The recent evolution of solar technology has been nothing short of amazing, and we are continuously impressed by all the products hitting the market that make it easier to integrate clean tech into our daily lives.
Each Sulfurcell panel is composed of a protective frameless glass exterior layered over an enclosed solar module that is able to withstand mother nature’s most unforgiving trials. Sulfurcell utilizes copper-indium-sulfide semiconductors, which enable them to produce cells hundreds of times thinner than conventional photovoltaics, which in turn reduces the manufacturing costs. Please note that gratuitous links to your site are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. You will be contacted by up to three, independent, trusted solar system suppliers shortly (usually within 48 hours).
Last updated March 15, 2014 by Mathias Aarre Maehlum Some homeowners are turned off by how solar panels affect the appearances of their homes. The installed capacity of building-integrated photovoltaics is expected to boom over the next couple of years.
Generally, BIPV systems are less efficient and more expensive compared to traditional solar panels. Although implementing building-integrated photovoltaics in the construction phase of a home makes more sense from a cost perspective, these systems can also be retrofitted into existing buildings.
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This kind of machine adopt new stastion, it increases the strength of the machien, the metal deck end prodcut widely used in floor flat. The floor deck formed by this machine can be used into most steel structure multi-storey buildings, and the floor deck can mix with concrete to get a stronger performance. James Hamilton is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS.
This article provides information on the process of generating solar power and details various occupations in the solar industry. Because of a growing interest in renewable energy and the increasingly competitive prices of alternative energy sources, solar power has received a lot of attention over the past several years. The relatively steep cost of solar power compared with traditional sources of electricity generation is caused by the high cost of manufacturing and installing solar panels. Solar power is used to generate large amounts of power on a utility scale and to supply individual residences and businesses with electricity. Utility-scale solar power plants supply large amounts of electricity to the power grid along with traditional sources of power, such as coal and natural gas plants.
Commercial solar power is used by business establishments, such as office buildings, warehouses, and retail stores, which are able to install large groups of solar panels known as photovoltaic (PV) arrays, on unused land, rooftops, or parking structures. Residential solar power is generated by homeowners who have solar panels installed on their roofs in order to provide power to their homes. Although some areas of the United States are better suited for solar power than others, solar energy can be harnessed in any geographic area because of the sun's vast reach.
Photovoltaic panels have traditionally been used for smaller scale electricity generation, particularly for residential or commercial use in individual buildings or complexes, while CSP is used for utility-scale electricity generation in solar power plants. Modern photovoltaic solar cells were developed in the 1940s and 1950s, and the technology has evolved rapidly over the past several decades.
Photovoltaic power uses solar cells that convert the energy of sunlight directly into electricity through the photovoltaic effect.
Usually, several panels are arranged into an array, which can be scaled to produce enough capacity to generate the desired amount of power.
The first large-scale solar power plants in the United States were concentrating solar power (CSP) plants. Solar power towers, another type of CSP technology, were first used at experimental power plants in the California desert during the 1980s and 1990s; improved solar power towers are currently being developed for newer CSP plants. Engineers and scientists have recently developed a new form of CSP technology called the dish system. Solar power can be used for another important purpose: the heating of water for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes. Solar water heating systems are best suited to warm climates, but they can be effective in colder climates as well. Usually, solar installers mount the thermal collectors for solar water heating using similar equipment as used to install photovoltaic panels, but thermal collectors are used instead of panels.
The solar power industry employs a wide range of occupations in a number of major industry segments: research and development, manufacturing of solar power materials, construction of solar power plants, operation of solar power plants, and solar power installation and maintenance.
Following are descriptions of the most common jobs in the solar power industry; for each occupation, job duties are listed, along with the credentials needed for the occupation, including education, training, certification, or licensure. The majority of the occupations listed here are not specific to the solar power industry—they exist in many other industries as well. Solar power is still gaining popularity and acceptance, so research and development are key aspects of the industry. Occupations in scientific research and development have become increasingly interdisciplinary, and as a result, it is common for physicists, chemists, materials scientists, and engineers to work together as part of a team. Physicists observe, measure, interpret, and develop theories to explain physical phenomena using mathematics.
Chemists investigate the properties, composition, and structure of matter and the laws that govern the reactions of substances to each other. Materials scientists study the structures and chemical properties of various materials to develop new products or enhance existing ones.
A doctoral degree is a necessity for scientists that conduct original research and develop new products; however, some workers may enter the scientific fields with a bachelor's or master's degree. Engineers apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical problems.
Engineers are one of the most sought-after occupations by employers in the solar power industry.
Materials engineers are involved in the development, processing, and testing of the materials for use in products that must meet specialized design and performance specifications. Chemical engineers apply the principles of chemistry to design or improve equipment or to devise processes for manufacturing chemicals and products. Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacture of electrical components.
Mechanical engineers research, design, develop, manufacture, and test tools, engines, machines, and other mechanical devices.
Computer software developers are computer specialists who design and develop software used for a variety of purposes.
Engineering technicians assist engineers with solving technical problems in research, development, manufacturing, construction, inspection, and maintenance. Certifications are usually required and depend on the systems used by a particular manufacturer. Entry-level engineers may be hired as interns or junior team members and work under the close supervision of senior or supervisory engineers.
Software developers typically have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related discipline, combined with experience in computer programming and software design.
Engineering technicians typically have an associate's degree or certification from a community college or technical school. Manufacturing in the solar industry focuses on three technologies: concentrating solar power (CSP), photovoltaic solar power, and solar water heating.
The electrical circuitry of solar cells is very small, and microscopic contamination can render the cell useless. Computer-controlled machine tool operators are workers who run computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines, a machine tool that forms and shapes solar mirror or panel components. Welding, soldering, and brazing workers apply heat to metal pieces during the manufacturing process, melting and fusing them to form a permanent bond. Glaziers are responsible for selecting, cutting, installing, replacing, and removing glass or glass-like materials. CSP plants are made up of many highly reflective mirrors manufactured to exact specifications. Coating and painting machine setters, operators, and tenders apply coatings to solar panels, which can be a complicated process that must be done with a high level of precision. Before painting or coating a mirror or panel, workers prepare the surface by sanding or grinding away any imperfections. Coating and painting workers may be exposed to dangerous fumes from paint and coating solutions and other hazardous chemicals.
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers work on a number of the complex electronic equipment that the solar industry depends on for a variety of functions. Electrical and electronic equipment assemblers put together the final products and the components that go into them. The level and type of training necessary for occupations in the solar power manufacturing process varies. Industrial production managers are typically required to have college degrees in business administration, management, industrial technology, or engineering. Building a solar power plant is complex and site selection requires years of research and planning. Real estate brokers in the solar industry must have specialized knowledge of property specifications for solar power plants and the regulations in place for obtaining the property.
Atmospheric scientists (including meteorologists) study the atmosphere and weather patterns. Environmental scientists ensure that environmental regulations and policies are followed and that sensitive parts of the ecosystem are protected. Real estate brokers typically have a bachelor's degree or a higher degree in business, real estate, law, engineering, or a related discipline.
Atmospheric and environmental scientists typically need a bachelor's degree, but scientists with a master's or doctoral degree are preferred, depending on the scale of the projects they work on. Once a site has been selected, civil engineers are responsible for the design of the power plant and related structures. Construction managers oversee the construction of solar power plants, from site selection to the final construction of the plant. The construction manager's time is split between working at the construction site and an office, which may be located onsite or offsite.
Welders who work in solar power plant construction are important for both CSP and photovoltaic plants. Structural iron and steel workers use blueprints to place and install iron or steel girders, columns, and other structures to form the support structures for power plants. As laborers gain more experience and prove their abilities, they may move up to become supervisors. Construction managers are typically educated in construction management, business management, or engineering, and usually have experience working in construction. Welders usually learn their trade through on-the-job training or a formal apprenticeship program, or they may attend a formal training program at a trade school or community college. Power plant operators monitor power generation and distribution from control rooms at power plants. Some CSP plants have a secondary source of power generation, such as natural-gas powered turbines, that will generate power at night or when the weather doesn't allow for sufficient solar power generation. Pump operators tend, control, and operate pump and manifold systems that transfer oil, water, and other materials throughout the CSP plant. Pump operators maintain the equipment and regulate the flow of materials according to a schedule set up by the plant engineers or production supervisors.
Electricians are responsible for installing and maintaining the electrical equipment and wiring that connects the plant to the electrical grid.
Electrical and electronics installers and repairers use electronic power equipment to operate and control generating plants, substations, and monitoring equipment.
Electrical engineers are responsible for controlling electrical generation and monitoring transmission devices used by electric utilities in power plants.
Power plant workers generally need a combination of education, on-the-job training, and experience. Solar photovoltaic installers are key to the process of solar panel installation and maintenance. Solar photovoltaic installers are often self-employed as general contractors or employed by solar panel manufacturers or installation companies.
Once installation begins, the proper safety equipment, such as a rope and anchor system, must be set up to prevent falls from the rooftop. Solar photovoltaic installers typically have a background in construction or as electricians. One innovative company at the forefront of the solar energy bustle is Sulfurcell, the producer of a new kind of modular solar panel that add energy-generating capabilities to any building.
A single hair-thin semiconductor layer is coated on the back of the hardened glass surface, and each module features 82 strips of thin-film solar cells coated on the back and integrated wiring cable inside. Production is said to use only half the energy used to manufacture conventional solar modules.
A report by Pike Research, projects that the capacity will grow from 400 MW in 2012 to 2.25 GW in 2017[1] – roughly a five-fold increase worldwide. However, if you want to seamlessly integrate solar panels with your home, and have the extra money that is required, building-integrated photovoltaics can be a great solution.
After making dots of the sheet it can increase of friction between the steel and concrete, thereby increasing the floor fastness. The first section details a brief history of solar power in the United States, followed by an overview of how solar power is generated, which entities use it, and the technology involved in supplying solar power.
Occupations are listed under relevant occupational categories such as manufacturing, construction, installation, etc. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational Employment Statistics program and the Solar Foundation, this article represents the second publication in the Bureau's green careers series.


However, solar power generation itself is not new; it has been used for more than half a century, mostly on a small scale or for specialized purposes, such as generating electricity for spacecraft and satellites or for use in remote areas. However, the cost of solar power has been trending downward as technology has improved and manufacturers have learned how to improve production efficiency.
Scientists, for example, are involved in the research and development of new and more efficient materials, and engineers design new systems and improve existing technologies.
It can be used for such purposes as heating water, heating and air conditioning homes and commercial buildings, and powering streetlights. Solar power plants typically generate several megawatts of power, comparable to small or medium coal- or gas-fired plants. The first method uses photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to generate electricity directly from sunlight.
However, photovoltaic solar plants recently started generating electricity in California, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, and Florida.
The space programs of the United States and the Soviet Union first used photovoltaic cells as a source of energy to generate electricity for satellites and spacecraft. For household or utility use, an inverter must be used to convert the electricity to alternating current (AC).
A single cell can produce enough electricity to power a small device, such as an emergency telephone, but larger arrays are required to power a house or building.
Built in the California desert in the 1980s and 1990s, these plants are still among the largest, most powerful solar generating plants in the world. The first type of CSP technology (still used today) works through the use of parabolic troughs, long, curved mirrors that move to follow the path of the sun, and focus the sun's heat onto a tube in front of the mirror.
In these plants, a large array of flat mirrors (called heliostats) is focused on a central tower that contains the heat-transfer material. In this system, the mirrors are arranged in a parabolic shape, similar to that of a satellite dish, which focuses the heat onto a central receiver mounted above the center of the dish. This system is similar to the parabolic trough system, but it uses multiple rows of flat mirrors to focus light onto a set of tubes, increasing the temperature of the heat-transfer fluid. Residential solar water heaters generally consist of roof-mounted solar water collectors that directly heat water using sunlight or indirectly heat water by using solar collectors to increase the temperature of a heat-transfer material and pump it to a heat exchanger, which creates the hot water.
Most systems provide a majority of a home's hot water needs, but are backed up by a conventional water heater for times when there is a lack of sunlight. A plumber is needed to connect water pipes to the plumbing system of the house, pool, or commercial building. Certification demonstrates competency in a skill or set of skills, typically through work experience, training, the passage of an examination, or some combination of the three.
Although BLS does not have wage data specifically for occupations in the solar industry, BLS is currently in the process of collecting data to measure green jobs. Although many of these occupations require special skills unique to solar power, skills can be acquired in other industries in most cases. Continued research and increased returns to scale as production has increased have led to many developments that have decreased costs while increasing efficiency, reliability, and aesthetics. Most scientists in the solar industry work in an office or laboratory and also spend some time in manufacturing facilities with engineers and processing specialists. In the solar power industry, physicists work with chemists, materials scientists, and engineers to improve the efficiency of solar panels. Using this knowledge, chemists in the solar power industry are able to improve on solar cell design, develop new materials for making solar cells, or improve existing materials. Current research in the solar power field is focused on developing new materials, especially thin-film cells, and decreasing the cost of photovoltaic panels. Computer skills are essential for scientists to perform data analysis, integration, modeling, and testing. Engineers are typically employed by manufacturers of solar equipment and may travel frequently to different worksites, including to plants in Asia and Europe. According to the Solar Foundation, 53 percent of manufacturing firms reported difficulty in hiring qualified engineers in 2010. In the solar industry, they work with semiconductors, metals, plastics, glass, and composites (mixtures of these materials) to create new materials that meet electrical and chemical requirements of solar cells. In the solar power industry, they design equipment and processes for large-scale manufacturing, plan and test methods of manufacturing solar cells, and supervise the production of solar cells.
They are responsible for designing the electrical circuitry of solar panels and supporting devices for panels, such as inverters and wiring systems. In the solar power industry, they are concerned primarily with increasing productivity through the management of people, the use of technology, and the improvement of production methods of solar cells or mirrors.
Engineers in the solar power industry work on the machines used in the manufacturing of solar panels. In the solar power industry, computer software is used in forecasting weather and sunlight patterns to assess the feasibility and cost of generating solar power in a particular area.
Their work is more narrowly focused and application-oriented than that of engineers or scientists. However, because of the complexity of some systems, a significant number of jobs require a master's or doctoral degree. Licensure as a professional engineer (PE) is desirable and often required, depending on an engineer's specialty.
As they gain experience, they are assigned more complex tasks and are given greater independence and leadership responsibilities. However, BLS does have wage data for the Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing industry group, which includes production of solar panels. However, the vast majority of solar manufacturing firms focus mainly on photovoltaic solar power and producing photovoltaic panels. Semiconductors are unique substances, which act as either conductors or insulators of electricity, depending on the conditions.
The process begins with the production of cylinders of silicon or other semiconducting materials, which are called ingots.
Because of this, most of the manufacturing processes are automated, and it is important to have workers to monitor the equipment and make adjustments as necessary.
Some of the more highly trained CNC workers also program the machines to cut new pieces according to design schematics. Photovoltaic panels are placed in an aluminum frame and are typically encased in glass or laminates to protect them from the elements. Mirrors in CSP plants are typically coated to protect them from the environment and to make them resistant to scratches and corrosion. After preparing the surface, it is carefully cleaned to prevent any dust or dirt from becoming trapped under the coating. Workers are usually required to wear masks and special suits to protect them from the fumes produced by paint, solvents, and other chemicals. Manufacturers use industrial controls to automatically monitor and direct production processes on the factory floor.
They are responsible for assembling the complex electrical circuitry in a photovoltaic panel, as well as assembling the components, such as inverters or controls, that connect to solar panels. They determine which machines will be used, whether new machines need to be purchased, when overtime shifts are necessary, and how to improve the production process. However, BLS does track wage data for the Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing industry group, which includes production of solar panels.
The proposed site must meet several criteria: large, relatively flat site, adequate sunlight, and minimal environmental impact once built.
In the solar power industry, they study particular areas being considered for development of a solar power plant. They can help determine if solar power will be a cost-effective way to generate energy in a particular area by studying past weather patterns and using computers to create models of expected weather activity. Many solar power plants are built in desert areas that have fragile ecosystems and numerous protected species.
Experience with obtaining land permits and an understanding of tax and accounting rules are necessary, as well as familiarity with local environmental and energy regulations. Many of these scientists are hired on for the length of specific projects, and more education and experience makes them more attractive to hire full time. They supervise a team of diverse occupations, including engineers, scientists, construction workers, and heavy-equipment operators.
Most construction laborers specialize in one component of construction, such as metalworking, concrete pouring and setting, assembly, or demolition.
Many plants require flat, unobstructed ground in order to line up the solar panels or mirrors, and equipment operators operate machinery to clear and grade the land. At photovoltaic plants, welders are instrumental in building the solar panel mounting systems. The structures are then shipped to worksites where they will be erected by structural iron and steel workers on a construction site.
Equipment operators often learn on the job or complete a formal training program, or a combination be certified, which involves some training and testing to ensure competence and safety. Experience is important for construction managers, so it may be substituted for some educational requirements. There are many different techniques that welders may use that also require additional training. However, BLS does track the wage of occupations in the Utility System Construction industry group, which includes construction of solar power plants.
The wages shown are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; however, wages do vary by employer and location. They also monitor the production process and correct any problems that arise during normal operation. They monitor the solar arrays and generators and regulate output from the generators, and they monitor instruments to maintain voltage to regulate electricity flows from the plant. Power plant operators are responsible for monitoring this equipment and deciding when to switch from solar generation to the secondary source. Electricians in power plants work with heavy equipment, including generators, inverters, and transformers. However, BLS does have wage data for occupations in the Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution industry group, which includes the distribution of electricity generated by solar power plants. Installation companies typically specialize in installing certain types of panels and provide some maintenance and repair services. Before the installation process begins, a full audit of a structure is conducted, including a survey of the existing electrical system and developing safety procedures. If the panels are damaged during the installation process, the company has to cover the cost of repair or replacement. There is no formal training standard for installers, but courses are offered by a variety of institutions, such as trade schools, apprenticeship programs, or by photovoltaic module manufacturers. The super-thin panels are entirely self contained, so they don’t require any substructure, and they can be applied to new buildings as well as retrofitted old buildings to provide a sleek look and plenty of power. In order to keep the solar panels cool and maximum efficiency, the panels are rear-ventilated and have recessed drainage channels which direct rainwater around each cassette.
Sulfurcell has been a pioneer in the photovoltaic industry since 2003, and the company has been named by The Guardian as one of the world’s top 100 cleantech companies for two years running. Believe it or not, these roof tiles are actually covered in thin-film photovoltaic material.
Search DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency) to see which incentives apply where you live. As solar power becomes more cost-effective, it has the potential to make up a larger share of growing U.S. Large scale solar generation was mostly developed in the 1970s and 1980s, and is considered a clean energy because of its lack of emissions. In addition, as solar power generation becomes more widespread, the cost of installing solar-generation capacity will continue to fall. Manufacturing workers make the equipment used in solar power generation, such as mirrors and panels. Plants only now in the planning stages are expected to produce several hundred megawatts,[7] which would be comparable to a medium to large coal plant or nuclear plant. Other large solar panel manufacturing facilities are planned to begin construction over the next few years in many states.
The second method is known as concentrating solar power (CSP) and converts sunlight into heat to produce steam, which is then fed through conventional steam-turbine generators to generate electricity.
Solar energy is still used to power the International Space Station and the vast majority of satellites.
A new technology allows solar panels to be placed on a thin strip of backing, usually aluminum, and covered with a plastic film, which decreases the weight and cost of a solar panel. Utility-scale photovoltaic plants consisting of thousands of solar panels are a more recent occurrence. Several plants have also been in operation since the 1980s in the southwestern United States, and many more are currently in the planning and construction stages. This dramatically increases the temperature of the heat-transfer material, which in turn boils water and creates steam that drives a generator.
The transfer material is pumped into storage tanks that can contain the heat for up to a day. Solar water heating systems may be used to provide hot water to a home, a swimming pool, or for commercial purposes. Licensing is done by individual states, and typically requires the passage of an examination in addition to fulfillment of eligibility requirements, such as a minimum level of education, work experience, training, or the completion of an internship, residency, or apprenticeship. For many positions, experience in other industries is desired by employers in the solar power industry.
For example, new materials have been developed that allow for low-cost and lightweight thin-film solar panels that are less expensive to produce and easier to transport than glass- or laminate-coated solar panels. Physicists also find new materials to use for solar panel generation, such as the thin-film photovoltaic solar panels. They typically focus on semiconducting materials, which are usually silicon-based materials or organic compounds, because most solar panels are made of semiconducting materials and some newer thin-film panels are made out of organic materials.


The wages are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; wages vary by employer and location.
Many engineers specify precise functional requirements, and then design, test, and integrate components to produce designs for new products. They create and study materials at an atomic level, using advanced processes to replicate the characteristics of those materials and their components using computer modeling programs. Chemical engineers in the solar industry typically focus on semiconductors or organic chemistry, since most solar panels are made of semiconducting materials and some newer thin-film panels are made out of organic materials.
To maximize efficiency, industrial engineers study the product requirements carefully and design manufacturing and information systems with the help of mathematical models.
In power plants, software is used to monitor the equipment and to adjust the direction of mirrors or photovoltaic panels so that the maximum amount of energy is captured as the sun moves in the sky.
Engineering technicians who work in the research and development of solar panels or machines will build or set up equipment, prepare and conduct experiments, collect data, and calculate or record results. Engineers are expected to complete continuing education and keep up with rapidly changing technology. The following table shows BLS data for selected occupations in this industry group for May 2010.
The production process for photovoltaic panels is more complex than for CSP components, and it involves complicated electronics. The ingots are sliced into thin wafers using automated equipment, and are sometimes polished. Soldering and brazing workers use a metal with a lower melting point than that of the original piece, so only the added metal is melted, preventing the piece from warping or distorting.
Glaziers are instrumental in the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of these mirrors. Solar photovoltaic panels are also covered in protective coatings, and these coatings increase the efficiency of the panels.
Many of these assemblers operate automated systems to assemble small electronic parts that are too small or fragile for human assembly.
They keep production runs on schedule, and are responsible for solving problems that could jeopardize the quality of the components. Workers in more skilled positions, such as computer-controlled machine tool operators, may attend formal training programs or apprenticeships. Prior to beginning construction on a new solar plant, real estate brokers and scientists must ensure the site is suitable and that the proper federal, state, and local permits are obtained for construction of a power plant.
Real estate brokers must work with local, state, and federal government agencies, community members and organizations, utility companies, and others that have a stake in the proposed power plant. Although many atmospheric scientists work for companies that develop large-scale solar projects, some work for smaller consulting firms that provide these services to individual customers who are considering installing solar power in their homes or small businesses.
Construction and operation of plants must have minimal impact on the surrounding environment.
Experience working with relevant government agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, is also desirable. Atmospheric and environmental scientists may also need to be licensed, depending on local regulations. The wages shown are median annual wages for the United States as a whole; wages vary by employer and location.
For a concentrating solar power (CSP) plant, large mirrors are arranged to catch and focus sunlight for power generation, therefore storage tanks, pipes, and generators must be installed before the plant is connected to the electrical grid. Construction managers are employed by large construction companies, energy companies, or utilities companies and work under contract or as salaried employees.
At the site, the construction manager monitors progress and performs inspections for quality control. CSP plants are more like typical power plants and require incorporating large steam turbines and storage tanks, plus a large, flat area for the solar array. They also operate cranes to lift and place heavy objects, such as photovoltaic arrays, large mirrors, and turbine generators.
Panels must be mounted on the ground or on a roof using metal beams, and welders are responsible for attaching these beams together to form the mounts. Structural steel and iron workers are typically trained on the job and may complete additional specialized training. Concentrating solar power (CSP) plants require more workers than photovoltaic plants; photovoltaic plants can sometimes even be run remotely. Power plant operators communicate with distribution centers to ensure that the proper amount of electricity is being generated based on demand. Workers may lift and carry heavy objects and stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl in awkward positions.
In addition, they are subject to possible injuries brought on by falls from ladders, cuts from sharp objects, and burns from hot pipes or soldering equipment.
Certification by the North American Energy Reliability Corporation (NERC) is necessary for positions that could affect the power grid.
Electricians and pipefitters and steamfitters must be trained on the specific systems on which they work. The table that follows shows BLS data for selected occupations in this industry group for May 2010. They are responsible for safely attaching the panels to the roofs of houses or other buildings and ensuring that the systems work.
When a solar panel system is purchased, manufacturers may provide the buyer with installation services or maintenance and repair work. The job is then designed based on the characteristics of the structure and the type of system being installed. Continued growth is expected because solar power has many environmental benefits and is decreasing in price, which will allow it to become increasingly competitive with fossil fuels. And as the price of fossil fuels increases, solar power will become more cost effective relative to traditional sources of energy.
In 2009 alone, the residential market doubled in size and three new concentrating solar power (CSP) plants opened in the United States, increasing the solar electric market by 37 percent.[2] Despite this growth, solar power is still a minute portion of total energy generated in the country. Photovoltaic panels have also proven useful for providing electricity to remote locations that are not supplied by a local electric utility.
These thin-film solar panels are becoming more common, although traditional glass- or laminate-coated panels continue to make up the majority of the solar panel market.
Although there are several different CSP technologies, they all involve reflecting sunlight onto a focal point that contains a heat-transfer material.
It is then passed through a heat exchanger, where it produces steam that drives the generators. The heating of the fluid causes it to expand through a turbine or a piston, which produces mechanical power.
The wages listed represent the larger industry or industry group that would employ solar power workers, when applicable. For example, solar photovoltaic installers need to have specialized knowledge and training, but many installers have previous experience as roofers, electricians, or construction workers. Efficiency refers to the percentage of available energy that is actually harnessed by the solar cells.
After the design phase, engineers are responsible for evaluating a design's effectiveness, cost, reliability, and safety.
Machines do the majority of work: cutting semiconducting materials, such as crystalline silicon, into wafers, turning them into solar cells, and assembling the solar cells into solar panels. Software developers are responsible for updating, repairing, expanding, and modifying existing programs.
They may also help engineers or scientists to make prototypes of newly designed equipment or assist with computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) equipment.
Making photovoltaic panels requires the work of many skilled workers, including semiconductor processors, computer-controlled machine tool operators, glaziers, and coating and painting workers. In the solar power industry, they manufacture precisely designed mirrors for CSP plants and many of the components of photovoltaic panels. It is important to prevent the cover from cracking or scratching thereby reducing the efficiency of the solar panel. Glaziers ensure the mirrors maintain maximum reflectivity in order to perform at desired levels. Experience working with electronics or semiconductors may be helpful for some of these occupations. Environmental scientists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to minimize hazards to the health of the environment and surrounding population. Companies typically hire people with experience in land acquisition and management and train them to their specific needs. Photovoltaic plants are less complex, requiring installation of arrays of photovoltaic panels before they are connected to transformers and the grid.
Because of the size of a power plant and the complexity of the construction, a project manager will typically oversee several construction managers, who then supervise individual aspects of the construction. Construction managers oversee the contracting process and manage various contractors and subcontractors. Photovoltaic plants are less complex, but are a challenge for engineers to design because the panels are optimally configured to efficiently harvest solar power. They are also responsible for monitoring and repairing compressors, pumps, and generators, and for erecting scaffolding and other support structures, as well as loading, unloading, identifying, and distributing building materials in accordance with project plans.
They set up and inspect their equipment, make adjustments to the equipment, and perform some maintenance and minor repairs. Workers with a degree in construction management or engineering, but without significant experience, may be hired as assistants to construction managers. They also go on rounds through the plant to check that everything is operating correctly, keeping records of switching operations and loads on generators, lines, and transformers. Companies also require a strong math and science background for workers seeking highly technical jobs.
Solar photovoltaic installers must be able to work with power tools and hand tools at great heights, and possess in-depth knowledge of electrical wiring as well as basic math skills.
Self-employed installers typically have training and experience with installing solar power systems and are hired directly by the property owners or by a construction firm. After the layout and equipment are finalized, the permits are obtained from the relevant governments (local, state, federal, or a combination).
And as it expands in usage, there will be a growing need for more workers—manufacturing workers to make solar panels, construction workers to build power plants, solar photovoltaic installers to install solar panels, and so on. In 2009, solar power provided less than 1 percent of total electricity generated in the United States.
Electricians, plumbers, and solar photovoltaic installers install residential and commercial solar projects.
The heat-transfer material, usually synthetic oil or molten salt, is collected in a heat storage unit and eventually used to create steam that powers conventional generators. Most modern solar cells can only harvest about 10 to 15 percent of solar energy, with some types of panels capable of 25 to 30 percent efficiency.
Engineers use computers extensively to produce and analyze designs, and for simulating and testing solar energy systems. Besides machines, mechanical engineers also design and test the electric generators and pumps that are used in concentrating solar power plants.
Workers are required to wear special lightweight outer garments known as "bunny suits" and spend most of their day working in clean rooms to prevent contamination of the cells and circuitry. Because these mirrors are located outdoors and are expensive to make, glaziers must often refinish and refurbish them.
It is the workers' job to set up the systems, add solvents, monitor the equipment, and feed the pieces through the machines.
Real estate brokers also consult with atmospheric scientists to determine if the land is suitable for a solar power plant. They are responsible for ensuring a safe work environment where workers adhere to strict site safety policies. Engineers ensure that the land is graded properly and is flat enough to support large arrays of mirrors or photovoltaic panels. Operators use computers to report unusual incidents or malfunctioning equipment, and to record maintenance performed during their shifts. The workers monitor, regulate, and control flow through the popes using automatic controls.
When necessary, installers must be problem solvers, able to repair damaged systems or replace malfunctioning components. If the installers do not do these preparations themselves, they must familiarize themselves with the site before they begin working on it. One advantage of CSP is that at night or on extremely cloudy days, the conventional generators can be run on natural gas or petroleum, allowing the plant to continue to generate power when the sun is not shining. Finally, material scientists are seeking to create building-integrated solar energy technologies that address common complaints about solar panels taking away the aesthetic appeal of a building because of their large and bulky nature.
Civil engineers are also responsible for designing necessary infrastructure, including roadways, support structures, foundations, and plumbing systems. Safety is a priority when installing solar panels because installers run the risk of falling from a roof or being electrocuted by high voltage. New power plants using this technology have recently been approved for construction in California. Computer software developers design the software and other systems needed to manufacture solar components, manage the production of solar panels, and control some solar generating systems.



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