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Solar Energy Jobs and How To Get Them

Updated on April 25, 2009

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.

Passive solar home in Wisconsin. Photo by greenbroke.
Passive solar home in Wisconsin. Photo by greenbroke.

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.

Solar cell installation in San Francisco. Photo by bkusler.
Solar cell installation in San Francisco. Photo by bkusler.

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:

  • engineering
  • electrical engineering
  • construction
  • computer science
  • mathematics
  • business

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.

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.

Comments

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    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 

      7 years ago from Camden, South Carolina

      Hey, kerry--

      Nice Hub! I should probably look into this area myself, I'm underemployed--!

      And now I've got a couple of convenient links to follow up on.

      Again, well done!

    • profile image

      Solar Awareness 

      7 years ago

      Lime light power

      I liked your statement, (Solar panel) "efficiency isn't nearly as important as cost", i.e efficiency dictates the amount of roof area needed for a given system wattage. When shopping for a system people sometimes ask about the percent efficiency of a given panel. What one should be concerned about is comparing solar arrays with identical wattage on a cost per watt basis i.e comparing a higher efficiency 10KW array at $6/watt vs. a lower efficiency 10KW array at $5/watt

      array

    • lime light power profile image

      lime light power 

      7 years ago from NY NY

      Great hub, glad to see some good comments forming here.

      Davery1968 - there are some panels that are already at the 20% efficiency range and the "next generation" efficiencies at about 30% are just ramping up production now (April 2011). However efficiency isn't nearly as important as cost. Efficiency merely dictates the size of the panel - how many square feet to produce "x" amount of juice.

      Once we see costs at about $4.00 a watt installed, it will be cost effective for most of us in the US to "Go Solar".

    • profile image

      joyce.blue 

      8 years ago

      wow! I'm a fan of solar power and using it is really great. Of course it is not quite efficient but good thing they improved it now which makes it better.

    • profile image

      davery1968 

      8 years ago

      I think there will be some serious increases in solar power as we progress into the future. I believe this increase will have to happen at the individual level though. At least until some breakthrough is made to get solar panels above the 20-30% efficiency mark and/or get the price down.

    • profile image

      mitzi326 

      8 years ago

      Yeah, it will be something striking. And i also love how successful solar panels have grown to be, the ultra thin, flexible solar panels. I'd passion for solar power to be the answer. The fact is, all of our energy is a form of power in the sun, as well as oil.

    • Rismayanti profile image

      Rismayanti 

      8 years ago from Tropical Island

      i live in tropical country, how the cost to construct a simple solar energy for a house and confinient supply for all activities?

    working

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