A solar engineer designs and builds solar (or solar-related) structures, systems, and components such as solar cells, solar trackers, solar power plants, and more. In this article, we will discuss the job responsibilities of a solar engineer, various industries that hire these engineers, and how to become one.
Role And Responsibilities
A solar engineer’s main responsibilities include designing and building solar structures and devices, as well as troubleshooting problems that may arise during construction or use of these devices. They may also have additional responsibilities such as data entry or analysis, reviewing blueprints, or helping with financial and business matters.
A solar engineer’s role is distinct from other engineering roles due to the nature of their work. In general, software engineers are responsible for designing computer-related systems and devices such as servers, databases, and networks. They also might be responsible for debugging and maintaining these systems and devices once they have been built. While systems engineers are responsible for designing and building large-scale scientific and industrial equipment and structures, solar engineers mainly design and build small-scale solar-related structures, systems, and components, often working remotely and independently.
Typical Career Path
The typical career path for a solar engineer begins with a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, or engineering. After completing an internship, the engineer may enter one of three tracks based on their interest in the field. The first track, concentrated solar power, involves designing and building structures such as field arrays, power plants, thermal storage systems, and more. The second track, photovoltaic power, involves designing and building solar panels, including wafer fabrication, testing, and more. The third track, concentrating photovoltaic, combines the responsibilities of the other two tracks and also involves designing and building solar-related structures such as solar trackers.
Once selected, the engineer will then participate in a master’s degree program. During this period, the engineer may continue to work on their existing projects while also taking on additional responsibilities such as research and data analysis. After earning a master’s degree, the engineer will generally begin a tenure-track position at a university or a national research laboratory. This job will involve further responsibilities such as mentoring students and leading faculty research, as well as providing consultation for public and private industry.
A typical day for a solar engineer may involve meeting with a client to discuss the project (either in person or over the phone), gathering project data, reviewing documents, and more. They may work remotely for some of their clients, enabling them to complete projects independently with few (if any) office or site visits.
Industries That Use These Engineers
The industries that use solar engineers include energy generation and distribution, construction, real estate, telecommunications, and scientific research. The global market for solar equipment is projected to reach $129 billion by next year.
As the world’s first and leading manufacturer of solar equipment, Suncor has a unique perspective on the job market. According to a 2019 report from the company, the demand for solar equipment is growing at a rate of 17% per year. The report states that the market will soon be dominated by a small number of large companies, as well as global brands looking to enter the market.
There are numerous career paths available for those who want to enter the field, but just looking at the above list will give you an idea of the wide variety of projects that a solar engineer can get involved in. Whether you’re interested in engineering new solar farms or designing power plants that will generate electricity for people living in developing countries, there is plenty of work to be done.