The metropolitan area has more "green jobs" than any other in the United States, according to a report released Wednesday.
The Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, found 152,034 jobs in the 30-county region that includes Long Island were tied to public transportation, waste removal and recycling, alternative energy and other environmentally friendly industries last year.
Nearly 40 percent of the jobs, or 57,487, were in mass transit. Other big employers were waste management and treatment, 19,316 jobs; conservation, 10,733; professional environmental services, 10,312; and recycling and reuse, 9,131.
However, while job growth in these industries averaged 6.7 percent between 2003 and last year, smaller employers boosted payrolls by 27 percent. Among this latter group, recycled-content products employed 4,042 people; solar, 786, and wind power, 131.
"The clean economy sector is already an important source of industrial innovation, good-paying manufacturing jobs and exports," said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program and co-author of the 68-page report.
Brookings, with the research firm Battelle, found wages for "green collar" jobs in the metropolitan area averaged $45,578 per year. The area includes New York City and its suburbs, northern New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.
Researchers also determined many eco-friendly occupations, such as installers of alternative-energy systems, don't require a college degree, and therefore are ideal for those who have lost jobs in other fields.
Still, the United States isn't doing enough to support this economic sector compared with China, Germany and other rivals. Muro said contradictory regulations, a lack of financing and ineffective economic-development programs are undermining innovation.
On Long Island, rebates and other incentives from utilities and governments have fueled the rapid growth of companies that install solar panels. The number of businesses has grown from a handful a few years ago to more than 40.
"Green jobs are important because they provide a way to retool our economy," said Gordian Raacke, director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a trade group based in East Hampton.
GreenLogic Energy, with headquarters in Southampton, placed among the nation's 500 fastest-growing businesses last year. In a ranking by Inc. magazine, the solar-panel installer reported 2009 sales of $8.1 million, up a whopping 1,544 percent from 2006. Sales totaled $11.5 million last year.
Alternative energy "is making [the U.S.] economy stronger and we're creating a local energy economy," said Marc Cléjan, who founded GreenLogic in 2005 with Nick Albukrek. The company now has about 50 workers and has installed about 500 solar power systems.
"We're still at the tip of the iceberg on solar," Cléjan said. "We've just scratched the surface in terms of the number of potential clients on Long Island."