Solar isn’t the biggest or the cheapest form of renewable energy. It’s not quite up to utility-scale, but it’s on its way. With increasing success in making solar power a storable energy source (see Is there a way to get solar energy at night?), our lights could be sun-powered whether we have photovoltaic (PV) panels on our roofs or not.
In the meantime, PV-laden roofs are becoming more commonplace (entire community developments now incorporate them), and solar water heaters and pool heaters are huge, especially in sunny locales like Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, California and Texas. If you live in one of these states or wouldn’t mind moving, a career as a solar-panel fabricator or installer could be a very promising job. While full-home PV systems are still working toward the breaking-even mark, heating water with solar power is inarguably cost-efficient. Using solar water heaters is growing as a standard practice around the country, and it’s already standard in some other countries, like Israel).
For a career installing solar panels, having a construction, mechanics or electrician background is a good start. College degrees aren’t necessary. Hourly pay can range from $15 to $20 an hour depending on experience, according to JobMonkey. Official certification in solar installation can raise that. The money for manufacturing and distribution of solar systems can be significantly higher, anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 per year, according to PayScale.
Solar power is a burgeoning segment of the renewable-energy market. Demand and compensation are both there (for those who don’t have a fear of heights).
Number 2: A career in the fastest-growing type of renewable energy.