Benefits to a Solar Career
While jobs in the solar industry generally pay a competitive salary, a renewable energy career has environmental and social benefits that go beyond money. Here are just a few of the reasons to feel good about a solar career.
There’s a growing recognition that this isn’t something you can learn in a weekend, (Courses) have become more rigorous.
Solar energy …
Human activity with a dependence on fossil fuels – such as coal and natural gas – to power traditional electricity, has added harmful greenhouse gases to Earth’s atmosphere, raising the atmospheric temperature and negatively impacting the planet’s health. Solar energy generation sends few if any harmful emissions into the air, thereby helping to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that are affecting global warming and causing climate change. According to the International Panel on Climate Change, global warming emissions from renewable energy are minimal.
By every estimate, solar uses much less water than burning coal or using water from a hydroelectric plant – not an insignificant issue in the face of recent droughts affecting the Western U.S.
Nonrenewable energy resources – such as fossil fuels like coal and natural gas – not only are harmful to the environment, but they eventually will run out. The sun is the largest source of renewable energy and is not expected to run out of its hydrogen fuel for at least 5 billion years.
Fossil fuel incidents can result in devastating coal ash or oil spills, such as the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska. Solar, however, doesn’t have those worries.
Map Your Solar Career
You know that solar is the career of the future, but you hardly know where to begin. Don’t worry: With hundreds of thousands of Americans at work in solar jobs and strong industry growth, there’s bound to be a job for you, too.
Solar offers a wide range of career options, whether you have a high school diploma or want to seek a master’s degree. Here is a guide to some of the jobs available in today’s solar energy industry:
These jobs typically require a high school diploma and/or specialized training.
Basic installers assemble solar modules and safely attach the photovoltaic systems on rooftops and other structures. High school diploma or equivalent plus construction experience required. Able to work at heights and climb ladders carrying heavy equipment. Some jobs offer on-the-job training. With additional training can advance to solar crew chief or electrician with solar expertise.
Electrician with Solar Expertise
Tasks include connecting panes and other high-voltage equipment to power supply and installing and repairing PV-related wiring and fixtures. High school diploma or equivalent plus apprenticeship or other specialized training. Licensure and certification required. Required skills include good judgment and decision-making as well as physical dexterity.
Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Operator
Run and monitor computerized machines to produce precise component parts for solar projects. High school diploma or equivalent required. Specific training provided on the job or through certification program. Ability to concentrate and stand for long periods of time required. Advancement available through apprenticeships or associate degree.
Solar Marketing Specialist
Analyze promotional potential of solar company and products, evaluate consumer demands and trends, and design advertising campaigns to promote solar projects and lifestyle. Associate degree, 1-3 years marketing experience and specialized training for entry-level positions required. Can advance with bachelor’s degree and certification.
Solar Sales Rep
Develop customer leads and make presentations, including quotes and contracts, to help customers determine their solar needs. Generally, an associate degree is acceptable, but sales jobs increasingly require a bachelor’s degree. New workers will receive specialized solar training. Motivated self-starters with outgoing personalities have best chance for success.
Inspect and monitor solar-related structures and systems, including buildings, wiring, plumbing and foundations, to make sure they are structurally sound and in compliance with regulations. Associate degree, specific solar training, licensure and certification required as well as three to five years of experience in the skilled trades. Good eyesight and attention to detail considered important.
Solar Energy Systems Designer
Design solar and photovoltaic systems, including the specifications for integrating systems and providing direction or support during installation. At least a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering and certification required. Certain jobs require a master’s degree.
Solar Utility Procurement Specialist
Develop and negotiate contracts for solar delivery, monitor inventory and oversee purchasing. Bachelor’s degree with strong math background required. Master’s degree required for advancement.
Utility Interconnection Engineer
Manages the interconnection of power generation to electric grid, which involves multiple operations. Ability to multi-task is essential. Bachelor of Science in engineering with five years experience expected.
Post Graduate Degree
Represent clients in proceedings with regulatory agencies and advise clients on legal and compliance issues. Bachelor’s and JD degrees required along with passage of the state bar exam. Solar expertise can be learned on the job or through certification. Most law positions are located in larger metro areas, such as New York City and San Francisco.
Solar Project Developer
Oversee all aspects of solar project from securing land and building permits through financing and construction. Requires at least bachelor’s degree in engineering or science with five years experience and certification. Post-graduate degree or MBA preferred. Good people skills required.
Improve solar processes and materials for a variety of reasons, including cost, aesthetics and environmental impact. Current research is focused on developing new materials and decreasing the cost of solar panels. Post-graduate degree required. Master’s or doctorate in applied physics, chemistry or materials science is becoming expected.
10 Months PGP in "Renewable Energy Project Finance" personal leadership education collegiate course. Certification offered by Institute of Solar Technology (IST) in academic partnership with University of Petroleum and Energy Studies.
Become a Solar Energy Engineer
Solar energy engineers, also known as alternative energy engineers, photovoltaic (PV) design engineers, or solar array engineers, are experts in utilizing sunlight to generate electricity. In the solar energy industry, these individuals work in the manufacturing, construction, and maintenance of solar power materials and solar power plants. Various types of engineers including chemical, computer software, electrical, mechanical, and industrial work in various facets of this industry. These workers will likely spend most of their time working a regular schedule in an office, but on occasion, some overtime and field work might be required in this profession.
Gain Professional Experience
Students can look for solar energy engineering jobs through school counselors, internship supervisors, and professional organizations which are dedicated to renewable energy engineering. Examples of professional organizations include the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).
Attend conferences. Individuals can learn about the latest issues and technology in the industry by attending industry-related conferences. The U.S. Solar Market Insight Conference, hosted by SEIA and Greentech Media, is an example. SEIA also provides educational seminars, webinars, and networking events.
Join a professional training organization. Organizations offer benefits such as networking opportunities and career training information. Many professional solar energy organizations also publish journals or magazines that can provide solar energy engineers with recent updates on the latest news, products, and policy changes. For example, ASES provides its members with the Solar Today Magazine. SEPA also has an extensive amount of resources available in its digital library.