Green Jobs in the Solar Industry

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Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation

Solar is the fastest growing industry right now. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar has seen record growth in 2011. Commercial applications are the strongest. This boom is due to panel prices coming down and excellent incentives in the form of no interest loans, rebates, grants, tax exemptions and tax credits.

Photovoltaics (PV) is the generation of electricity directly from the sun and a solar panel. PV can generate all the electric for a building without the use of the local utility. Another popular option is net metering, where the PV is tied to the utility, and extra power generated during the day is sold back to the electric company.

Solar thermal uses the sun and a solar panel to heat household water, cutting back on the need for fossil fuels. It is the most cost effective system to install with quick payback and high ROI.

Large scale solar is growing, too. Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) uses mirrors and lenses to concentrate the sun’s energy to power a steam turbine or a piston to generate electricity at a power plant.

Concentrating PV (CPV) also concentrates the sun’s energy with mirrors and lenses, but it generates electricity directly.

Types of green jobs relevant to solar energy

In 2011, it is expected 25,000-50,000 jobs will be created and filled in those areas mentioned above. The industry needs highly skilled workers:

  • installers
  • electricians
  • plumbers
  • roofers
  • sales reps
  • marketers
  • project managers
  • systems designers
  • engineers
  • trainers
  • R&D

Analysts predict that the US will be a world leader in solar PV soon, so manufacturers are looking to build here where the demand will be. The Dept of Energy (DOE) has guaranteed a $1.4B loan to the solar industry to create thousands of jobs in 28 states over the next four years.

Training and education are necessary to get into this field, and now is the time to pursue it! Working electricians will need solar specific training. Electrical engineers trained in solar are in high demand and hard to come by, according to the National Solar Job Census put out by The Solar Foundation.

Photo:Oregon Department of Transportation

Training for a career in solar energy technology and installation

There are several places to get training. Courses need to be approved by the NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) or IREC (Interstate Renewable Energy Council). Here is a selection of programs to investigate.


‘Founded by veterans of America’s current overseas conflicts, Everblue’s mission is to build the earth’s sustainable workforce. We believe that the creation and education of a clean energy economy will promote energy security, increase our nation’s prosperity, and safeguard the health of our environment. At Everblue, we strongly believe that everyone wins with sustainability.’

[ed: follow Everblue on Twitter]

 Boots on the Roof

‘Boots on the Roof creates and delivers training for leading manufacturers in the renewable energy industry. Boots on the Roof is also the largest training provider for general contractors, electricians, plumbers, builders, sales professionals, construction managers and others – who want to add renewable Energy to their existing businesses.’

The Solar Living Institute

‘The Solar Living Institute (SLI) is a 501c3 non-profit institution with a national reputation for solar training and sustainable living education. The mission of the SLI is to promote sustainable living through inspirational environmental education.’

[ed: follow The Solar Living Institute on Twitter]

U.S Solar Institute

‘We are the only school offering a real Department of Education licensed and accredited Diploma in Photovoltaics. Through our world class solar education and on the job training programs, we do what others mimic in class like settings by building real world installations and working on real applications. The US Solar Institute is truly the most unique and solar career relevant education available.’

[ed: follow The U.S Solar Institute on Twitter]

Solar Energy International

‘Our vision is focused on helping create a more sustainable future for our planet and its inhabitants. Through our work, we see clear opportunities to influence people’s thinking and behaviors towards energy efficiency and the use of natural, sustainable methods of energy production and utilization.’

[ed: follow Solar Energy International on Twitter]

Aside from this short list, many colleges, universities and community colleges are offering programs in solar and renewable energy.

Photo: Lauren Keith

Solar energy industry jobs resources

Most training programs include job placement or career opportunities. There are also several job boards:

American Solar Energy Society (ASES)
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)
Sustainable Business
Renewable Energy World

A google search will bring up many more. Solar jobs are available world-wide. Europe is ahead of the US in many areas of renewable energy. Now is the time to get a solar education. Start a job, career or business in this rapidly expanding industry. Predictions are for this pace to keep up for the rest of the decade as solar technology continues to evolve.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.