Solar Energy Jobs and How To Get Them
Solar energy is one of the fastest growing job opportunities today. The solar industry in the United States has been expanding at a rate of about 30% per year for the last fifteen years and the industry is expected to continue to expand rapidly under the alternative energy-friendly leadership of President Obama.
Solar energy careers will be available in a variety of different fields to those with the interest and educational background to claim them.
Solar energy can be used by humans to produce two main things: heat and electricity. The passive solar industry concentrates on using solar energy to produce heat, while the photovoltaic industry uses solar energy to produce electricity. These two main branches of the solar industry have somewhat different career opportunities and personnel needs.
The Passive Solar Industry
Passive solar heating and cooling refers to design principles that use the sun's energy to heat homes and other buildings. For example, the use of thermal mass such as rock walls to soak up heat during sunny days and release it slowly during cooler periods at night, or the use of blinds to block strong sunlight during the summer to prevent the house from overheating. A well designed passive solar building can cut heating and cooling costs significantly.
The primary needs of the passive solar industry are in design and construction, with a smaller number of career opportunities in sales and other support personnel.
Designing and constructing passive solar homes and buildings is likely to remain the main focus of the passive solar industry. Passive solar energy is also commonly used to heat water for pools or residential use, and solar ovens are experiencing a revival of interest as an inexpensive and sustainable alternative to traditional gas or electric stoves.
Learn More Sbout the Passive Solar Industry
The Photovoltaic Industry
The main areas of job growth in the photovoltaic industry, which uses solar energy to create electricity, are expected to include manufacturing, installation, and research, as well as management of large-scale commercial and utility installations such as Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants. A smaller number of jobs are expected to be created in areas such as sales, public relations, human resources, and other support business personnel for solar energy companies.
People with backgrounds in the following subjects are likely to be in especially high demand:
- electrical engineering
- computer science
A growing number of colleges and universities are also offering degree or certification programs relating to solar energy. The US Department of Energy website offers a partial list of these programs.
Learn More about the Photovoltaic Industry
Other Opportunities in Solar Energy
If you live in an area with good solar resources, you may be able to earn extra money by installing solar panels, solar shingles, or similar on your home or property and taking part in a net metering program that allows you to sell any extra energy you generate back to the power company.