Which of These High Demand Solar Careers is Best for You?
One of the fastest growing job markets is the solar industry. In the coming years, solar careers will dominate the marketplace.
The best thing about solar jobs is that you can easily retool your current knowledge base to fit into a rising green career.
In this section of our web site we discuss some of the career opportunities in the Solar Energy Industry and provide you with some resources to help you if this is an area you are interested in looking into:
Solar Careers in Research
One of the very active areas is in the researching of new solar technologies – materials that can be used to produce electricity, as well as new applications for solar energy (e.g., Solar Catalytix develops personalized energy
There are tens of millions being invested by governments, universities and companies annually in solar research and testing. As we reported in our article Solar Patents, this is the second biggest area of new patent filings.
To get started – look over our section on Solar Research … as there are articles related to work being done at several universities, NREL and other testing laboratories, and companies that are actively involved in Solar Research.
Also – keep in mind that research doesn't need to be limited to research about technology – there is a growing demand for research about the market place, about the performance of publicly traded solar energy stocks, in support of public policy and much more.
Corporate Solar Careers
There are more than 140 different manufacturing companies involved the solar industry producing such products as solar panels, frames, inverters, solar lights, solar gadgets, etc.
Many of these companies are hiring people at all levels as sales and production levels increase steadily to meet the growing demand for solar products.
For example, there is a growing demand for Photovoltaic-PV Fabrication Testing Technicians. A Photovoltaic Technician is someone who tests and assembles solar cells into electricity-generating solar panels. Photovoltaic cells are better known by their media name "Solar Cells".
Additionally, given the rapid increase in worldwide demand and production these companies need people that are experts in purchasing, logistics, quality control, accounting, dealer reps, customer service, investor relations, publicity, regulatory compliance, etc.
Solar Careers in Marketing & Sales
One of the more high paying solar careers is sales. All products need to be sold – whether you are representing the manufacturer and selling to wholesalers, retailers and installers … or are dealing directly with individuals who are interested in a solar installation – there is always a strong demand for capable sales people.
When planning to step into the solar sales career, however, certain requirements and credentials should be met.
Obviously, a good salesman is knowledgeable about the products they sell as well as those of their competitors. A great place to begin to build a solid knowledge base regarding solar energy and the solar industry is to carefully read the information we publish in our website and to stay up to date with industry news and trends by subscribing to our Solar News & Views Blog
I also recommend joining our Facebook Fan Page in order to network and interact with solar professionals and other people interested in solar energy.
More and more developers are incorporating solar energy into the overall designs – and with innovative new products such as solar paint, SolarWindow, integrated building PV (BIPV) the demand for architects knowledgeable about solar energy to know how best to use these technologies and incorporate them into the new building is growing rapidly.
Additionally, there is a big market for adding solar technology on existing buildings – and typically a part of every review is to look at the structure and condition of the roof, especially on commercial sized projects.
Already Solar Panels are being added to stadiums, government buildings, commercial buildings, schools, airports, parking garages, not to mention infrastructure projects, ships, and a wide variety of locations and facilities.
Additionally, there are numerous ground based utility sized Solar Parks being developed that need to be planned, laid out, etc.
This has given rise to the new position of Solar Operations Engineer. A Solar Operations Engineer is essentially an architect of new solar energy facilities. They design new solar systems, supervise and inspect the structures during construction, then test and monitor the new facilities.
Solar Careers as a Solar Installer
Installers are in high demand – but be sure to check out the licensing required in your area – as some states (like Massachusetts require the installers to have a strong electrical background), and other area emphasize a building / knowledgeable roofing background. In reality – both are needed – although most of the budget is spent on attaching the PV panels to the roof.
Some of the positions that are currently in demand include:
Solar & PV Installer-Roofer - These are the people who install electricity-producing photovoltaic (PV) solar panels into the roofs of residential and commercial homes and buildings. Qualified, experienced Solar & PV Installer-Roofers are hard to find, even in today's growing "green" technology economy.
Solar Hot Water Installer - A solar hot water installer designs, installs, and maintains water-heating systems that harness the sun's power. Solar heating systems harness the power of the sun's radiation to heat water and spaces for domestic, commercial, industrial, and other uses. Though the concept of solar hot water and the products related thereto have been in use for many years, the industry has seen rapid growth as evidenced by upgraded products and advanced concepts that continue to win converts to the benefits of solar energy.
Solar Radiant Heating Installer - Solar radiant heating installers, install radiant heating appliances. Solar radiant heating systems are probably the most effective method of using solar energy. Not only is it used for heating domestic water, many homeowners are now using solar energy to help heat their homes.
Installer- Solar Thermal - Knowing how to install solar thermal can be acquired through certification. However there are more extensive programs that you can receive a bachelor's degree. This may not be necessary at this time. If you have experience with solar systems in pools, than this should be a good fit.
Besides doing residential installations – check out the opportunities to work on larger commercial and agricultural projects, as well as large utility sized / ground based solar installations. Sometimes these projects employ hundreds of people, and the contracting companies frequently have a backlog of jobs that need to be completed.
Having expertise with specific types of PV technologies can also increase your demand and employment value.
Solar Careers in Consulting & Design
In Europe solar consultants are in high demand as they provide valuable and independent advice regarding site selection, technology, equipment configuration, and sometimes also provide valuable information regarding sourcing of equipment, recommending installers and even advice regarding financing options.
Additionally, with constantly improving technology, changing prices and availability, changing government policies and the frequent introduction of new solar technologies, products, and services – being "an expert" who is up on the market is of great value – especially when you consider the high costs of a large solar installation – that will be lasting 25+ years.
Solar Careers in Financial & Legal Services
Almost all solar projects required financing, and this means that banks, insurance companies, government policy makers, etc. all require people knowledgeable about solar technology and installations to evaluate these applications for financing.
To a large degree the availability of financing is a key to the growth of the solar industry – which means expanding jobs in this area.
Additionally, because of the need for permitting, leasing of property, long term contracts, etc. lawyers who specialize in solar energy are also in demand, as are accountants, bookkeepers and paralegal aides.
Solar Careers in Post Installation - Cleaning, Maintenance & Upgrades
While solar panels don't require a lot of maintenance – they do need to be cleaned regularly, and monitored to make sure they are working within the system design parameters.
With a life span of 25+ years for crystal silicon based solar panels and slightly less for thin film – that means long term contracts and good job security.
Solar Careers in Real Estate & Appraisals
The real estate market in may parts of the world is in a huge slump – and a lot of property owners are looking for ways to increase their income and increase their property values.
One way to do both is to add a solar installation … or arrange for the "leasing" of your roof top space to independent developers. This is especially true in the commercial markets – where there is growing demand for roof-top space – especially in markets with attractive Feed in Tariffs
Additionally, in a market of shifting values – being able to determine the economic benefit of a solar installation on your property may be key to getting the listing and making the sale.
It's also helpful to know the solar market when looking at the potential value of certain properties because of the angle of the roof to the sun, the amount of usable roof space, information about solar incentives in the area, utility rates, and much more.
Another very profitable niche market for knowledgeable real estate developers is preparing "shovel ready" solar sites that can be sold to larger solar development companies.
For example – because it frequently takes a long time to get all the necessary approvals and permits for a large commercial site – developers are frequently willing to pay the developer a substantial price to acquire the rights for a "ready to build" solar site.
In Italy, where I live, ENEL (a big utility company) has set up a specialized department that prepares site locations and then sells them for big profits to solar developers.
Solar Careers in Education & Publishing
As this and other sites demonstrate there is a strong and growing demand for valuable information about solar energy, solar products, solar news, etc., and there are a number of websites that cater to different niches in this market, as well as ebooks, research reports, magazine articles, etc.
There is also a demand for teachers to offer classes and programs in solar energy, and there is a big demand for solar training classes, seminars, tradeshows, videos, etc.
Solar Careers in Government & Community Work
Currently most governments (UN, World Bank, Federal, state, county, city, etc.) offer some form of incentives to promote the adoption of solar energy (just as utility companies have been receiving incentives for the past 100 years … solar companies, projects and customers are also receiving incentives of various kinds).
Solar energy is one of the fastest growing markets and a major source of new jobs, consequently governments need knowledgeable people to develop solar policies, track the industry, evaluate and approve applications, administer various subsidy programs, provide industry oversight, etc., etc.
Additionally, many communities are establishing initiatives to promote solar energy in their communities, and there are starting to be some charities that see the advantages of promoting solar energy as a way of improving the lives of the nearly 2 Billion people on the planet who currently live without electricity and all the benefits electricity brings.
There are a lot of great solar careers and job opportunities available in the solar industry. It's also possible to improve your career chances right where you are by adding "solar expertise" to your CV – as more and more companies switch to solar and start adding solar energy products and services to what they offer.
You have already taken the most important step by reading this website and learning more about solar energy, the terminology, the key concepts, and more about the industry and opportunities in general.
Here are five simple need-to-knows as you approach your search for a solar career:
1) Process knowledge: A good understanding of solar energy starts with a clear understanding of the basics of how electricity and/or heat is generated. We cover this in detail in this web site.
2) Product knowledge: A basic understanding of the different solar cell technologies that produce electricity and their relative advantages and disadvantages is a great place to start.
We have already published an in-depth look at the different technologies, and are now in the process of publishing information about specific companies and the pros and cons of their specific products within that context.
3) Customer requirements: knowing the customers goals and objectives is especially valuable.
4) Market - As with any career it's useful to be aware of the major trends, knowing which companies are doing what – not only for selecting firms to contact, but also to spot trends and help position yourself for future opportunities. Our Solar News & Views Blog is a great way to stay in touch.
5) Policy Finally, newcomers to the industry need to understand the central policy drivers. The solar industry is a small part of the well-established utility industry. Utilities have had incentives and subsidies in place for more than 100 years. They don't have to adjust their business models every year as subsidies come and go, based on changing political leadership. But the solar industry does. Our Solar News & Views Blog is a great way to stay current with some of the major policy changes and understanding how they might impact the solar industry marketplace.
Solar Career Resources
If you're looking at a career in the PV industry, or you simply want to learn how to install this solar system in your own household, there are organizations, training centers and universities that will provide you with everything you need to know about PV Solar Design. Don't be intimidated by the seemingly complex world of PV systems. You don't need to be a genius to learn the trade - you only have to be decided and dedicated. The solar marketplace will only be opening up. Getting in on the ground floor will help ensure that you are set in a very solid career.
Besides the growing amount of information and resources published in this website and important industry news published at Solar News & Views Blog, here are some additional resources you might want to look into that can also be useful:
Professional Associations: here are some professional associations and groups you might want to check out:
If you are looking for a solar career I recommend you bookmark this page on Solar Careers and subscribing to our website - as we plan to devote more time and space in developing this section in 2011 … and will be posting more helpful articles, resources, tips, and developing networking tips and much more to help you find the job situation that best suits your needs and wants.
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