A Career As A Solar Energy Engineer ( Solar Thermal Magazine)
If you want to become a solar energy engineer, it’s important that you know what is required of you in terms of education and career road map. There are so many alternative names that are used to refer to solar energy engineers. Some of these names include solar array engineers, photovoltaic design engineers, alternative energy engineers or solar array engineers. A common shorter name that is often used is that of a solar engineer.
A solar energy engineer deals with the utilization of sunlight to produce electric energy.
Job Requirements for a solar energy engineer.
For you to start working as a solar energy engineer, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering or a related field. In most cases, you must be licensed to practice and have some previous experience in the field. The number of years of experience generally range from 3-5 depending on the employer.
Main skills needed.
1. Key skills.
You must have a deep knowledge in:
• How power conversion equipment is used.
• Substantial experience in high voltage substation projects
• Knowledge about thermodynamics, photovoltaic cells, and structural energy
2. Computer Skills
You must have computer skills in the following:
• Word processing
• Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems
• project management software
• a spreadsheet such as Excel
3. Technical Skills
You require technical knowledge in:
• semiconductor process systems
• Use of spectrometers
• ageing ovens
4. Other Requirements
• Knowledge about industry standards
• Able to conduct field testing
• troubleshooting skills
• able to give engineering specifications and electrical and mechanical drawings
The whole journey of becoming a Solar energy engineer involves a total of 6 steps as analyzed below.
I. Complete high school.
As you go through your high school education, ensure you are prolific in computer, science and math classes. These are the core subjects that will help in building a good engineering foundation in future thus be thorough in them. In short, be thorough in computer science, computer science, chemistry, and mechanical drawing and CAD programs.
II. Acquire a Bachelor’s Degree
For you to be a solar energy engineer, you must at least hold a bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering. As you go through your college education, ensure that you undertake an internship related to solar energy engineering. These are offered in most solar energy firms.
III. Acquire professional experience.
Ensure that once you finish your college education you get a solar engineering job. You can get a job through professional organizations such as American Solar Energy Society, Solar Energy Industries Association etc. While in the job, ensure that you attend conferences to keep yourself updated with the latest technology in the solar energy field. You can also join a professional organization since it will help you in getting more career training.
IV. Acquire a master’s Degree.
This is not a necessity but most employers prefer candidates with masters in a solar energy course. It will take you only one year to complete your master’s degree in solar energy.
V. Get a license
For you to be allowed to offer services to the public, you must have a State licensure to confirm that you are a Professional Engineer. You need to have enough experience in the field plus pass two examinations that will be offered to you.
VI. Undertake continuing training
This field keeps on advancing thus you need to stay updated with the latest policies, technologies, and trends.
Finding a job as a solar energy engineer.
Here are some links to job sites that offer companies the opportunity to advertise for solar energy engineering candidates. Over the last 10 years the number of opportunities while still being different by geographical area all on average growing very quickly. Take the time to explore these solar energy engineering job opportunities even as you are deciding if this is the right field for you.
Take the time to explore these solar energy engineering job opportunities even as you are deciding if this is the right field for you.
In the US you can see that jobs in solar energy engineering range from $ 33,000 for a customer service manager position to $155,000 per year for a senior solar energy engineering designer. These are some very good salaries.
Employers that hire solar energy engineers include not only solar power development companies but also manufacturers, sales, research, finance, insurance, safety, and maintenance. Government entities hire people with such skills as part of research activities of governmental program development.
Companies that employ solar energy engineers includes SolarCity ( now part of Tesla Energy ), SolarWorld and so much more.
The Solar Energy Engineer and the Future of Clean Energy.
Solar energy is just one field in the larger clean or renewable energy industry is undergoing a period of change and reinvention. Just in the area of solar power, there many different types of technologies either being used today or being developed as alternatives for the future. These include:
1- Photovoltaic solar cells using silicon as the basis.
2- Thin Film solar.
Thin film cells which are also considered photovoltaic in nature but are much more flexible ( as the name implies ) and more easily manufactured. For now, the downside to thin film technology is that it is much less efficient than silicon based solar cells and therefore require much more surface area to be exposed to the sun to deliver the same power as silicon. However, since it is lightweight and flexible it is easier and cheaper to install and can be adapted to many different types of surfaces.
3- Solar thermal generation.
This involves collecting and concentrating the power of the sun as heat, to be converted into electrical energy. The concentrated rays of the sun focused on a small area produce such temperature that it can be collected ( and stored as heat ) and used to turn a turbine generator. The advantage of this technology is that it does not use any exotic materials or highly manufactured components. Solar thermal energy generators have not seen significant growth in demand for them since solar PV prices have dropped solar rapidly in the last ten years.
4- Highly Concentrated solar photovoltaic ( HCSPV ). Using technology similar to what was developed for solar thermal electric generators, the rays of the sun are concentrated onto the surface of a photovoltaic cell, producing far more electricity than conventional PV cells with a fraction of the installation costs.
5- Hybrid solar PV – thermal technology.
As the surface temperature of a solar PV cell increases, the efficiency of solar to electric conversion decreases. By removing this heat to be used in the same way as a solar thermal electric generator researchers are able to combine the energy realized with that of the PV cell, yielding a combined efficiency of conversion much higher than either technology is capable of alone.
6- Heat to power. Using a special connection of elements, that excite electrons when heated, researchers are experimenting with this new way to generate power from the sun or to scavenge waste heat from existing processes. On a small scale, this scavenging technology may enable IoT ( internet of things ) sensors to be self-powering meaning they would never have to be recharged. On a larger scale, this may someday allow fully autonomous robots ( androids? ) to freely roam the earth. ( is this a good thing?)
Supporting technologies for the solar energy industry include energy storage. To store energy from solar technologies you need to able to store heat if we are talking about solar thermal tech or electricity if we are talking about solar PV type systems. Adding cost effective energy storage systems to renewable energy generation will finally make it possible for the world to move completely away from fossil fuels and never look back.
Solar Energy Engineers Urgently Needed On Planet Earth.
So why is the career path of a solar energy engineer so important to our society? It is easy to see that the demand is growing and so are the salaries. It is because if we are to ever be able to completely break away from our seeming addiction to fossil fuels and avoid what will surely be an environmental disaster we will need people with such skills As sea levels rise and billions of people are forced from their homes the urgency of moving to solar energy will surely increase. This does even take into account what is happening to our food and fresh water supplies are the global air and ocean temperatures climb.
It is hard to think of a career that is so rewarding as that of a solar energy engineer. Imagine getting up every day and knowing that what you do will have an impact on society for years to come.