Solar Careers and Training

It's week two of Energy Action Month. Last week we reviewed the challenges Wisconsin faces in meeting its 100% carbon-free electricity goal by 2050. In the coming weeks, the Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) and Slipstream will shift gears and highlight some essential career areas. These career areas anticipate to see unprecedented growth as Wisconsin shifts from a reliance on fossil fuels to an investment in clean energy. This week, we focus on solar energy careers.

One emerging career in solar energy is a solar operation and maintenance (O&M) technician. Solar O&M technicians install, inspect, evaluate, test, clean, calibrate, and maintain large-scale commercial or utility photovoltaic systems. Their work often requires them to think critically as they consult with others to solve problems on the job. Ben Baxter, a solar O&M Technician for SunVest Solar LLC, is most excited about his role when he sees how many people, companies, and utilities realize solar energy is a viable and cost-effective option for Wisconsin.

Another fast-growing occupation in clean energy is a solar project manager. A solar project manager coordinates the workers and materials involved in a solar installation and manages the project's timeline and budget. What Kyle Heywood enjoys most about his role at SunVest is the opportunity to be part of a team working with subcontractors, building owners and local utilities.

Both Ben and Kyle earned bachelor's degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville's Sustainability and Renewable Energy Systems program. Ben shared he appreciated the electrical engineering and IT knowledge he gained in laboratories, while Kyle indicated a lot of his knowledge was learned through project management internships. Both agreed, however, the ability to communicate well, motivate themselves, manage their time and pay attention to detail were essential to achieving success on the job.

Engineering Lab

The future looks bright for Ben, Kyle and any Wisconsin resident interested in working in the solar industry. Careers in solar energy and other forms of clean energy are projected to have continued growth, with some jobs in the sector growing by over fifty percent in the next decade. In addition, salaries in the solar industry are climbing. In the 2020 Solar Job Census, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) found wages for solar workers meet or exceed wages for similar occupations in other industries. If Wisconsin can continue to provide a skilled workforce through university and technical college programs, 100% carbon-free electricity might be within reach by 2050.

It's your turn!

Engage at School!

· Learn more by watching Solar Energy Careers from Slipstream's Clean Energy Careers video series.

· Investigate the University of Wisconsin-Platteville's Sustainability and Renewable Energy Systems degree program.

· Explore Clean Energy Career Maps from IREC, including Green Buildings, Solar and Climate Control Technology (HVAC/R).

· Complete the Clean Energy Careers Worksheet from KEEP after watching the video.

Engage at home, work and in your community!

· Calculate the carbon footprint of your household using the EPA's Carbon Footprint Calculator.

· Explore careers in energy or other fields featured in the CESA 1 Virtual Career Symposium, a free career awareness resource created to connect students with local colleges and employers to discover their post-secondary opportunities. Over 80,000 high school students in Wisconsin will be accessing the Symposium. Make sure you are one of them!

Join KEEP and Slipstream next week as we investigate utility careers expected to have increased demand with a transition to carbon-free electricity and learn about Wisconsin's technical college programs that prepare workers to be successful in these utility careers.

Wisconsin K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP)

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