Decades ago, the thought of renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, supplying a substantial portion of power needs felt like the stuff of science fiction. After all, supplies of traditional fuel sources, such as petroleum and coal, seemed inexhaustible.
Fast forward to today and it’s remarkable how the modern power generation landscape has changed. We now know that non-renewable, traditional energy sources will not last forever. Add in the environmental impacts of harvesting these traditional energy sources, potential impacts of climate change, and the rising costs associated with these fuels, and it’s no surprise that more and more people are looking to renewable energy sources for the future.
The rising popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) has also spurred increased interest in solar power, as automobile manufacturers look for ways to extend EV battery life and the convenience of charging. Fortunately, the U.S. government has taken steps recently to give a much-needed boost to the domestic solar industry.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at government efforts to increase domestic manufacturing of solar products, the effect the increasing popularity of EVs will have on the demand for solar power, the need for workers with green technology skills, and how Amatrol’s eLearning and training systems can prepare the next generation of workers for success in green technology jobs.
U.S. Government Gives Boost to Solar Industry
The implementation of new solar and wind power systems has increased steadily over the last decade. From solar panels on homes to large-scale solar and wind farms, the evidence of the popularity of renewable energy sources can be seen in nearly every community.
Recently, however, a U.S. Commerce Department “investigation essentially halted the flow of solar panels that make up more than half of U.S. supplies and 80 percent of imports,” according to a Reuters article by Jeff Mason. The “investigation into whether imports of solar panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are circumventing tariffs on goods made in China… had a chilling effect on the industry, according to clean energy groups.”
Fortunately, the White House just announced a set of moves intended to give a boost to the solar industry. According to an Associated Press article by Will Weissert, “President Joe Biden…declared a two-year tariff exemption on solar panels from Southeast Asia as he attempted to jumpstart progress toward his climate change-fighting goals.”
According to Mason, “Biden’s action would allay companies’ concerns about having to hold billions of dollars in reserves to pay potential tariffs.” This move should provide immediate relief to solar companies stymied by the supply chain issues caused by the investigation.
In addition, “Biden’s administration will invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate production and use the federal government’s purchasing power to increase demand…for [s]olar panel parts, building insulation and efficient heat pumps,” according to an IndustryWeek article from Agence France-Presse. “The administration will also look to permit more clean energy projects on public lands, including both solar and wind.”
These “actions protect existing solar jobs, will lead to increased employment in the solar industry and foster a robust solar manufacturing base here at home,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. According to Mason, “[r]amping up renewable energy such as solar is crucial to Biden’s goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50%…as well as decarbonizing the U.S. power grid by 2035.”
The administration’s efforts “aimed at boosting renewable capacity” could help it reach a key goal. According to the IndustryWeek article from Agence France-Presse, “compared to when Biden took office, the United States was on track to triple domestic solar manufacturing capacity by 2024, from 7.5 gigawatts to 22.5 gigawatts, enough to enable 3.3 million homes to switch to solar each year.”
Solar Power & Electric Vehicles
This boost to the U.S. solar industry comes at a time when the country is also seeing a massive expansion in the manufacturing of EVs. In a recent IndustryWeek article by Robert Schoenberger outlining Ford’s planned $3.7 billion “massive plant renovations in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri, all focused on bringing more commercial EVs to market,” the author notes that “[a]ll major automakers are spending money furiously to gear up for EVs.”
So what do EVs have to do with solar power? Potentially, a lot! According to an Assembly Magazine article by Austin Weber, “[b]attery recharging and range issues have been the Achilles heel of electric vehicles. Some automotive engineers believe solar power may be the solution.”
As Weber notes, “[t]he goal of vehicle-integrated photovoltaics is to enable EVs to recharge without stopping. Unlike traditional EVs that must periodically pull over to recharge batteries during a long road trip, solar cars can keep on going.”
The inclusion of solar technology in EVs could spur an even greater need for a significant expansion of solar technology manufacturing. A Solar United Neighbors article by Ben Delman summarizes the results of a survey the group conducted regarding solar technology and EVs:
“Using solar as a clean ‘fuel’ for EVs has the potential to dramatically decarbonize the transportation sector. The improvements to battery technology made in conjunction with EV deployment will unlock battery storage as a tool to advance renewable energy, especially solar, integration across a variety of applications. EVs, being essentially batteries on wheels, will hasten the adoption of a more decentralized and interactive electric grid with the potential for two-way flows of electricity and increased consumer participation. Our survey demonstrates the market is ready for this to happen.”
Equipping Workers with Green Technology Skills
As the solar industry continues to expand, the need for specialized workers with hands-on green technology skills keeps growing. Just like manufacturing in general, specialized industries, such as solar and wind, find themselves with too few workers with the advanced technical skills they need.
Industry experts refer to this lack of skilled workers as the “skills gap,” and it’s a problem that has been around for a while and has no clear answer for the foreseeable future. These growing industries try to bridge the skills gap with a variety of advanced technologies that improve efficiency, but these new technologies create their own need for workers with advanced, cutting-edge skills.
Secondary and post-secondary schools are struggling to supply a pipeline of new workers with the right combination of skills needed by industry. Some schools can give students a good baseline in basic electrical, mechanical, and fluid power skills. However, most schools aren’t yet equipped to teach advanced green technology skills.
If you’re an instructor or a school administrator, how do you ensure that your students are prepared for the green technology jobs of the present and future? Fortunately, if you’re looking to make sure your students are ready to succeed in available green technology jobs, you don’t have to recreate the wheel. The experts at Amatrol have been producing high-quality green technology eLearning courses and hands-on training systems for years.
Amatrol eLearning & Training Systems Teach the Hands-On Solar Skills Workers Need
Amatrol, the world’s leader in technical education training systems and eLearning curriculum for more than 30 years, has been instrumental in helping students to gain the valuable hands-on skills they need to be successful in a wide variety of fields. Whether you’re looking for basic electrical or mechanical training or specialty training in solar or wind technologies, Amatrol offers training systems that will put students on the fast track to career success.
For example, Amatrol offers a variety of training systems for the solar industry:
- Alternative Energy Learning System – Solar (850-AES): Teaches aspiring solar technicians the knowledge and skills they need to prepare for portions of the solar certifications offered by such certifying groups as NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) and ETA (Electronics Technicians Association).
- Solar PV Installation Learning System (950-SPF1): Teaches students the installation and commissioning of grid interactive and stand-alone photovoltaic systems for commercial and residential applications. It also supports the learning necessary to prepare for portions of NABCEP certification and helps to prepare students for successful employment in the solar photovoltaic industry field.
- Solar PV Troubleshooting Learning Systems (950-SPT1): Allows students to develop the specialized skills and knowledge needed for working with the common types of PV systems. The 950-SPT1 teaches students connection, operation, programming, and troubleshooting of AC/DC and grid-connected systems.
- Solar Thermal Installation Learning System (950-STF1): Teaches students the installation and commissioning of closed loop and open loop solar thermal systems for commercial and residential applications. Students will learn how to install systems by selecting, preparing, mounting and connecting solar thermal components using copper tubing, PVC piping, and electrical wiring.
- Solar Thermal Troubleshooting – Open-Loop Learning System (950-STOL1): Examines how to connect, operate, program, and troubleshoot open-loop solar thermal systems. The combination of in-depth, multimedia curriculum with real-world equipment gives learners hands-on experience with both drainback and pressurized open-loop solar thermal systems.
- Solar Thermal Troubleshooting – Closed-Loop Learning System (950-STCL1): Allows learners to develop the specialized solar skills and knowledge needed for working with the two common types of thermal closed-loop systems: drainback and pressurized. Solar Thermal Troubleshooting teaches learners about connecting, operating, programming, and troubleshooting both drainback and pressurized systems.
Whether you’re an instructor, a school administrator, or an employer looking to implement new strategies to prepare students and current workers for the highly-skilled jobs currently in demand, Amatrol can help. Consult with an expert at Amatrol today to learn how you can take the first step toward teaching your students or current workers the skills that will set them up for success in the modern workplace.
About Duane Bolin
Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer in the technical training solutions market.