The market for solar is growing.

There are so many reasons why people are drawn to the solar industry. Sunlight, being the most abundant source of energy on Earth, is providing a way for mankind to generate electricity and hence bring about more job opportunities with great benefits on an individual and international level.

Solar power brings about cleaner, renewable energy that lowers carbon dioxide emissions which contribute to global warming. It also helps bring electricity and a means of sustainability to third world countries, lowers our electricity bills, encourages good habits and creativity, provides an opportunity to teach and bond with our children, and give us a method to produce our own source of power.

It’s literally a natural gift. So who wouldn’t want to work in an industry that provides so many beneficial factors? The Solar Foundation estimated that 93,000 workers spent more than half of their work hours on projects related to solar in August 2010.

What kind of job segments are there in the solar industry?

The solar industry includes workers in science, engineering, manufacturing, construction, and installation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, scientists research and develop new and more efficient materials while engineers design new systems and improve existing ones. Manufacture workers make the solar power equipment and materials, such as mirrors and panels, while construction workers build solar power plants. Electricians, plumbers, and solar photovoltaic installers install and maintain residential and commercial solar projects. And lastly, there are also the sales and consultation workers who educate customers and help analyze suitability.

The largest growth in solar occupations in 2011 was in solar installations that included photovoltaic installers, electricians, and roofers.

With so many job opportunities available in solar, there’s really no wonder why many people work for solar companies.

According to the BLS, the following are the job opportunities available in solar along with a description of their duties. This blog will be split into 5 parts since there are so many fields to be shared with those who are curious or interested. The first part includes scientific research positions.

observe, measure, interpret, and develop theories to explain physical phenomena using mathematics. In the solar power industry, physicists work with chemists, materials scientists, and engineers to improve the efficiency of solar panels. Physicists also find new materials to use for solar panel generation, such as the thin-film photovoltaic solar panels.

investigate the properties, composition, and structure of matter and the laws that govern the reactions of substances to each other. 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. 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.

Materials scientists study the structures and chemical properties of various materials to develop new products or enhance existing ones. Current research in the solar power field is focused on developing new materials, especially thin-film cells, and decreasing the cost of photovoltaic panels. Materials scientists are also seeking to increase solar panel efficiency. Efficiency refers to the percentage of available energy that is actually harnessed by the solar cells. 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. 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.

Click Part 2 of 5: Occupations in Solar Power Engineering