Renewable energy is one of the many ways towards sustainability.
While a worldwide energy transition is in motion, more effort is required to cut carbon emissions and lessen the effects of climate change. Decarbonizing the energy sector demands urgent global action.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) asserts that the transition to renewable energy can potentially achieve 90 percent of the world's required carbon reductions.
As governments and industries pivot to clean energy economies, including solar and wind energy, jobs in the renewable energy sector are being created and expanding.
Incredibly diverse and exciting career opportunities await in roles ranging from sales professional to energy technician to designers, engineers, and analysts. You could even find yourself working with some of the world's leading companies.
Many renewable energy jobs require in-depth knowledge of energy systems and technologies.
Luckily there is a range of knowledge bases that can help you find the right fit within the industry.
Many believe that in order to access a renewable energy career, one must obtain a Bachelor's or Masters's degree specializing in biochemistry, chemical engineering, or bioinformatics. While this level of education can be beneficial, it's not the only route to starting a career in renewable energy. Alternatives to college, like trade school, can provide you with the foundation that you need to become a professional in the industry.
Many entry-level renewable energy roles with great opportunities for advancement can potentially be accessed via specialized courses at various trade schools. No matter which pathway works for you, there is no doubt the renewable energies industry is a rewarding career choice that can help you give back to our planet.
Are you curious about what roles you could pursue within this industry? Here is a breakdown of a few opportunities available within the renewable energy industry.
Renewable electricity specialists work on projects that make energy use consumption more sustainable. By harnessing the power of nature, it is possible to generate sufficient energy and radically reduce damaging pollutants.
The urgency of reducing carbon emissions should motivate all industries into action. The American Clean Power (ACP) organization advocates for cross-sector collaborations to create an equitable transition to clean energy and green jobs.
The ACP implores all businesses to rethink their standards, procedures, and policies to embrace green energy solutions. This effort can support the nation's transformation into environmentally friendly and sustainable work practices.
Underpinning this green energy movement opens up opportunities for major companies, brands, and factories to improve their functionality and work towards a greener environment.
From being a solar installer to a wind technician to operations managers, these green jobs will have a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions and creating better futures.
The main areas of renewable energy include:
Wind power is the most popular renewable energy source in the U.S. today. Wind turbines use kinetic energy generated by rapidly turning blades to produce electricity.
As well as common land-based wind farms, there are offshore versions. However, offshore wind farms require special permits to build, and they may not be suitable for some coastal regions.
Wind farms are becoming increasingly common. As a result, wind farms generated energy rose significantly to reach approximately 380 billion kWh in 2021.
Many states are now offering incentives for building wind farms, and utility companies are investing heavily in wind farm projects.
Hydroelectric power uses moving water to generate electricity through the force of falling water.
There are three types of hydroelectric power plants. These are impoundment, diversion, and pumped storage methods.
Impoundment facilities rely on dams to store water. As water is released, it flows through and causes a spinning effect in a turbine, and this action triggers a generator to produce electricity.
Alternatively, the diversion method, or run-of-river facility, redirects a segment of a river through a canal to harness the energy-producing potential of the river's natural elevation decline.
Various barriers and turbines control water flow in a closed pipe that ultimately directs water to the turbines.
Pumped storage hydropower (PSH) functions like a large battery. The electricity produced by alternative power sources, such as solar, wind, and nuclear, can be stored at a PSH facility for later use. Pumping water from a low-positioned reservoir to another one at a higher elevation allows energy to then be stored.
Two main types of solar technology absorb the sun's energy. These are photovoltaic (P.V.) and concentrated solar power (CSP). Both technologies use mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto receivers where heat is converted to electricity.
Both PV and CSP are growing rapidly due to government subsidies and credits. However, one issue is that solar energy significantly relies on the weather. Most P.V. systems operate best with direct exposure to the sun, making them impractical for shaded or cloudy areas.
However, there is a bright future for solar energy. Firstly, new technology is creating more efficient means of solar energy capture.
Secondly, according to the International Energy Agency, solar power saw the second-largest growth of all renewable energy sources in 2020, just behind wind and ahead of hydropower.
Geothermal energy power plants leverage stored heat from the Earth to make electricity. The process works similarly to solar panels, except geothermal uses heat instead of sunlight.
Most geothermal facilities and resources are found where the Earth's tectonic plates meet, where fissures allow trapped reserves to rise to the surface. Most geothermal power plants produce energy via binary cycles, flash steam, or dry steam.
A binary cycle power plant circulates fluid between twin circulating tracks, using water from a hydrothermal reservoir to heat another working fluid with a considerably lower boiling point.
The heated working fluid vaporizes and produces steam that drives a generator turbine as the hot water is pumped back into the reservoir.
Flash steam power plants run on highly pressurized reservoirs with water that normally has a temperature above 360°F. The pressure forces the intensely hot liquid upwards to a tank that sits at a pressure lower than that found underneath.
Due to the lower pressure, some of the water is "flashed" or evaporated when it reaches the tank, which creates steam that then powers a turbine.
The first geothermal power plant systems were dry steam geothermal plants. Dry steam power plants directly spin the generator turbines with the steam produced by a hydrothermal reservoir.
Renewable energy jobs are growing at a rapid pace. The 2022 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) outlines incredible growth in all major clean energy jobs.
More than 300,000 new jobs were added in 2021, increasing the overall number of workers in the energy sector by 4% to reach more than 7.8 million. The rise of employment in the U.S. energy sector surpassed the 2.8% increase in jobs nationwide in 2021.
Here is a selection of just some of the vast opportunities available within the renewable energies sector:
Wind turbine technicians take care of installing wind turbines as well as carrying out repairs and maintenance. It is a dynamic job entailing working outdoors in varied weather and at significant heights.
To repair wind turbines, technicians predominately work in the nacelle, with the drive train components and electronics. The nacelle is a compact space, and the elements inside need regular cleaning and maintenance, including lubricating shafts, gears, and other components.
Additionally, wind turbine service technicians must solve electrical faults in the generator, control board, and other systems.
The majority of wind turbine servicing technicians receive their training at technical colleges. As well as theory components, students receive practical on-the-job training.
An energy analyst helps companies evaluate whether renewable energy sources are economically viable. These individuals analyze the costs and benefits of different types of renewable energy sources, including wind power, solar power, biomass, hydroelectricity, geothermal, tidal, wave, biofuels, hydrogen, nuclear, and others.
Energy analysts help businesses determine whether investing in renewable energy is viable.
They also advise companies on how to implement renewable energy projects and monitor their performance. Analysts also prepare evidence-based assessment reports.
Renewable energy analysts work for private companies, government agencies, non-profit organizations, universities, and consulting firms. Some work full-time, while others freelance.
Some energy analysts specialize in specific areas, such as wind power, solar power, or biofuel production.
A high school diploma, a GED (general education diploma), and a college degree is often the minimum requirement for this position.
Energy transition means the transformation of the energy sector away from fossil fuel-reliant systems, including coal, natural gas, and oil, to renewable options such as wind and solar energies.
A technical specialist might develop solar panels or wind turbines or contribute to projects by installing renewable energy systems. They focus on developing and delivering clean energy alternatives and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
There are many employment options, including private companies and government agencies. To meet the demand for the energy transition, many companies are hiring professionals who understand the ins and outs of renewable energy.
These individuals typically have technical backgrounds, including electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, and software development. Trade schools and community colleges can also provide pathways into this career.
Solar project developers serve as a vital connection between engineering, resources, and construction. They combine the best sites and technology to generate their clients' most efficient solar energy solutions.
Solar project developers focus on all areas of solar energy programs. This includes securing land rights and building permits and collaborating with engineering, finance, and business groups in the pre-construction stages.
As the project advances, solar project developers assist in securing funds and monitoring construction. This role means having in-depth knowledge of solar technologies and keeping abreast of market and policy developments.
Obtaining a master's degree in engineering or business underpins this position's criteria. Additionally, experience working on power plant programs is beneficial.
Wind operations leaders oversee wind farms and other renewable energy projects. These managers typically lead teams of engineers, technicians, and project coordinators who manage wind turbines' construction, maintenance, and operation.
They also ensure the entire project runs smoothly. Wind operations leaders report directly to senior management and coordinate activities among different departments within the organization.
Opportunities to enter this career include studying at trade schools and accessing entry-level technical positions. For example, wind site supervisors, wind energy managers, and wind turbine installation supervisors will often offer opportunities for advancement.
Often, a solar energy advisor is the first contact for homeowners interested in energy reduction opportunities. The advisor takes customers through the process of researching, buying, installing, and interconnecting efficient energy solutions.
To become a solar energy advisor, you'll need to have experience working in the field, including knowledge of business operations, financial management, project development, and sales. You'll also need to communicate effectively with stakeholders, including investors, customers, and employees.
While the job title itself might sound complicated, the skills required are relatively straightforward. Most employers look for candidates with strong communication, problem-solving, and analytical thinking skills.
Some companies specialize in helping customers choose the type of renewable energy system that fits their needs best. Others provide consulting services to help homeowners and business owners decide whether investing in renewable energy would benefit their bottom line.
Customers of electric and natural gas energy conservation initiatives can use the services of energy efficiency consultants to manage their energy systems. In addition, energy efficiency consultants ensure that all projects comply with regulatory guidelines.
An energy efficiency consultant can research, plan and advise commercial clients on optimizing their energy sources and uses. Correcting inefficiencies can reap great savings by identifying wasted energy and transforming mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems.
This multi-faceted job involves many skills and an in-depth understanding of MEP systems.
With the solar industry moving from a niche market into a high-growth field, there are a variety of entry-level positions that individuals can go after. Solar sales representatives advise on and sell solar products to homeowners and businesses.
Solar industry leaders are always looking for talented individuals who are passionate about helping others save money while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.
As a Solar Sales Representative, you would play a vital role in helping customers understand the benefits of going solar.
Your responsibilities would include:
As renewable energy becomes increasingly popular, many companies hire interns to learn about the industry. Field internships are available in various fields, including solar power, wind power, biofuels, geothermal, and hydroelectricity.
To qualify for an internship position, applicants must have completed related studies and have experience working in the field.
This job involves collaboration with different teams, helping with purchase orders, and supporting meetings and correspondence with subcontractors.
Through field internships, you can gain practical experience in a range of fields, such as field operations and management, safety, electrical engineering, and quality management.
Some positions require specific certifications, such as LEED certification for green building professionals. Other jobs offer opportunities to trade school and college graduates.
Areas of focus include residential and small commercial designs, including renewable power systems, energy storage, and energy backup.
Energy designers specialize in technical planning and production for renewable energy initiatives. They usually have a degree in computer-aided drafting, electrical systems technology, or related technical field minimum requirement.
Additionally, this job involves experience with electrical construction and installation. Therefore, understanding the National Electric Code (NEC) is beneficial.
Because this role involves collaboration with various teams, excellent technical and communication skills are another advantage.
Joining an asset management team will allow you to supervise several operational aspects of the renewable energy plants, such as contract administration and compliance, operational review, and analysis.
You need to be enrolled in a B.S. program, at least in your sophomore year, and have a solid grasp of renewable energy to qualify for this role.
The renewable energy industry is a key growth sector and offers good scope for job opportunities and advancement. Working in the renewables sector not only provides competitive remuneration but is also ethically rewarding.
With human actions exhausting many of the planet's resources, it is promising for the planet and our children's futures that we turn to renewable energy sources.
Want to be part of the transition? You can reap the multiple opportunities available from a clean energy career by upgrading your skills through dedicated study courses.
If years of dedicated study are not viable, trade schools offer a great alternative to college.
Pinnacle Career Institute (PCI) offers online trade school programs for HVAC, wind turbine technicians, tower technicians, and wind energy technology. Company programs include GWO safety training courses suitable for entire teams of employees.
Apply now and get your new career in the renewable energy sector up and running!
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