Wind power installed in Colorado conserves more than 1.6 billion gallons of water a year, according to the American Wind Energy Association. (David Martinez, Sterling Journal-Advocate)

Clean energy is creating real opportunities and prosperity in Colorado.

Earlier this year, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation reported that over 18,000 Coloradans were employed in the state’s red-hot clean tech sector that has now grown to over 1,400 companies in the nine-county metro Denver area.

And wind power plays a key role in the growing diversification of Colorado’s economy. The state has 19 supply chain facilities that employ thousands of residents in good paying family-wage jobs.

Indeed, this is just one of the many benefits when utilities diversify their portfolios with strong clean energy policies the Colorado Renewable Portfolio Standard working in combination with the federal production tax credit.

Just like it makes sense to diversify your 401(k) portfolio to lessen the risk of being overly dependent on one asset, wind and other renewables in electricity portfolios provide economic development, consumer savings and many environmental benefits.

The state’s 2,332 MW of wind power represents over $4 billion in economic investment, ranking Colorado 10th in the country. In addition to this investment attracting the clean tech companies to our state, these investments providing strong economic benefits flow in rural Colorado. The wind industry pays well over $17 million in property taxes landowner lease payments each year, and 90 percent of the state’s wind turbines are in Weld, Logan, Lincoln, and Prowers Counties.

Technological improvements and savings from building wind turbine components domestically, including at several large manufacturing facilities here in Colorado, have cut the cost of wind energy by more than half over the last five years – increasing wind power’s value.

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission, the state entity responsible for keeping electricity rates low for consumers, has publicly explained that a single wind purchase by Xcel Energy “will save ratepayers $100 million over its 25-year term.” The commission went on to explain that the wind purchase would “lock in a price for 25 years,” protecting consumers from fluctuations in the price of other fuels.

Wind as part of a diverse electricity portfolio also has proven environmental benefits.

Wind benefits Colorado landowners, including farmers and ranchers, by conserving freshwater resources. For example, wind power installed in Colorado conserves more than 1.6 billion gallons of water a year.

And in 2013, wind energy reduced carbon dioxide pollution in Colorado by nearly 7 million tons, the equivalent of taking almost 1 million cars off the road. The EPA tool used for this analysis indicates that Colorado ranks fourth nationally in carbon pollution reductions achieved through the use of wind energy, having cut electric sector carbon pollution by nearly 14 percent.

Wind energy cut Colorado’s emissions of the pollutant sulfur dioxide by more than 11 million pounds last year, while smog-forming nitrogen oxides were reduced by more than 14 million pounds by wind energy alone.

Indeed, all of these air quality benefits flowing zero-emission and carbon free wind power leave the state well-positioned to cost-effectively comply with newly proposed GhG emission reduction targets in upcoming years. At the same time, consumers again benefit as emission-free power lessens utilities’ exposure to expensive power plant upgrades that would be passed along to ratepayers.

Thanks to wise leadership of our Colorado’s political leaders both in Congress and in the state capitol, Colorado proves using wind energy is a win-win-win for consumers, the environment, and the economy.

Tom Darin is Western regional director for the American Wind Energy Association.