5 Great Careers in the Solar Industry

Worrisome climate change threats are making the United States’ solar industry hot with job opportunities for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Solar energy is a viable alternative where photovoltaic panels are used to convert sunshine rays into electricity with very little carbon footprint. The SEIA boasts that America’s solar electric capacity rose to a record 15 gigawatts in 2016. According to Fortune magazine, solar energy jobs experienced a 25 percent increase last year to employ nearly 374,000 workers nationally. One out of every 50 U.S. jobs created is solar-based! Let’s shine a light on five excellent solar energy careers where you can help encourage home and business owners to go “green.”

1. Solar Engineer

Solar engineers practice a sub-field of mechanical engineering to plan, coordinate, and supervise residential or large-scale projects where solar energy sources are installed. These project heads consult with clients to design a solar setup, examine installation sites, give technical estimates, double check for regulatory compliance, and report on energy efficiency. Most solar engineers are ABET-accredited engineering school graduates who construct, install, maintain, and repair PV designs. Solar engineers can expect an average yearly salary of $89,800.

2. Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Solar photovoltaic installers are entry-level construction crew members with on-the-job training who follow engineers’ instruction for the proper assembly and installation of PV panels. These skilled tradesmen handle the complex configuration to set panels atop roofs or other supports and send solar energy to the power grid under building code regulations. PV installers climb atop buildings to ensure accurate wiring, polarity, grounding, and structural integrity for years of sunshine capture. Solar photovoltaic installers report average yearly income at $42,500.

3. Materials Scientist

Materials scientists are skilled R&D professionals who drive growth in the solar industry by studying how chemical structures could be tweaked to develop improved photovoltaic panels. These solar researchers work primarily in labs and manufacturing firms to test solar electric parts like thin-film cells, PV modules, and deep-cycle batteries to improve energy efficiency. Materials scientists strive to produce solar products that are both aesthetic and capable of harvesting high energy percentages. Material science jobs garner a mean annual wage of $101,570.

4. Semiconductor Processor

Semiconductor processors are manufacturing technicians who implement the production of solar energy cells with silicon cylinders and ingots to conduct electricity. These technical laborers use automated equipment that slices silicon crystals, polishes the silicon wafers, and create the electronic circuitry power. Semiconductor processors usually complete associate degrees and on-the-job training to master the process parameters for making accurate solar energy cells that are free of impurities. Semiconductor processors garner an average annual salary of $37,890.

5. Solar Plant Operator

Solar plant operators are systems dispatchers who oversee control over large-scale photovoltaic power stations to generate electric flow from plants to consumers. As solar farms pop up nationally from deserts to cities, these operators will need to main the control boards to regulate the output of numerous PV panels. Most solar plant operators are trade school graduates with the technical expertise to keep voltage and electricity flows on track. Solar plant operators reap mean yearly income at $73,800.

The Department of Energy’s Solar Training Network offers a valuable opportunity to power up your energy career with hands-on apprenticeships, including the Solar Ready Vets program. Earning NABCEP Certification as a PV Installation Professional or Certified Solar Roofing Professional could also heat up your prospects. This involves finishing 58 hours of advanced PV training and passing the $375 certification exam. In addition to the above solar industry careers, you could become an electrician, construction manager, welder, civil engineer, environmental scientist, or industrial production manager.

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