8 Top Renewable Energy Jobs To Consider

Both the government and the private sector continue to invest in renewable energy, and the industry as a whole has seen explosive growth in recent years. Today, renewable energy represents a dynamic and transformative sector of the global economy. It encompasses wind power, solar power, hydropower and biofuels along with other forms of energy generation.

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Cost declines and improvements in technology have turned the industry into a global driver of economic development. And as the real-world implementation of renewable energy technologies continues to grow, so does the demand for qualified professionals who could design, build and service these power plants.

If you are interested in learning more about potential career paths in the energy industry but don’t know where to start, here’s a list of renewable energy jobs you could consider.

1. Solar Installer

As arrays of solar panels begin to cover more and more roofs, the demand for solar (PV) installers has never been greater. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job market for solar installers is projected to grow at a rate of 105 percent from 2016 to 2026.1 This is about 98 percent higher than the average growth rate of all other occupations.

As a solar installer, your job is to assemble, install and maintain solar panel systems, working mostly outside on rooftops or other structures on which solar panels are typically installed. The median annual wage for solar photovoltaic installers was $39,490 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,760, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,580.1However, your salary may be different depending on factors such as your location, experience and any optional professional certifications you may have.

Solar installers typically need on-the-job training or attend a technical school to receive a diploma or certificate in solar energy technology.1

2. Solar Manufacturing Technician

Manufacturing technicians are responsible for setting up, testing and adjusting machinery and equipment at solar manufacturing facilities. Depending on your area of specialty, you may be working with a variety of technologies, including electrical, mechanical, digital and others in order to calibrate equipment, diagnose malfunctions and ensure compliance with various safety and environmental procedures.

According to energy.gov, the median wage of manufacturing technicians is around $49,550 per year or $23.82 per hour.3 While the BLS does not track wage data specific to solar power manufacturing, you can view data for the semiconductor and electronic component manufacturing industry, which includes production of solar panels.

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3. Wind Turbine Technician

As more and more wind turbines sprout across the country, the demand for workers who can help set up and service the huge machines continues to increase. In fact, wind techs and solar installers are currently the two fastest-growing professional occupations in the United States,4 according to the BLS.

Wind techs are involved in installation, maintenance and repair of wind turbines. They generally work outdoors and atop giant wind turbines.

The median annual wage for wind turbine technicians was $53,880 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,850, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,170.5 Keep in mind that your salary could vary based on your location or if you have additional experience or qualifications.

Most wind techs learn their trade by attending technical schools where they earn a diploma or certificate in wind energy technology.5

4. Wind Farm Site Manager

Wind farm site managers, or wind energy operations managers, ensure that wind farms generate adequate amounts of energy and that all turbines are properly serviced and maintained by dedicated technicians. Site managers are also responsible for maintaining business records, training new staff and enforcing safety protocols.

According to O*Net Online, wind energy operations managers earned $50.77 hourly, or $105,610 annually, in 2017.6 As this is not an entry-level position, employees in this occupation usually need several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training. In some cases, a bachelor’s degree may be required.

The demand for wind farm managers is projected to grow as much as nine percent through 2026, which is not surprising considering the increase in implementation of offshore wind farms.

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5. Lineman

Wind, solar or hydro — no energy can reach our homes without the electrical grid. Linemen are responsible for installing, maintaining and repairing the high voltage systems that distribute electricity from power plants to consumers.

Linemen work primarily outdoors servicing and repairing poles and reconnecting fallen power lines. Needless to say, good knowledge of electrical processes and safety procedures is required to perform this job. Technical knowledge of electricity or electronics obtained through military service and/or vocational programs that offer a diploma or certificate can be helpful if you are looking to become a lineman.7

The median annual wage for electrical power line installers and repairers was $69,380 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,860.7

Is a career as a power utility technician right for you?

 

6. Electronics Technician

Most manufacturing, business and renewable energy applications these days require the use of sophisticated electronic equipment. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that there will be a continued need for electronics technicians who can maintain and service electrical equipment.8

Electronics technicians often work under direction of engineers to set up, test or troubleshoot electrical equipment. They need to possess robust knowledge of electric circuitry and be able to follow complex instructions.

The median annual wage for electrical and electronics installers and repairers was $57,210 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,940, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $90,590.8

7. Energy Efficiency Specialist

Energy efficiency specialists, or energy auditors, assess buildings and blueprints to determine their energy efficiency. They analyze and record data from a variety of energy-generating and consuming systems and make recommendations for how those systems can be made more efficient.

According to O*Net Online, based on data collected from BLS for business operations specialists such as energy auditors, the median wage was $33.66 an hour or $70,010 annually.9 The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,050 annually, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $120,460 annually.10

Energy efficiency specialists may require training in vocational schools and/or related on-the-job experience.9

8. Power Plant Operator

Power plant operators are responsible for controlling various power-generating equipment, such as wind turbines, hydroelectric stations or nuclear reactors.

While power plant operators primarily work indoors and their job is not physically strenuous, it does require constant attention. They read charts, meters and gauges to monitor and adjust voltage and electricity flow between generating stations and substations. Power plant operators start and stop generators, turbines and other equipment as necessary.

Employers may prefer that power plant operator job candidates have vocational school training in areas such as power utility technology. Prior to becoming fully qualified, power plant operators also undergo rigorous on-site training and technical instruction.

The median annual wage for power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers was $80,440 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,210, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $108,240.11

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What is Renewable Energy Industry?

The renewable-energy industry is the part of the energy industry focusing on new and appropriate renewable energy technologies. Investors worldwide have paid greater attention to this emerging industry in recent years. In many cases, this has translated into rapid renewable energy commercialization and considerable industry expansion. The wind power and solar photovoltaics (PV) industries provide good examples of this.

Renewable energy industries expanded during most of 2008, and by August 2008, there were at least 160 publicly traded renewable energy companies with a market capitalization greater than $100 million. An estimated $120 billion was invested in renewable energy globally in 2008.

Overview

During 2006/2007, several renewable energy companies went through high profile Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), resulting in market capitalization near or above $1 billion. These corporations included the solar PV companies First Solar (USA), Trina Solar (USA), Centrosolar (Germany), and Renesola (U.K.), wind power company Iberdrola (Spain), and U.S. biofuels producers VeraSun Energy, Aventine, and Pacific Ethanol.

Renewable energy industries expanded during most of 2008, with large increases in manufacturing capacity, diversification of manufacturing locations, and shifts in leadership. By August 2008, there were at least 160 publicly traded renewable energy companies with a market capitalization greater than $100 million. The number of companies in this category has expanded from around 60 in 2005.

Some $150 billion was invested in renewable energy globally in 2009, including new capacity (asset finance and projects) and biofuels refineries. This is more than double the 2006 investment figure of $63 billion. Almost all of the increase was due to greater investment in wind power, solar PV, and biofuels.

In 2000, venture capital (VC) investment in renewable energy was about 1% of total VC investment. In 2007 that figure was closer to 10%, with solar power alone making up about 3% of the entire Venture Capital asset class of ~$33B. More than 60 start-ups have been funded by VCs in the last three years. Venture capital and private equity investments in renewable energy companies increased by 167 percent in 2006, according to investment analysts at New Energy Finance Limited.

New investment into the sector jumped US$148 billion in 2007, up 60 per cent over 2006, noted a report by the Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative (SEFI). Wind energy attracted one-third of the new capital and solar one-fifth. But interest in solar is growing rapidly on the back of major technological advances which saw solar investment increase 254 per cent. The IEA predicts US$20 trillion will be invested into alternative energy projects over the next 22 years.

Companies

Vestas is the largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world with a 20% market share in 2008. The company operates plants in Denmark, Germany, India, Italy, Britain, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Australia and China, and employs more than 20,000 people globally. After a sales slump in 2005, Vestas recovered and was voted Top Green Company of 2006.

GE Energy was the world’s second largest wind turbine manufacturer in 2008, with 19% market share. The company has installed over 5,500 wind turbines and 3,600 hydro turbines, and its installed capacity of renewable energy worldwide exceeds 160,000 MW. GE Energy bought out Enron Wind in 2002 and also has nuclear energy operations in its portfolio.

Gamesa, founded in 1976 with headquarters in Vitoria, Spain, was the world’s third largest wind turbine manufacturer in 2008, and it is also a major builder of wind farms. Gamesa’s main markets are within Europe, the US and China.

Other major wind power companies include Siemens, Suzlon, Sinovel and Goldwind.

Trends

Although the wind power industry will be impacted by the global financial crisis in 2009 and 2010, a BTM Consult five year forecast up to 2013 projects substantial growth. Over the past five years the average growth in new installations has been 27.6 per cent each year. In the forecast to 2013 the expected average annual growth rate is 15.7 per cent. More than 200 GW of new wind power capacity could come on line before the end of 2013. Wind power market penetration is expected to reach 3.35 per cent by 2013 and 8 per cent by 2018.

Offshore wind power installations are emerging, and recent years have seen several hundred megawatts added annually, mostly in Europe.0

Photovoltaics

The size of photovoltaic power stations has increased progressively over the last decade with frequent new capacity records. The 97 MW Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant went online in 2010. Huanghe Hydropower Golmud Solar Park reached 200 MW in 2012. In August 2012, Agua Caliente Solar Project in Arizona reached 247 MW only to be passed by three larger plants in 2013. In 2014, two plants were tied as largest: Topaz Solar Farm, a PV solar plant at 550 MWAC in central coast area and a second 550-MW plant, the Desert Sunlight Solar Farm located in the far eastern desert region of California. These two plants were superseded by a new world’s largest facility in June 2015 when the 579 MWAC Solar Star project went online in the Antelope Valley region of Los Angeles County, California. In 2016, the largest photovoltaic power station in the world was the 850 MW Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, in Gonghe County, Qinghai, China. Additional larger solar plants, including one over 200,000 MW, have been proposed around the world.

Companies

First Solar became the world’s largest solar cell maker in 2009, producing some 1,100 MW of product, with a 13% market share. Suntech was in second place with a production of 595 MW in 2009 and market share of 7%. Sharp Solar was far behind the leader with 580 MW of output. Q-Cells and its 540 MW output was fourth in 2009. Yingli Green Energy, JA Solar Holdings, SunPower, Kyocera, Motech Solar and Gintech rounded out the 2009 Top 10 ranking.

Trends

Photovoltaic production has been increasing by an average of some 20 percent each year since 2002, making it the world’s fastest-growing energy technology. At the end of 2009, the cumulative global PV installations surpassed 21,000 megawatts.

According to the China Greentech Report 2009, jointly issued by the PricewaterhouseCoopers and American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and released on 10 Sept in Dalian, China, the estimated size of China’s green technology market could be between US$500 billion and US$1 trillion annually, or as much as 15 percent of China’s forecasted GDP, in 2013. With the positive drivers from the Chinese government’s policies to develop green technology solution, China has already played a more important role in green technology market development. Following the announcements of the Chinese government in 2009 about the new subsidy scheme of “Golden Sun” to support solar industry development in China, some of the worldwide industry players have announced their development plans in this region, such as the agreement signed by LDK Solar regarding a solar project in Jiangsu province with a total capacity of 500MW, manufacturing facilities of polysilicon ingots and wafers, PV cells and PV modules to be built by Yingli Green Energy in Hainan Province, and the new thin film manufacturing plants of Tianwei Baoding and Anwell Technologies.