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Solar Homes: Hot Job Prospects?

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Growth of Solar Power

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U.S. now has the solar electric capacity to power more than 1.3 million average American homes, and residential installations are continuing to show consistent growth. Installations grew 53 percent in Q1 2013 over the same quarter last year, showing its (more than) doubling trend year after year.

Growth of Solar Homes in the U.S.

According to the Solar Foundation, California ranks #1 in solar jobs (43,700 jobs) which translates into one out of every 419 people, and has the most homes powered by solar energy (547,084 homes) and 1,703 solar companies. Other key states with a growing trend of solar jobs include: Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

In fact, two cities in California, Sebastopol and Lancaster, have mandated that all new buildings and building additions have solar voltaic panels. The intent of the policy is that all new residential areas have some use of renewable energy.

What is a Solar Home?

According to Renewable Energy Works, Solar Homes is "a generic term meaning that energy from the sun is being used for something in the home. This could be solar hot water, solar hot air, solar electric or passive solar."

Growth of Solar Jobs

According to a census report by the Solar Foundation National Solar Jobs Census 2012 (November 14, 2012), "the solar industry has grown to 119,016 solar workers -- defined as those workers who spend at least 50 percent of their time supporting solar-related activities. This is up over 13 percent from the 2011 revised figures. Over the next 12 months, nearly 45 percent of solar firms expect to add jobs, while fewer than 4 percent expect to cut workers, yielding a 17 percent growth in employment."

Solar Occupations

Solar power industry workers consist of a wide range of fields within different categories including research, development, sales, materials manufacturing, construction, operations, and installation and maintenance. Some specific examples of these as found on career sites such as Indeed.com and Careerbuilder.com include:

Engineers

Job Description: Design, engineer, and develop solar installation hardware and accessories Pay: $60K-100K/annually Skills/Education:
  • B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or related
  • Proficient in CAD software, 3-D modeling and prototyping
  • Design experience with PV system mounting hardware
  • Professional engineering license preferred

Materials Scientists

Job Description: Study the structures and chemical properties of various materials to develop new products or enhance existing ones. Pay: $80K-100K/annually Skills/Education:
  • PHD in Materials Science (Some jobs only require a Masters)
  • 5+ years of laboratory experience
  • Proven success, including a relevant post-doctoral program experience

Installers

Job Defined: Install and trouble shoot all mechanical systems and electrical systems for a complete solar photovoltaic installation. Pay/other interesting fact: $15-25/hour (Many of these jobs offer training and NABCEP certification) Skills/Education:
  • 1+ year of roof work, general construction, electrical or carpentry experience
  • Understanding of NEC codes related to PV installations
  • HS diploma or GED

Machine Setters & Operators

Job Description: Operate manufacturing process tools to assemble and test solar modules. Pay: $10-$15/hour Skills/Education:
  • HS diploma or GED
  • 1+ year of experience preferred
  • Physical requirements: lift 50 pounds

Sales Consultants

Job Description: Drive sales and marketing programs; Conduct in-home consultations as well as needs assessments; Analyze customer's electric bills and usage to develop a solar proposal that meets their needs Pay: $30K-100K/annually Skills/Education:
  • 2+ years of successful sales experience
  • Outstanding interpersonal skills
  • 4-yr degree preferred

Project Developers

Job Description: Manages all phases of project management including land development, entitlements & permits, design, construction and turnover to end operation, as well as quality control and budget management; Develop sales strategies and targets to achieve revenue and profitability goals Pay: $80K-120K/annually Skills/Education:
  • 4+ years of managing complex projects or business/sales experience
  • 2+ years of experience in the solar industry
  • Bachelors in engineering, environmental science, finance, etc.

Many of these jobs aren't entry level, and therefore require industry experience and/or advanced degrees. So how can you get your foot in the door? The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners offers certification programs in fields such as sales and installation. Certification is a great way to distinguish yourself as a better-prepared candidate.

Why is this important to you?

According to the Solar Reserve, "This growth in solar jobs will bring new training and skills to keep U.S. workers competitive in ever increasing globalized markets."