Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
There are several career paths you can take to become a solar power engineer, but each involves extensive formal schooling and job experience. To become anything more advanced than a solar technician, generally you will need training as either an electrical engineer or a power systems engineer, meaning you'll be approaching the career from either an engineering design standpoint, or from a power systems standpoint. In some cases, it might be necessary to have both skills.
To become a solar power engineer by means of electrical engineering requires at least a bachelor of science in electrical engineering or engineering technology. A master's degree might be required for some jobs, but a lot depends on what you can gain through work experience. For both degrees, you should seek out programs that have an emphasis on solar energy and photovoltaic technology.
Proceeding from a photovoltaic design standpoint, assuming you have an engineering degree, you might be able to learn a fair amount about solar panels, technologies, and energy systems by working for a company that makes them, but having specific solar training as part of your engineering degree will help you land a solar-specific engineering job. It's also helpful and sometimes required that you learn or have experience with specialized computer modeling software, such as AutoCAD (Computer Aided Design). To engineer and design complete systems, you might also need to know a fair amount about construction and local building codes.
If you wish to become a solar power engineer who operates or designs solar power plants, or who installs photovoltaic systems, you can approach this career in a couple of ways. You might take a fairly brief course that qualifies you as a solar technician, then advance from there; or you might work your way up as a power systems engineer, passing through the various employment and training levels, which range from fifth-class power engineer to first-class power engineer. As a power systems engineer, you'll want to seek out training that includes alternative and hybrid power technologies, ideally with a focus on photovoltaic technology.
Training as a power systems engineer is comprehensive, so to become a solar power engineer by means of power systems engineering, you'll most likely need to become familiar with each aspect of power generation, distribution, and transmission. In most programs, alternative and renewable technologies are fairly new and limited in scope, with photovoltaic systems just one technology among many. Finding a school that has a specific emphasis on solar power could be a challenge in many regions. Some power engineering schools are more progressive than others; however, if nothing is offered in your area, you might find online training.
Photovoltaic systems and technology are still advancing, and often they are used in conjunction with other systems, some renewable, some not. It takes a lot of non-renewable fuels and materials to create and maintain solar technologies, so it's helpful to approach the career from many angles. Whether you choose an engineering technology approach, a power systems approach, or ultimately some combination of both, there are many career options. Most importantly, to become a solar power engineer in any capacity requires working in the solar industry. The best way to get started is to read up on the solar power industry and its different technologies, to research educational programs, and to speak with both industry professionals and educators.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!