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Download the PDF Presentation from the Solar Energy 101 Workshop (4/7/12) by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page!


The solar energy sector largely consists of firms that are engaged in the development, manufacturing, installation, and servicing of a variety of solar energy technology, which can capture, convert, and distribute energy from the sun. Two solar technologies, photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP), generate electricity, while a third technology, solar thermal collectors, produces heat for water heating and cooling for residential, commercial, and industrial facilities. Although some areas of the United States such as Arizona, California, and Florida have the greatest concentrated solar power potential, solar power can produce electricity in many different climate settings.

The solar industry is expected to show steady growth over the coming decade (although the industry represents a small percentage of the overall renewable energy market). This growth will be largely due to rising energy prices, advances in technology through public/private partnerships and investments, and continued enactment of federal and state policies and financial incentives. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia (DC) have enacted renewable portfolio standards, which require that providers supply a certain amount of electricity generated by renewable energy sources. In addition, 22 states and DC have adopted financial incentives to promote the installation of solar water heating or solar panels for electricity generation.

In recent years, growth trends continue to create strong solar markets and employment opportunities despite the economic downturn. According to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), the capacity of PV installations completed grew by 40 percent compared to the capacity installed in 2008 and for solar heating and cooling trends, 10% more solar water heating installations were completed in 2009 than 2008. There still remains a few challenges, however, to widespread adoption of solar technologies and job creation and growth: inconsistent interconnection, net metering, and utility rate structure, inconsistent financial incentives, complex and expensive solar installation, a lack of proven financing methods, and a shortage of a skilled solar installer workforce.

As these challenges are resolved, a skilled workforce will be critical to successful solar markets. Many of the key solar occupations today are considered to be new and emerging such as designing, installing, or selling solar equipment. However, workers with skills in traditional industries such as construction (e.g., roofers, plumbers, HVAC technicians and electricians), sales, telecommunication and other technical industries may be well-suited for these occupations with the necessary training, credentials, and/or on-the-job experience. The solar sector also offers the most advanced certification model for renewable energy occupations--The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). In addition, career pathways exist in the industry, with tremendous opportunities for promotion and career advancement for community college students based on work experience, coupled with additional education and training.

Presentation by BCC SAGE (From SAGE Summer Institute Workshop)

SAGE Photovoltaics Introduction

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Overall employment in the solar industry increased by 10,000 people from 2008 to 2009 and adding in its supply chain, represents 17,000 new jobs in 2009.

Currently, the industry directly supports about 46,000 jobs in the United States, with expected growth expected to surpass 60,000 in 2010.

SAGE Bristol,
Apr 10, 2012, 10:29 AM