Those interested in being at the forefront of energy technology may find Renewable Energy Technician programs particularly enticing. This field focuses on limiting the country’s dependence on fossil fuels as a source of energy by supporting technology associated with the production of energy through the wind, solar, and other long-term solutions. Compared to other energy careers, renewable energy is relatively new. This means that there is significant growth potential for the demand for alternative sources of energy increases.
To work in this growing field, a range of technical skills are required. This includes an understanding of maintenance, repair, and installation procedures on their system of choice. Most renewable energy technician courses focus on a particular portion of the field, so you have the opportunity to specialize in your area of interest.
Operating and maintaining the associated equipment requires a combination of mechanical and technological skills, as well as knowledge in particular kinds of construction. Additionally, an understanding of basic electrical work is also helpful. Some choose to explore renewable energy as their primary career, while other consider it a supplement to their current job. Depending on where you are located, combining an understanding of renewables with other building techniques can create a more well-rounded business model. For example, sustainable living and building techniques work well with renewable energy offerings.
Renewable energy technicians may find employment with larger companies or can choose to work independently as self-employed professionals. Services may be requested by a variety of facilities including hospitals, schools, government agencies, and residential properties.
To gain admittance to a renewable energy technician program, you must first obtain a high school diploma or its equivalent. This ensures that you have a proper foundation upon which to study the subject successfully.
If you want to begin preparations before completing high school, it is best to focus extra attention in key areas. Mathematics and physics are especially useful in providing you necessary information that can translate into the career. If your school offers classes in electronics, those skills also have a significant use for your future profession. Additionally, computer-related classes, mechanical courses, and woodshop offerings can further assist in your future studies. You may be able to translate other work experience into your new career as well. For example, working in construction or as an electrician may be particularly handy for those interested in solar power installation and maintenance.
Additional Skill Set Needed
Technical jobs of this nature can be highly physical. You may have to lift and manipulate various pieces of equipment as well as construction tools. To help with the mechanical and construction related aspects of the job, strong hand-eye coordination is vital as well as manual dexterity. Work in this sector may be individual or team-oriented. Having strong communication skills can make it easier to work with customers and coworkers, while organizational skills will make project coordination efforts more efficient. If you are self-employed, an understanding of business operations, accounting, and project bidding will be necessary to maintain your services.
Your first step towards your new career is the completion of your high school diploma or its equivalent. However, you may be able to apply to schools before your official high school graduation. In these cases, your admission into the program may be reliant on your ability to complete the requirements for your diploma before attending college courses. The school you select will determine the availability of classes, as well as how the program is designed. Daytime classes are available in the majority of educational institutions, but some schools also have night and weekend classes available. For those who are currently employed, or have other obligations, alternate scheduling options may be particularly attractive. But it is important to find out what scheduling options are available before choosing a college. That way, you can choose an option that will meet your needs.
If the school you select offers financial aid, you will need to complete specific paperwork to determine your eligibility for assistance. For institutions that can accept federal financial aid, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before you are admitted into the program. The results of your FAFSA will determine the government programs for which you may qualify, such as Pell Grants and federal student loans, and can be forwarded directly to the institutions of your choice.
Schools can offer their own financial aid programs separate from those available based on your FAFSA results. Some colleges offer institutional scholarships that are only available to students attending one of their associated schools or branches. These can often be used in conjunction with other federal financial aid awards. Further, you may be able to pursue private student loans if your other financial aid products don’t fully cover the total cost. However, your ability to secure these loans is based on your eligibility and the educational institution’s willingness to accept this form of payment.
When financial aid is not available, you need to be ready to pay for your courses in full. Some schools also offer private payment plans to students to help make costs more manageable. Every college will have payment deadlines and standards regarding repayment schedules.
Renewable Energy Technician Courses
Upon admission to a renewable energy technician program, you will need to attend classes to earn your certificate. Classes will cover a variety of skills and knowledge areas to ensure competency in the subjects that are most applicable to working in the field. The order in which your classes must be completed is typically set by the educational institution. This ensures that courses are performed in a logical order, with each class providing support for each subsequent one. In some cases, the entire program is set from the beginning. This means that students who begin the program together may be able to complete the entire plan with one another. Other schools may offer a level of flexibility, depending on their ability to provide classes on varying schedules.
The time required for complete the renewable energy technician program can vary depending on the college you choose to attend. Certificate programs are often shorter than Associate’s degrees, and some can be completed in less than one year. Those who take evening or weekend courses only may find more time is required to complete the program, as often these hours do not permit students to maintain full-time class schedules. Programs typically include a combination of classroom and lab-based learning. This allows students to gain knowledge and then apply it to real-world scenarios. Courses may vary depending on your area of specialty, though some a fairly consistent. Introductions to AC and DC electrical theory and systems are standard, as well as an introduction to electronics. Computer courses are also standard, as much of the work is computer assisted. Additional attention is paid to relevant math skills and basic communication skills.
Specialty coursework focuses on your selected area of expertise. Classes will cover installation, maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting techniques required for each primary type of equipment. The topic of renewable energy as a whole is also discussed, including its current importance in the world today as well as obstacles preventing wider use.
Many educational programs also include introductions to various safety standard, laws, and regulations that are in place at the state or federal level. This ensures that those working in the industry have a thorough understanding of any legal requirements regarding how certain job duties are performed. Failure to meet these standards can result in significant fines as well as revocation of business licenses.
While certification is not required to work in the field, it may increase the number of available job opportunities. For those interested in adding to their credentials, the Associate of Energy Engineers (AEE) offers the opportunity to become a certified Renewable Energy Professional (REP) through their program. The goal is to help raise professional standard of those working in the field while trying to improve practices across the industry. Eligibility is based on a combination of education and experience, so certification may not be attainable right after completing the certificate program. Additionally, certification focuses on a range of renewable energy sources including, but not limited to, solar, wind, and ocean thermal. Once you obtain your REP, it must be renewed every three years. While continuing education is not required for certification, it can be helpful for remaining current in the field.
The demand for renewable energy technicians is expected to climb at a significant rate. Professionals focused on solar energy should see opportunities grow by approximately 24 percent from 2014 to 2024, while those specializing in wind technologies may see the industry expand by 108 percent during the same period. The fast growth in the wind sector is partially related to the limited number of positions that are currently in the field. However, this can be a smart career move for those interested in joining a fledgling industry.
Working as a Renewable Energy Technician
The majority of renewable energy work performed by technicians is completed in the field. Often, this means spending a significant amount of time working outdoors. Solar and wind technicians may also find themselves regularly working up high as wind turbines are often attached at the top of large poles, and solar panels are traditionally placed on roofs. Technicians focused on wind energy may find themselves working in more remote areas, as wind farms are generally located away from major metropolitan areas. In some cases, wind turbines are actually based in the ocean, requiring technicians to travel by boat to reach them for repairs. Solar panels have greater use in cities than wind turbines, so positions near cities are easier to find. However, there can also be demand in smaller towns and rural areas.
Job duties can include the installation of new equipment, as well as the maintenance and repair of modern devices. Troubleshooting skills are often involved in determining the root cause of equipment malfunctions. In some cases, damaged items may have to be replaced entirely if they cannot be sufficiently repaired. In some cases, renewable energy technicians may work in conjunction with other professionals. For example, electricians may be required for significant electrical issues, and construction crews may be involved in larger building projects. The job can be very physical in nature and often includes heavy lifting. This means that there is a risk of physical injuries, such as strains and sprains. In some cases, repetitive motion injuries may occur. Those working from heights may also have risks associated with falls.
In cases where visibility is concerned, safety vests may be required. Hard hats may also be mandatory in certain construction zones. Additionally, emergency repairs being completed at night may need a headlamp. For those working on wind propellers or on roofs, safety harnesses may be necessary to prevent accidental slips or falls. In some cases, these requirements are dictated by the state or federal level.
Potential Salary and Benefits
Median annual salary varies depending on your selected specialty. Technicians focused on solar can expect a median wage of over $37,000 per year while those working on wind technology may find opportunities above $51,000. Most full-time positions come with a benefits package. Available insurance often includes medical, dental, vision, prescription, and life. Retirement plans are often included, as well as paid time off. Some employers may offer educational benefits to assist with any continuing education pertinent to your certification and/or the performance of your job duties.
Those who complete a renewable energy technician program may be able to find additional advancement opportunities as their level of experience increases. This can be helped by the acquisition of industry certifications as well as manufacturer supplied training in specific products. For those interested in continuing their education, Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree programs are offered by a wide selection of educational institutions. In some cases, advanced degrees may also be available. This can provide the additional knowledge necessary to focus on larger planning efforts, such as at the city level, as well as the ability to progress into higher level management positions. For those focused on the residential aspects of the renewable energy field, additional study in other areas of construction can be helpful. This can include general contracting, architecture, and engineering.