Is It the Right Time for Students to Major in Wind and Solar Power - Student Research Foundation

Is It the Right Time for Students to Major in Wind and Solar Power?

“Across the U.S., universities that have long offered degrees related to the fossil-fuels industry are starting to offer degrees and concentrations in wind and solar technologies. Companies such as Tesla Inc. are seeking recruits with specialized skills in renewable energy, even as some oil-and-natural-gas companies pull back on hiring graduates in fields such as geology as they automate more tasks.”

– “Now Available in the Oil Patch: Wind and Solar College Degrees,” by Erin Ailworth, The Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2018

According to the Solar Energies Industry Association, there were more than 1.6 million solar installations in the U.S. in calendar year 2016, with the number projected to reach 4 million by 2023. And statistics from the American Wind Energy Association show that nearly 52,000 industrial-capacity wind turbines are currently churning out electricity in America.

Granted, the Trump administration has recently announced tariffs on imported solar panels, which should cause a downturn in new solar installations until U.S. production of panels ramps up to compensate. (Or the tariffs never happen or . . . who knows what?) But no matter what tariffs might cause in the short term, it seems certain that solar power will figure prominently in the future of energy. And if you have driven nearly anywhere recently, you have seen that wind power is literally part of the American landscape.

All those installations seem sure to create jobs for people with the right skills. And according to “Now Available in the Oil Patch: Wind and Solar College Degrees,” an article that Erin Ailworth published in The Wall Street Journal on May 2, 2018, a growing number of American colleges and universities are now offering specialized majors in solar and wind power technology. Ms. Ailworth notes that Texas Tech was a pioneer. As early as 2011, the school offered a B.S. in Wind Energy. That comes as no surprise, since Texas leads all U.S. states in the production of wind-generated electricity.

Who Is Teaching Wind and Solar Power Skills?

If you look at the courses being offered at America’s colleges, universities and engineering schools, you will see that most all of them are currently offering courses, and sometimes a major, in renewable energy studies.

Here are some institutions that are listed by the Solar Power Authority:

  • The Oregon Institute of Technology offers a B.S. in renewable energy engineering.
  • C. Berkeley offer an MBA in energy and clean technology.
  • C. Austin offers an engineering degree in energy systems and renewable energy.
  • The University of Michigan offers a master’s degree in energy and sustainable systems engineering in its Sustainable Systems program.
  • Stanford University offers both graduate and certificate programs in renewable energy.
  • MIT offers engineering degrees in energy studies.
  • North Carolina State University offers a major in renewable energy through its Clean Energy Technology Center, opened back in 1988.
  • San Juan College in New Mexico has been offering solar systems training for more than 13 years.
  • Ecotech Institute offers a program in renewable energy that leads to both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.
  • The University of Massachusetts Lowell offers both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in renewable energy.

Tech, Engineering, Business, Law, Science and More . . .

When we think about renewable energy careers, we tend to think first of solar panel installers and technicians. But many other jobs are being created in renewable energy. Engineers are designing wind turbines, batteries and more. Attorneys are specializing in energy law. Businesspeople are learning how companies can make money in the energy field. City planners are mapping out energy-efficient cities.

If you counsel students about colleges and careers, this could be a very good time to tell them, “Think about a career in renewable energy.”

To share your views about trends in American higher education and careers, we invite you to Participate in the National Career Pathway Study.

We’d love to help you reach your college dreams.

That’s why the Student Research Foundation is offering high school students and their families up to $15,000 in college scholarship funds! Learn more and Apply.

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