For centuries, mechanical engineering – the design and construction of machines – has been an integral part of our everyday life. From cars and planes to power plants and water treatment centers, it seems like we couldn’t live without relying on mechanical engineering to provide us with daily necessities. Now, modern-day mechanical engineers are taking their skills and using them for a different purpose: harnessing the power of nature to provide us with clean, sustainable energy.
The role of mechanical engineers in the energy industry isn’t a new one, but it is quite distinct from that of traditional mechanical engineers. In recent years, many mechanical engineers have leaped at the opportunity to work in the solar energy industry and pursue a more sustainable lifestyle. As a result, the role of mechanical engineers in the solar energy industry has changed considerably. Gone are the days of designing and building giant steam engines and other traditional forms of power generation. Today, mechanical engineers in the solar energy industry are designing and building systems that convert solar energy into usable electricity. Additionally, they are ensuring that these systems are as efficient as possible and cost-effective.
What is Solar Energy?
Solar energy is the name given to the energy that the Sun provides for us on a daily basis. The rays of the Sun are known to be extremely beneficial to humans, providing heat and light which allow us to thrive. The Sun is the ultimate resource, emitting over 400 times more energy than we could ever use in a lifetime.
However, we don’t always have the luxury of being able to draw on this energy directly. Instead, we need to rely on other forms of energy generation to provide us with electricity when the Sun isn’t directly above the planet. Traditionally, this has meant relying on fission power plants or thermal power plants which transform the Sun’s energy into electricity. However, these forms of power generation are highly polluting and damaging to the environment.
Fortunately, modern-day mechanical engineers have devised numerous ways to harvest the energy of the Sun in a more sustainable manner. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in solar energy, check out these alternative designs and learn how you could help make the world a better place.
Why Work in Solar Energy?
There are many reasons why you might want to pursue a career in solar energy. Aside from the obvious fact that it’s a rapidly growing industry which is already significantly altering our world and how we interact with it, the industry offers some amazing opportunities for those with mechanical and/or electrical engineering degrees. Here are just a few of the reasons why working in solar energy could be a lucrative opportunity.
- Sustainability: We’ve all heard of the looming environmental crisis. Overwhelmingly, our world’s major cities are growing, and the use of non-renewable resources – especially energy – is on the rise. If we want to avoid further crises, we need to radically change the way we produce and consume energy. Offering a viable alternative to traditional forms of energy generation, solar energy is already proving to be a highly sustainable option. Not only is it transforming the way we generate electricity, but it is also providing an outlet for those seeking a more eco-friendly lifestyle. If you agree that sustainability is of paramount importance, consider studying or working in the solar energy industry.
- New Technology: On a similar tangent, the solar energy industry is at the forefront of pioneering new technologies that will undoubtedly alter the way we produce and consume energy in the future. From the way we generate electricity to how we store it and use it, the industry is constantly changing and evolving to meet the challenges presented by a rapidly changing world. If you’re looking to make your career more exciting and challenging, consider working in the solar energy industry where you’ll be able to utilize your knowledge of new technologies.
- Greater Impact: Finally, working in the solar energy industry has a much greater impact than simply providing us with electricity. Allowing us to harness the Sun’s power and apply it in a cost-effective manner allows us to make significant improvements to the quality of life of those in developing countries who don’t have access to energy. In fact, recent studies have shown that just one hour of community solar energy use can improve healthcare by as much as 15% and lower children’s antibiotic consumption by as much as 40%.
- International Opportunity: If you’re looking for an opportunity to travel the world and work in a field that you’re passionate about, working in the solar energy industry offers a wealth of opportunity. Thanks to the increasing demand for clean energy and the decreasing costs associated with solar energy, the industry is expanding rapidly across the globe, offering lucrative job opportunities in Thailand and China – just two of the many places where the industry is growing. Also, many solar energy companies are global leaders in their fields and look for the brightest engineers to help them push the boundaries of what is possible.
What Skills or Degrees do I need to get into the Solar Energy Industry?
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in solar energy, you’ll need a combination of skills and degrees to land the job you want. First, you’ll need to master the fundamentals of mechanical engineering and electricity. Additionally, you’ll need a solid understanding of physics, maths and computer science. Lastly, you’ll need to have professional experience applying your knowledge in the fields. While a formal education in sustainable energy would be preferable, having a background in the conventional energy industry will certainly help you stand out in the competitive job market.
To give you a better idea of what skills you’ll need to possess, here’s a quick summary of the essential requirements for those looking to pursue a career in solar energy: