The emerging green economy has stimulated the growth of green jobs all over the map, and Ellwood City provides a great example of the potential that sustainable energy has for revitalizing towns across the U.S. Located in western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, Ellwood City is the home of LED specialist Appalachian Lighting Systems, Inc., which has just been selected to provide LED units for a parking deck and pick-up/dropoff area at the Pittsburgh International Airport. The retrofit is believed to be the largest of its kind in the U.S.

Ellwood City had its boom years in the 1940′s with a population that topped 12,000. Employment centered around the steel industry, stone quarries, and coal mining. As those jobs evaporated the city lost almost 4,000 souls by the last census in 2000. Companies like Appalachian Lighting Systems could turn that around with new green jobs. The company came on the scene in 2007, practically making its high efficiency LED units by hand in an Ellwood City warehouse, and it already anticipates the potential for expanding to a workforce of 400.

New High Efficiency LED’s

Light emitting diodes (LED’s) produce light by passing electricity through chemicals, rather than burning filaments the way that conventional light bulbs do. Appalachian Lighting ramped up the basic technology to achieve an energy savings of 70-80%. The company’s patents also include a cooling process that prevents the LED unit from overheating, which greatly prolongs the lifespan. The units are maintenance-free and the company estimates that they will last 15-30 years or more. It will supply 1,347 fixtures to the Pittsburgh International Airport, which is expected to save the facility a minimum of $158,000 annually.

Green Jobs and Government Funding

Government subsidies propped up the oil, gas and coal industries for decades. As a result, these high risk, unhealthy fossil fuels have held an almost exclusive lock on the energy landscape of the U.S., despite our rich reserves of clean, renewable energy resources including wind, solar, and geothermal. Now the tide is slowly turning with President Obama’s push for more federal funding for alternative energy, which includes a full slate of innovative programs such as reclaiming brownfields for green jobs. As for the Pittsburgh Airport lighting retrofit, that came about thanks to a grant from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority and from federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funding, distributed on a competitive grant basis by PA Conservation Works (pdf).