Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Green Revolution


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Green Living: Earth, Inc.
Jason Lee
As concerns over global warming and rocketing oil prices weigh on Americans’ minds, a new generation of “green collar” workers are looking to use their talents to improve the country’s emerging sustainable energy industry.

Specialties in everything from solar power to energy efficient building design have moved to the forefront as rising corporate interest in going green has resulted in a definite need for more environmental experts.

“It’s the new Silicon Valley,” says John Stayton, director of a green graduate program in sustainable enterprise at Dominican University in San Rafael, Calif.

At a time when the nation’s manufacturing employment is on the downturn, jobs in sustainable energy may help fill the gap.

For example, Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio was recently awarded a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Energy Development Administration to build an innovative learning facility that will feature modern labs for students studying in the college’s sustainable energy programs.

“Training skilled workers is critical to attracting renewable energy companies to Ohio and recharging the state’s manufacturing base,” says Jerry Hutton, dean of energy and transportation technologies at Hocking.

Jobs in sustainable energies such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower are just some of the many gaining momentum.

William L. Chameides, dean of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, says while climate change and sustainability are global issues, “solutions can start at the local level.”

“The environmental issues facing society are myriad and daunting, but they are tractable,” Chameides said. “They will require a new kind of professional, with an interdisciplinary approach and an understanding that spans the physical and biological sciences to the social sciences.”

While earning a specialized “green” degree will have you on the cutting edge of the renewable energy push, you also can qualify for many jobs in sustainable energy with a traditional degree and some extra training. Here are a few industries already taking off:

Wind Power: Wind power laboratories are constantly trying to improve the design and efficiency of wind turbines. These research and development efforts employ mechanical, electrical and aeronautical engineers with advanced degrees, as well as experienced technicians.

The growth of wind power requires people with business, meteorological and engineering experience to plan and build projects. Meteorologists help engineers identify appropriate sites with suitable wind conditions. Engineers then design the wind plant, working with the utility companies and communities. Construction workers are needed to build the wind plant, and mechanical and electrical technicians, called “windsmiths,” operate and maintain the wind turbines.

Solar Power: Growth of the solar power industry has created high-wage, skilled jobs throughout the country for individuals with many different types of degrees and training. Individuals employed in solar research and development generally have professional degrees in electrical, mechanical and chemical engineering, as well as materials science and physics.

New workers are needed as national laboratories, universities and private companies develop and continually try to improve solar products to lower their costs and improve their reliability.

Bioenergy: Jobs in bioenergy – renewable energy made from biological sources – cut across a wide spectrum of specialties and skills, and if efforts succeed in making bioenergy more commercially profitable, America may see a dramatic increase in the number of jobs.

Universities and national laboratories are working together to find solutions to the difficult problems surrounding the production and use of biomass for energy and products. These efforts require chemists, agricultural specialists, microbiologists, biochemists and engineers, just to name a few.

Engineers and construction workers are needed to design and build bioenergy plants, while electrical and mechanical technicians, engineers, mechanics and equipment operators are needed to run and maintain these plants. Some jobs may require cross training in areas such as engineering and biology, or chemistry and agriculture.

Geothermal energy: The geothermal industry employs both skilled workers and those with professional degrees. Developing hot water reservoirs requires geologists, geochemists, geophysicists, hydrologists, reservoir engineers, mud loggers, hydraulic engineers and drillers to locate, assess, and gain access to the reservoirs. Environmental scientists prepare impact studies, and permit and leasing specialists obtain the land rights.

Geothermal technologies also create jobs for heating engineers, and in the building and agricultural industries. For electricity production, engineers and construction workers – along with a number of other skilled workers – are needed to design and construct power plants.

Hydropower: As with many of the other renewable energy technologies, the design, construction and maintenance of hydropower plants require electrical and mechanical engineers, technicians and other skilled workers.

If a hydropower project also involves managing a reservoir and surrounding land, the developer will hire recreation planners, resource managers and educators. In addition, state and federal licensing laws now require hydropower plant builders to assess the environmental effects of their operation. Thus, the hydropower industry also employs environmental scientists (biologists, hydrologists, ecologists, and wildlife habitat specialists, for example) to assess environmental impacts and address environmental cleanup.

Environmental scientists, as well as engineers, also participate in research efforts through private companies, national laboratories and universities.

This news arrived on: 12/03/2008
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