The continuous demand for alternative energy as a source of power for homes and businesses of all sizes equates to an extensive job market. Within the renewable energy industry, there's a growing demand for engineers, technicians, system coordinators, and more.

Careers in the Solar Energy Industry
Careers in the Solar Energy Industry

Adrian Johansen


In the wake of widespread climate change, renewable energy industry is booming. The global demand for alternative energy continues to enter new markets, with solar power leading the way. Industry insiders predict that we're in a period of exponential growth: In 2015, the global solar industry was worth $86 billion and is likely to jump as high as $422 billion by 2020. 

The continuous demand for alternative energy as a source of power for homes and businesses of all sizes equates to an extensive job market. Within the renewable energy industry, there's a growing demand for engineers, technicians, system coordinators, and more. The opportunity to work in renewables exists all across the world, especially Germany, China, and Japan, the global leaders in solar energy production. 

The global reach of renewable energy production and storage provides myriad opportunities for those pursuing a career in the industry. Companies looking to recruit experienced workers can perform a much wider search thanks to industry-wide globalization. Renewable energy career opportunities abound in the U.S. as well, from solar photovoltaic (PV) system installers to renewable energy engineers. 


Renewable Energy Trends in the U.S.

While the United States has yet to embrace solar energy on a large scale, the first quarter of 2019 saw the U.S. reach 67 GW of total installed capacity. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, that number is projected to more than double by 2024, with more than 15 GW of photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed annually. And a higher national demand for PV system installation requires more solar installation technicians in the workforce. 

PV installers are responsible for the installation, assembly, and maintenance of solar panel systems, and career training is typically performed on the job. Job opportunities abound for those pursuing a PV installation career, with employment expected to grow at a much faster rate than other occupations. In fact, between 2018 and 2028, employment of PV installers is likely to increase by about 63%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

The demand for PV system installations throughout the U.S. points to increasing public awareness of the dangers of climate change and the importance of improved sustainability. Yet the current U.S. government remains critical of the renewable energy industry. At the 2019 G20 summit, President Trump declared that, “It doesn’t always work with solar because solar [is] just not strong enough.”

However, data regarding various types of electricity generated in the U.S. indicates otherwise. Renewable resources, a category that includes hydropower, wind power, and solar energy, accounted for 18% of electricity generated in the U.S. in 2017.


Working Abroad in the Solar Energy Industry

The U.S. has a long way to go before it can catch up with the world’s solar energy leaders, however. Thus, those seeking employment within the renewable energy industry are likely to find plenty of opportunities overseas. Asia provides a particularly lucrative job market when it comes to solar energy, especially within China and Japan, where solar engineers and installers often need to rely on creative solutions to the issue of land scarcity.

Within the U.S., large-scale solar power systems are typically located on large swatches of land, most notably in the arid Southwest. But in Asia, land is far more scarce, and solar power engineers have made use of the continent’s many hydroelectric dams with existing transmission infrastructure, building massive floating solar plants on lakes and reservoirs. 

Floating solar has numerous benefits, according to the World Economic Forum. Proponents of floating solar claim that the technology is up to 16 percent more efficient than land-based systems and may stop the growth of algae. As of March 2019, China and Japan are home to the world’s seven largest floating solar plants. The biggest is located in China’s Huainan City, and has the capacity to power 21,000 homes.

No matter the job description, those wishing to enter the foreign solar energy industry workforce must adhere to certain work visa and residency requirements, which vary by country. The good news is that Japan is experiencing a shortage of workers in a variety of industries, and has recently updated its work visa requirements in order to recruit foreign workers. Job-seekers with in-demand skills such as solar energy installation, engineering, or design can apply for one of Japan’s new work visas. Applicants must be sponsored by a local company and demonstrate proficiency in the Japanese language. 


Building a More Sustainable World

Solar energy technology is constantly evolving, and industry trends in 2019 and beyond will help expand job availability within the renewables sector. PV suppliers will increasingly be required to demonstrate the positive climate effects of their production processes, and smart homes on smart grids will continue to increase in popularity. Renewable energy engineers and installers should stay on top of renewable energy trends to ensure a lucrative and long-lasting career.

Within the renewables sector, there exists a need for mechanical, chemical, industrial, and electrical engineers, and these professionals typically earn an annual salary that’s significantly higher than the U.S. average. The University of California Riverside reports that “the median nationwide salary for an energy engineer stands at a little over $70,000 per year.” Renewable energy engineers may perform a variety of tasks, from consulting and research to designing machines that harness energy in a more efficient manner.

As the world moves away from its dependence on fossil fuels to cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy, more and more jobs are opening up within the solar energy industry. And renewable energy job opportunities exist across the globe, giving job seekers myriad opportunities to work and thrive in this dynamic, growing industry. Floating solar plants and smart homes attached to smart grids are just a few of the technological advancements in recent years that have contributed to a high demand for workers in the solar energy industry.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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