What You Need to Know
Solar energy has been around for decades but it didn’t really take off as an industry until recently. Interestingly enough, the modern solar industry we know today finds its roots in the 1970s when solar energy devices were developed to cope with the oil embargos of 1973-74 and 79.
Major growth in the industry has taken place only in the past decade, however, as the United States and other countries around the world have come to recognize the need for alternative, clean energy sources.
The solar energy sector is expected to grow significantly in the coming decade and job demand in field will grow with it. Currently, many states offer incentives for homeowners who install solar panels, such as personal tax exemptions, tax credits, and federal grants or loans which help homeowners with costs of solar panel installation. Due to environmental concerns and the desire for more clean energy sources, individual states and the US Government are expected to increase such incentives in coming years.
How Does Solar Power Work?
Solar power works by harnessing energy from the sun and converting it into usable energy that can meet our everyday energy needs, like heating our homes and powering electrical appliances. You have probably seen the solar panels which perform the task of converting the sun’s energy; most frequently they are installed on rooftops or other elevated areas where they are easily reached by the sun’s rays. It’s important to know that there are two primary types of solar energy: Solar thermal and solar photovoltaic.
Solar thermal energy collectors directly use heat from the sun, concentrating it to produce heat.
A solar thermal collector can do anything from heating a house to a pool. Solar photovoltaic collectors are different from solar thermal collectors because, instead of making heat, they convert sunshine into electricity. Solar radiation can be converted to electricity to power household appliances, outdoor lighting, etc.
Employment Outlook in the Solar Energy Sector
The use of both solar thermal and solar photovoltaic production has increased drastically over the past decade. According to the Energy Information Administration, the number shipments of solar thermal collectors numbered 7,756 in 1998, compared to 15,153 in 2007 – an almost 50 percent increase. The number of shipments of solar photovoltaic collectors numbered 15,069 in 1998, compared to 280,475 in 2007 – an increase of more than 100 percent! Expansion of solar power is expected to continue and that increase means that jobs demand in the solar energy sector is expected to increase rapidly as well.
So now that you know all about the solar energy sector, you’re probably wondering what types of jobs are actually available in the field. A great variety of jobs are available in the construction, management, development, and assessment and awareness categories within the solar energy field. An example of a construction job would be a solar panel installer, which means being the person who literally climbs up onto rooftops and ensures that solar panels are properly placed and installed. A management position in the solar sector might be a project manager who oversees solar panel production and/or installation, while a development position might include electrical engineers who can best figure out how to incorporate solar power with a structure’s pre-existing electrical system. An example of an assessment and awareness job, on the other hand, could be an NGO professional who helps educate others about solar power, such as teaching seminars on the tax incentives available for homeowners who install solar panels.