An increasing proportion of engineers applying to graduate schools in the US, currently express an alternate interest in renewable energy. At first glance, it appears as if students applying to mainstream courses such as MS in Mechanical Engineering or Industrial Management are using this as a fallback option in their admissions procedure, but is this really the case? How intrigued are today’s young engineers with renewable energy, and more importantly, does it really make for a viable career option.
Analysts predict renewable energy as an industry will exceed one trillion dollars by 2020, moreover, as reported by the US Council of Economic Advisers, the payout in green energy jobs is 10-20% more than other jobs – this alone is a good enough incentive for a career in renewables. The fact that there appears to be strong governmental encouragement in clean energy, in the US and all over the world as well, is a positive motivator.
Due to its practical applications, such as manufacturing solar panels, building new power grids, renovating school/public buildings / residences – a specialization in renewable energy is best suited to electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, structural and design engineers and even computer engineers looking for specific renewable energy development options.
Recognizing this “need of the hour”, many Universities in the US and Europe are increasingly adding formal courses in alternative and renewable energy to their curriculum. University programs offer established research opportunities in nanotechnology, microelectronics and solar energy and so forth. Several Universities are also tied with leading power industries including PSE&G, ASCO Power Technologies. More often than not such research programs are heavily funded through public grant support or private sponsorship – which can be converted into likely RA/TA opportunities for graduate or doctoral students.
For a graduate level course, an elective in renewable energy covers scientific challenges and applications of one or more specific renewable energy source. On completing a graduate course in renewable or one of its electives, typically, a student is expected to be proficient in designing and building a renewable energy application for example, building a solar panel/hydrogen production, predict power output under various conditions, be aware of practical challenges in performance efficiency, design and optimize home or small community energy systems and stimulation of micro power grids with sustainable energy.
So, renewable energy can offer a viable career – so long as you choose a career goal best suited to your performance, interested and strengths. Here are some current options for training and a further career in renewable energy-
There is a word of caution to add here as well, as renewable energy is a major ‘state initiative’, changes in public policy, governments and funding priorities can alter or drastically affect the outlook for this sector. Also noteworthy are the realistic considerations of “very expensive” capital outlays, that is causing some companies (initially enthused about alternatives) to rethink, scale down or altogether shut down their clean energy initiatives (e,g Google, General Electric ). Recently, in the US, several solar energy panel manufacturers like Solyndra, Abound Solar, Amonix have discontinued operations while some have even had to file for bankruptcy. Stiff competition from Chinese products is among the primary reasons why these start ups have had to shut shop.
THIS POST IS BEING WRITTEN FOR THE INTEREST OF ENGINEERING STUDENTS APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL, ESPECIALLY IN THE US, UK, AUSTRALIA OR EU.