By Sarah Lozanova, Cleantech Writer
The solar energy industry is booming across the United States and beyond. As jobs in the coal industry slump, careers in solar energy are taking off. In the U.S., 855,000 people were employed in the renewable energy industry either directly or indirectly in 2018. Over 240,000 of these people work in the solar energy industry, and this number is growing quickly.
The U.S. trails China and Japan in solar energy jobs, with China employing 2.2 million or 61 percent of the global total. Although solar jobs exist across the U.S., California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas lead the way in solar industry jobs. To learn about the breakdown of solar jobs by location and sector, visit the Solar Job Census map. Reports for individual states highlight how many jobs exist in installation, manufacturing, distribution, and operations and maintenance. In most states, installation jobs lead the sector in total jobs.
If you are interested in entering the solar energy field, there are a variety of different careers available. Like any other industry, the solar energy industry needs dedicated professionals to help it thrive. Let’s look at some of the career options in solar energy.
Solar System Installer
Solar installers put solar panels on the roof and connect them to the electric panel. This job requires some training, which you can often get on the job, and general construction and electrical experience are helpful. Installation classes and training programs are available through solar manufacturers, solar organizations, or programs at community colleges and trade schools. Obtaining NABCEP certification could also help your career advancement as it the most recognized certification in the solar energy industry.
Image Credit: Sundog Solar
Careers in Solar Energy - Freelance Copywriter
By Sarah Lozanova, Clean Energy Writer
Despite serving a valuable purpose to us all, tech companies have been criticized for years for their exorbitant energy consumption. Data centers are the backbone of the internet and keeping all that information just a click away requires a lot of electricity.
A transition to renewable sources is underway, which cloud users can encourage by choosing their online service providers that source clean energy.
The ‘Dirty Cloud’
Data centers use up to 3 percent of all U.S. electricity and the information technology sector is responsible for 7 percent of global electricity consumption. The term “dirty cloud” was even coined to refer to the coal and other high-emissions fuel sources that power cloud computing. Global internet traffic has tripled in the last four years and it is anticipated to triple again by 2022, according to the International Energy Association.
The IT sector isn’t keeping up with its rapid growth,” says Gary Cook, the senior corporate campaigner on the Climate & Energy for Greenpeace. “More companies are making renewable energy commitments but energy demand growth by the industry is outstripping their renewable energy growth. This is an urgent issue to address the use of fossil fuels given the climate crisis.”
Since 2009, Greenpeace has been putting pressure on some of the more polluting tech companies while praising greener ones. When examining the energy footprint of tech companies, some clearly lead the way in the corporate use of renewable energy deployment, energy transparency, advocacy, and energy efficiency innovations.
Greening the Cloud with Renewable Energy
By Sarah Lozanova, Solar Panel Writer
Technological advances have transformed the solar energy industry in recent years. Solar panels are significantly more efficient, producing more power in the same amount of space. Meanwhile, prices continue to fall, reducing the cost of solar electricity.
But with the introduction of new technologies comes uncertainty. Which solar panels are the most reliable and durable? What technology creates the least amount of pollution in the manufacturing process? Let’s explore some of these critical issues in the pursuit of the best solar panels on the market.
Solar Panel Considerations
Solar panels have become significantly more efficient in recent years. And the more efficient a solar panel is, the more energy can be generated in a given space. Space becomes more critical when there are constraints due to the size or your roof or property. Unfortunately, more efficient panels typically cost more. If space isn’t an issue, efficiency becomes less crucial. For installations limited by space, panel efficiency is an important consideration. It is also important to consider the long-term efficiency of solar modules.
Long-Term Power Generation
Like most other things, solar panels degrade over time. They become less efficient in turning sunlight into electricity. This is important because solar panels can last 30 years and you want your solar system to be churning out a lot of energy a couple of decades from now, even if someone else owns the home.
Solar panel manufacturers offer a power production guarantee to ensure a certain level of output over a given time. Many solar panel manufacturers provide a guarantee of 90 percent production for 10 years and 80 percent for 25 years.
Image Credit: Nichole McClure
By Sarah Lozanova, Sustainability Writer
Across the globe, corporations are helping to fuel the clean energy movement and are using solar energy to power their operations, providing consumers a choice to support solar when shopping.
Large U.S. corporations installed 326 megawatts of solar panels in 2017, and now more than 4,000 U.S. companies have installed solar energy systems, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Corporate investment in renewable energy is boosting solar energy deployment as companies work towards sustainability goals and cut operating expenses.
As the cost of solar energy falls, solar has become a cost-effective source of new power generation. Many of the solar-powered corporations consist of retailers and IT companies. Let’s examine some of the retailers that are leading the way in solar energy installations.
With more than 200 megawatts of total solar energy capacity or enough electricity to power 33,000 homes, Target is the leading retailer for solar energy capacity, and it installed a whopping 40 megawatts of capacity last year. With over 1,800 stores total, Target has a goal to have solar panels on 500 stores and distribution centers by 2020, and it is well on its way with 422 solar systems. In addition, Target has solar systems with battery storage at six locations in Hawaii.
By Sarah Lozanova, Solar Energy Writer
U.S. electric utility purchases of solar energy soared in the first half of 2018, despite the Trump administration’s tariff on imported solar panels. In fact, 8.5 gigawatts (GW) of utility solar projects were procured in the first half of 2018, according to a report by report by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, enough solar electricity to power approximately 1.4 million homes. It is good news for the solar energy industry.
Why the Utility Solar Market Is Significant
The market for utility-grade solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is important to follow because utility solar installations comprise over 50 percent of the total solar energy market and are instrumental in large-scale solar energy deployment. What distinguishes utility solar installations is that the power is sold to wholesale utility buyers and not retail consumers as with residential solar installation.
By Sarah Lozanova, Solar Energy Writer
This Maine family created a resilient home with a combination of solar power, battery storage, and energy efficiency.
When a windstorm last fall knocked down trees and caused 500,000 people in Maine to lose power, Eric and Alison Rector knew that their home had emergency power. Although neighboring farmhouses were without electricity for six days, the Rectors enjoyed many of their modern luxuries. Their 1,100 square foot high-performance home uses a dynamic combination of energy efficiency and solar energy with battery backup.
Maine has one of the least reliable electric grids in the U.S. Multiple day power outages are relatively common after a severe storm, and the state ranks #49 in grid reliability, according to the Department of Energy. Many rural properties with wells are also without running water during power outages because pumps needs electricity to operate. These factors helped motivate the Rectors to find solutions to make their household more resilient.
Hybrid Solar System Provides Emergency Power
The Rector’s 6-kilowatt solar PV array provided backup electricity throughout the record-breaking outage last fall. “One 48-volt battery bank gives us running hot and cold water, heat, ventilation, lights, and power for some appliances,” says Eric. “If our solar system didn’t have batteries, we would be stuck with no power during grid outages despite all our solar panels.”
The solar panel system was designed and installed by Sundog Solar and originally contained just 3-kilowatts of solar panels and the battery bank. Eric and Alison later upgraded the system and added 3 more kilowatts of generation capacity.
The Rector house was built by GOLogic to the Passive House Standard, a stringent German certification for energy efficiency, resulting in homes that use 80% less energy for heating and cooling than a code-minimum house. Because the solar was producing more electricity than they were consuming, Eric and Alison purchased a 2017 Chevy Volt to utilize the surplus. They can now drive to and from town with solar energy.
Eric has been very satisfied with the solar system’s inverter/charger because of the peace of mind that it offers. “I call the Conext XW 6048 ‘the magic box’ because it seamlessly transitions between being on grid and off grid,” says Eric. “The way Sundog Solar designed the system, the ‘magic box’ keeps the battery bank full at all times when there is grid power. During outages, there is no need to switch anything manually. All our critical systems stay powered, and the solar system charges the batteries until the grid power returns.”
By Sarah Lozanova, Sustainability Writer
Although you may dream of buying a hybrid or an electric vehicle, many of us have to drive the cars we already have, at least for the time being. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do with driving habits and car maintenance to boost fuel economy and improve energy efficiency. Whether you want to save money or cut your carbon footprint (or ideally both!), check out these tips and learn to save green at the pump.
1. Use Your Brakes Sparingly
Yes, they are a great invention, and safe driving practices involve using your brakes. Although there is certainly a time and place for applying the brakes, they can also be overused. Let the car coast before approaching stop signs, stoplights and congested areas where you will likely need to slow down. Your gas tank loves it when you lay off both the accelerator and the brake, as it saves a lot of gas. Laying off the brakes saves gasoline because most cars merely waste energy when the brakes are applied. Some cars, such as the Toyota Prius, have regenerative braking systems that capture some of the kinetic energy and transfer it to the battery, but such systems aren’t completely efficient.
2. Roll Up the Windows at High Speeds
Rolling down the windows makes your car less aerodynamic, causing it to consume more fuel. This is true at all speeds, but even more so at high speeds. The exact numbers vary by the car, but the air conditioning is usually more efficient than rolling down the windows at speeds above 60 miles per hour. At lower speeds, it saves energy to roll down the windows and turn off the air conditioner, according to Popular Mechanics.
By Sarah Lozanova
Corporate Sustainability Writer
With nearly 4,900 properties spanning 104 countries and territories, Hilton is one of the largest and fastest-growing hospitality companies in the world. The company has also launched numerous corporate responsibility initiatives that win trust and consumer confidence – benefiting employees, the environment and corporate earnings in the process. The hotelier demonstrates that sustainability improvements can result in both environmental victories and cost savings.
“Hilton has saved an estimated $751 million from water, waste, and energy-efficiency initiatives which have also resulted in a reduction of our carbon emissions by 23 percent in seven years,” said Judy Pines, director of sustainability and responsible sourcing at Hilton. “We use a corporate responsibility performance management platform called LightStay to measure environmental and operational performance metrics.”
The platform tracks ongoing progress, shares best practices among hotels, and highlights areas where properties can reduce their environmental impact through water-, waste- and energy-reduction projects. Hilton cut carbon emissions by 23 percent and decreased waste output by 29 percent in seven years. In 2016, the LightStay platform was recognized as Environment Leader’s 2016 Product of the Year.
By Sarah Lozanova, Solar Energy Writer
Solar power is now the fastest-growing energy source. In fact, an estimated 500,000 solar panels were installed globally every day in 2015. A typical American home requires 28 to 34 solar panels to produce 100 percent of its energy consumption.
As the solar energy industry grows, there is a looming waste management issue. What will happen to the millions and millions of solar panels that are dotting rooftops across the globe at the end of their useful lives?
Few Solar Panel Recycling Options Exist Now
At the moment, most countries do not have a robust recycling infrastructure in place for solar panels. Most of the solar panels that are disposed of each year are damaged or defective. Because solar is a relatively young industry, few systems are being decommissioned each year.
The design life of a solar panel is roughly 20 to 30 years, and most solar panel manufacturers provide a performance guarantee to protect solar system owners. Solar panels become less efficient over time, and performance guarantees protects consumers if the energy production declines prematurely. The guarantee offers solar homeowners peace of mind that the solar panels will generate a certain amount of power, barring unexpectedly cloudy weather. Many manufacturers guarantee 90 percent production after 10 years and 85 percent after 25 years.
Most of the systems installed in the 1980s are still churning out an acceptable amount of power, so solar panel recycling hasn’t become very widespread. The day will come, however, when a robust recycling infrastructure will be needed because more solar systems will be decommissioned.
Image Credit: Yan Lozanov
By Sarah Lozanova, Solar Energy Copywriter
There are now more than 1 million solar systems installed in the United States, according to a recent report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. Q3 2016 was record-shattering by all accounts, and the solar industry is poised to almost double year after year. Despite widespread growth, there are misunderstandings and misconceptions that cost solar shoppers money. Keeping these common mistakes with solar panels for home use in mind can reduce the cost of going solar and your expenses over time.
Mistake #1: Not Shopping Around to Get Competitive Solar Bids
Although the cost of installing a solar system has fallen dramatically, the soft costs still constitute a lot of the total system cost. These costs vary widely by the solar installer, so it’s a good idea to shop around. Like any other home improvement project, there can be a big difference in the cost of installing a solar system with different installers. UnderstandSolar is a great free service to link you to top-rated solar installers for solar estimates.
Freelance renewable energy writer