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ANC's Renewable Energy Technology

 

Why Renewable Energy Technology?

Community colleges are taking a leadership role in educating and training a workforce for the clean energy/green economy.  Community colleges with their connections to local and regional labor markets and the flexibility to respond to emerging industries and their changing skill needs - are the perfect gateway to good green jobs, preparing workers with the skills and competencies needed for green industries, and ensuring that these industries do not face a shortage of adequately trained workers.

 

As the move toward a low-carbon and sustainable economy takes hold, the primary clean energy sectors of efficiency, renewables, and alternative fuels and transportation have emerged as offering the greatest potential for job creation and growth, and perhaps, the greatest workforce development opportunity on the horizon for community colleges.  Although it is difficult to quantify, a report produced for the American Solar Energy Society indicates that the renewable energy and efficiency industries generated 8.5 million jobs in 2006.  Optimistically, these sectors may account for as many as one in four jobs, direct and indirect, by 2030.

 

What are Green Jobs?

Green jobs, as broadly defined in report commissioned by the United Nations Environment program, contribute significantly to preserving environmental quality and could include, but are not limited to:

  -  helping to protect ecosystems and biodiversity;

  -  reducing energy, materials, and water consumption through high-efficiency strategies;

  -  de-carbonizing the economy;

  -  minimizing or avoiding the production of waste and pollution.

 

Green jobs in clean energy sectors span a variety of skills, educational backgrounds, and occupations.  However, many jobs that are currently, or predicted to be, in demand are "middle-skilled" jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor's degree.  It is important to note that although there will be a growing number of new green occupations requiring new knowledge, skills, and abilities, it is expected that the majority will be transformed from existing jobs, requiring a redefinition of skill sets, methods, and occupational profiles.  Green jobs include careers in wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, energy efficient construction and redesign, and alternative fuels, such as biofuels.

 

Biofuel Production

Bioenergy technologies use renewable plant and animal-based materials to create liquid fuel (e.g., ethanol and biodiesel), solid fuel (e.g., wood, plant pellets), and many other energy products.  Because biomass conversion works best when the fuel source is located near a generator or refinery, bioenergy creates direct and indirect jobs in rural areas of the country, and may prove to be a profitable complement for many existing agricultural and forestry businesses.  While the majority of biomass today comes from the Midwest, crop production for fuel use is likely to be more widely distributed in the future.

Bioenergy ranks second to hydropower in renewable energy production and provides about three percent of the primary energy production in the U.S.  Currently, the ethanol industry employs an estimated 238,000 people in all sectors, from farming to biofuels plant construction and operation.  Many biofuel refinery jobs are similar to traditional chemical manufacturing jobs.  With the U.S. required to use 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022, as mandated by the Renewable Fuels Standards established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the potential for job creation will be considerable.

 

Source: Feldbaum & States. (2008). Going Green: The Vital Role of Community Colleges in Building a Sustainable Future and Green Workforce, National council for Workforce Education and the Academy for Educational Development.

 


 

Key Questions:

 

Are you interested in freeing the United States of foreign oil dependency while improving environmental quality?

  • Renewable energy technology workers contribute to the establishment of self-sufficient energy resources, such as American farm products, that are environment-friendly

Are you a curious person?

  • Curiosity helps in the renewable energy field because plant operators often have to diagnose and solve problems relating to processes and/or equipment

Do you work well with other people?

  • Biofuel plants today emphasize team processes and teamwork; the ability to work with others to solve problems and accomplish production goals is essential to success

Do you prefer jobs where you sit for long periods or where you move around a lot?

  • Biofuel production careers sometimes involve frequent movement and require the endurance necessary to spend a good bit of time on one's feet

Are you interested in a career that has enormous growth potential?

  • Renewable energy workers are in a situation similar to the petroleum workers of the 1930s, a new industry with increasing demand for its products

 

Key Skills / Aptitudes:

  • Decision-making

  • Analytical ability

  • Problem solving

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Hands-on mechanical ability

 

   
 

Specific Career Opportunities:

  • Biofuels production control operator

  • Maintenance technician

  • Chemical equipment operator

   
 

Possible Work Settings:

  • Ethanol production plants

  • Biodiesel production plants