The renewable energy industry has been experiencing rapid growth. More people, organizations, towns, cities, and states have been investing in and adopting non-fossil-based fuels like wind and solar—and this trend is only growing in the U.S. and around the world.
With this industry and economic growth, the demand for a skilled workforce that can implement and support a renewable energy economy is also increasing. That’s why the fastest growing jobs in America are in wind and solar.
Over the next ten years, solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine service technicians are expected to be the top two fastest-growing occupations in the United States. Solar photovoltaic installers construct, install, and care for solar panel systems. Wind turbine technicians do the same, but for wind turbines rather than solar panels, which can be a bit trickier given all the moving parts.
Both jobs typically provide on-the-job training. However, in order to create a skilled workforce earlier due to the high demand, community colleges, technical schools, and even high schools are offering training that launches people into the “green collar workforce.” In many cases, that’s because wind and solar jobs are revitalizing local economies that were affected by an economic downturn.
Training to Become a Solar Photovoltaic Installer
Solar installers typically need a high school diploma or its equivalent. Coursework at a technical school or community college used to be a bonus, but with the rise of solar-focused education programs, including those from Solar Energy International and Midwest Renewable Energy Association, more prospective solar installers are ensuring their job futures with extra training.
In 2016, the Department of Energy launched the Solar Training Network to help meet increasing demand for solar installers. Two such programs launched training centers such as the Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York, and the Northern Mid-Atlantic Solar Education and Resource Center at Pennsylvania State University.
Training to Become a Wind Turbine Technician
Wind turbine technicians—also called windtechs—need many of the same skills as an astronaut. They need to be comfortable with heights and confined spaces, since much of their work takes place in the nacelle, or hub of the turbine, often hundreds of feet off the ground. They need to be conversant in mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic systems to be able to troubleshoot and maintain the enormous wind turbine systems.
Many windtechs attend vocational schools or community colleges, which are preparing the work force by installing wind labs and turbines for students to practice upon. Windtechs typically receive more than a year of on-the-job training.
Wind training takes place at specialized training centers, such as the Ecotech Institute’s College of Renewable Energy, as well as at community colleges across the country, especially in rural areas. Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey all boast community colleges with wind energy programs. A career planning website, CollegeInColorado.org, provides a detailed description of various wind technician programs across the U.S., including specific degrees offered.
Texas has even gone a step further, with a high school offering student a wind technician certification programs. With the need for wind installers constantly rising, more schools across the country may follow suit.
How to Support the Green Workforce and a Renewable Energy Economy
Looking to the future, community colleges and other educational entities are seizing the opportunity to train up a renewable energy workforce that can meet the demand for both wind and solar.
Here at CleanChoice Energy, we’re currently sourcing energy from about 50+ wind and solar farms in the U.S. regions we serve. We believe in the power of the renewable industry to create good jobs in communities. If you want to support a growing industry that’s also supporting good jobs, choose a green energy supplier—switch to CleanChoice Energy. Learn more about how to switch your home or business to 100% pollution-free renewable energy today.