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.
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
More from our blog: 5 Signs You Should Be a Solar Energy Technician.
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.
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.
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
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