0&y=0, http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LASST39000003
  4. [4] http://www.development.ohio.gov/Energy/Tools/AdvancedEnergyPortfolioStandard.htm#AEPS
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  6. [6] SNL, Ohio Historic and Future Power Plant Capacity, via http://www2.snl.com/interactivex/ea_pp_capacity_content.aspx?UseParent=0&M=1&St=OH&Y1=2003&G=1&F=1&Y2=2018&RTO=0&N=0&ListComps
  7. [7] http://www.awea.org/_cs_upload/learnabout/publications/6410_2.pdf
  8. [8] ELPC, The Solar and Wind Energy Supply Chain in Ohio, via http://elpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/OhioWindSupplyFinal_HQ.pdf
  9. [9] http://www.bgohio.org/departments/utilities-department/wind-turbines
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  12. [12] http://www.lincolnelectric.com/en-us/industries/wind-power/pages/wind-tower.aspx
  13. [13] http://www.iberdrolarenewables.us/bluecreek.html
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  19. [19] http://www.greenenergyohio.org/page.cfm?pageid=75
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  21. [21] http://www.toledoblade.com/Energy/2011/07/19/Ohio-ranked-2nd-in-U-S-in-solar-panel-output.html
  22. [22] hthttp://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/dsullivan/hiring_the_unemployed_with_the.html
  23. [23] http://elpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/OhioWindSupplyFinal_HQ.pdf
  24. [24] http://elpc.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/OhioWindSupplyFinal_HQ.pdf
  25. [25] http://cincinnatizoo.org/conservation/go-green/solar-power/
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  34. [34] http://rpm.nrel.gov/biopower/biopower/launch
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  38. [38] http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/7079/Ohio-State-Anaerobic-Digestion-Technology-Now-Being-Commercialized.htm
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