President Obama recently announced that the Department of Energy was awarding $2B in loan guarantees to two solar companies that will allow them to scale up their business and is expected to create 5,000 new green jobs.
I recently spoke to Carol McClelland, author of the award-winning book 'Green Careers for Dummies' and founder/director of Green Career Central to learn more about how this decision will influence future job growth in the solar energy sector.
What companies were awarded the loan guarantees and how will this impact the job market?
Abengoa Solar, a Spanish company, will use the loan guarantee to build a concentrating solar power (CSP) plant called Solana in Arizona, which is set to be completed by 2013. The company already has a contract to sell the generated power to Arizona's utility company, APS, for the next 30 years. It's estimated that this utility scale will create 1,600 jobs to build and operate the solar thermal farm.
Colorado-based Abound Solar plans to use its loan guarantee to enhance an existing plant in Colorado and build a new plant in Indiana, to manufacture large-scale, thin-film solar panels. During the construction phase, 2,000 people will work on the project. When the panels are in use, 1,500 people will hold jobs at these two plants.
What types of solar energy jobs will be in demand?
The goal of these loan guarantees is to set up a domino effect in job creation. The first wave of jobs will be construction as these plants are built. Industries that provide raw materials such as glass, mirrors, and steel to the construction and manufacturing process will experience a boost as well. Upon completion of these projects, the paths for workers will diverge.
The Solana project will function as a plant that generates power for a utility. Abengoa Solar has a number of other projects from Texas to California. For each project, a lot of work is required to secure a location, obtain permits, close a deal, and obtain funding.
When Abound Solar's manufacturing phase begins, a new group of employees will be hired to run all levels of the plant. The modules that are manufactured by Abound Solar will be used by large-scale-project developers or sold to a select group of distributors who are approved to use the modules in smaller projects.
Keep in mind that in addition to the new jobs created by utility companies, jobs are also predicted to grow in the residential solar sector. These projects also begin with manufacturing, then move to a marketing/sales process to secure customers. From there the systems are designed and installed by contractors who are electricians and plumbers. Administrative assistants are required to handle rebates and other tracking paperwork. Other peripheral equipment such as batteries and electrical equipment such as inverters are also needed.
Where can people go to find out more information about these jobs and the solar industry in general?
To work in any industry, you must do some research to understand how the industry works. Some of the best ways to get an overview of a particular industry is to start with the associations that track developments. If you want to work in solar, you've got a wide number of associations to choose from. Start with the following organizations and then do your own web search to find additional associations that match your specific needs.
Spend time understanding the different kinds of solar and which kinds of solar are taking root in your local area. Just that knowledge alone will help you determine your next move.
In addition, Green Career Central offers its members two in-depth industry profiles -- one for utility scale solar and the other for smaller residential and commercial use -- with an overview of each industry as well as links to a number of resources people can use to deepen their own research.