Green Power

How to find your next opportunity in energy

The need for alternative energy sources as well as the importance of energy conservation and environmental protection will be the driving force behind job opportunities in the field of energy. It will be the foundation for what the Obama administration calls the green economy, to which it has committed more than $80 billion from the economic recovery fund.

“Green collar” jobs, as they are called, are available at a variety of skill, education, and experience levels. Engineers aren’t the only professionals in demand.  Like other industries, the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors also need electricians, accountants, IT managers, assemblers, truck drivers, and other workers, according to the American Solar Energy Society.

Green jobs can be found or even created in any field as long as they truly preserve or restore the environment. Interior designers or furniture manufacturers could be considered green-collar if the material that they use is environmentally friendly. Food production, landscaping, and even manufacturing, one of the industries hardest hit by the recession, provide fertile areas for opportunity. “The electrician skills that they’ve been teaching for decades apply to building new wind farms as well,” adds Jessica Finn Coven, policy specialist and leader of the green jobs program at Climate Solutions, a regional nonprofit in Seattle.

Wind turbines and photovoltaic panels require building, installation, and maintenance. They require the same traditional skills that mechanics possess to build and maintain. Former auto industry employees could upgrade their skills to find work in a wind turbine manufacturing plant. The national average salary for this position is $50,305. A worker with fabrication and assembly line experience could garner an average salary of $35,036 as a solar fabrication technician.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, while many other industries were shedding jobs in 2008, the wind energy sector created 35,000 new jobs. Project engineers, marketing managers, and senior finance analysts are among positions available in the wind sector.

For those who are looking to get involved in the wind power industry, try states such as North Dakota and Colorado. California is another state where energy and environment-related positions in wind power are plentiful. To learn more about the wind sector and other areas of the green energy industry, visit Duke University’s Center for Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness at www.cggc.duke.edu/environment/climatesolutions to read the series Manufacturing Climate Solutions. To view jobs in the wind energy sector, visit www.awea.org/pubs/factsheets.html and click on Resources.

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