it comes to energy, Colorado is a preferred alternative.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper wants to make his city and region among
the greenest in the world. To do that, he's going to need help from
companies like Ascent Solar and Vestas Wind
Systems, two firms that recently expanded in the area
surrounding the Mile High City.
The mayor's Greener Denver program aims to reduce the
emission of carbon gases while creating jobs in the clean, renewable
energy sector. "We want green savings, green opportunities and green
talent," Hickenlooper tells Site Selection. "And we want to help local
businesses grow the demand for green products and services."
Enter Ascent and Vestas, at locations just north of the city
center. On March 25, Denmark-based Vestas broke ground on two
wind-energy manufacturing facilities in Brighton that will create 1,350
jobs, a day after Ascent Solar opened its world headquarters and
manufacturing plant in Thornton. The developer of thin-film solar
modules will add 200 jobs over the next two years.
To the mayor of Denver, these projects are just the
beginning. "Our goal is to create a green work force," he says. "This
whole effort has a business arm; we call it Greener Denver Business. It
is part of how we grow innovative products and services in the metro
Denver market and how we build up our emerging clean-tech center."
Hickenlooper says success stories like Ascent and Vestas are
no accident. "We have been working on the wind and solar sectors since
2003, and our governor has made this a priority," the mayor notes. "We
are one of the best places in America to locate wind energy, and we
have 300 days of sunshine and a lot of potential for solar power."
director of investor relations for Ascent Solar in Thornton, tells Site
Selection that his firm never considered any other location besides
"We are based in Colorado, and while the company had
experience in locating plants in two places, we did not want to have to
deal with travel or logistics issues. The Denver area made sense for a
lot of reasons. It has a lot of sun. The area is very pro-renewable
energy. Other solar companies are located here. A lot of R&D
operations are based here, as is the National Laboratory of Renewable
Energy. The weather and the people here are nice, and metro Denver has
rapidly become a hub for this industry."
The US$4-million Ascent plant creates 65 jobs initially in
Thornton. The company recycled an existing 120,000-sq.-ft.
(11,148-sq.-m.) building and expanded it to 145,000 sq. ft. (13,471 sq.
m.) for the manufacture of 30 megawatts of solar capacity.
Blackman says Ascent chose Thornton because "it has an
interesting footprint of technical companies. We looked at facilities
throughout the Denver area, but the representatives of this facility
showed an aggressive interest in having Ascent Solar locate there. This
building quickly became the best that money could buy, the best
dollar-for-dollar value in real estate. It is very close to the
highway, with convenient access to the airport," he adds. "It is a good
location for shipping logistics, and it is the right size."
The firm also likes the surrounding high-tech support, notes
Blackman. "The area colleges and universities hold an important role in
our industry," he says. "The local schools are beginning to offer
green-tech degrees. They have a big influence in how they drive the
future of this industry. Colorado State and other universities have
shown a lot of promise."