So you want a job in renewable energy? The good news is you have options! You can target the technical specialties of solar, wind, heat pump installation, and energy efficiency retrofits to buildings, and you will find rewarding but challenging work in each one.
As Paul Hawken, the mastermind behind Project Drawdown, observes in the new film Ice on Fire, “We are approaching an inflection point in the dynamics of climate action; there is just about as much money to be made in climate solutions as there is in perpetuating the problem.”
• As an industry, solar is already bigger than steel or coal. Solar power is only 1.4 percent of New York’s power generation and needs to grow at least 7 percent per year to achieve our climate goals. As policies become less solar friendly at the federal level and in some states, New York is an attractive marketplace for new solar companies to embrace. You can install solar panels as a well-paid union electrician or part of a company dedicated to solar.
• Wind technician is one of the fastest growing trades in the country. New York’s existing offshore commitments are expected to create 1,600 jobs.
• Heat pumps, energy-efficient building systems, and advanced transportation are all areas of large-scale opportunity for technicians, managers, marketers, finance people, and more. Heat pumps are the primary scalable strategy for getting buildings off fossil fuels, so those industries have to grow. Even before the new climate law, New York’s goal was 233,000 new air-source heat pump installations per year.
• Building energy improvement is also an established field and virtuous work, but it can be a hard sell, and the job can be physically demanding.
While these “new” fields have been getting a lot of attention, they are really a subset of larger, mature industries such as power generation, architecture, construction and engineering. In addition to the technical specialties, they have a growing need for management, marketing, finance, information technology, human resources, and—oh, yes—food service. So whatever your strength, there is a way to be part of this sector.
And whatever your ultimate goal, there are high-quality training opportunities in the Hudson Valley, including well-established programs at SUNY Sullivan and a new Green Careers Academy at SUNY Ulster. Through these programs, you can access state-of-the-art labs including simulators for HVAC, mechanicals, and solar technology; train for the installation and maintenance trades, or integrate your knowledge in a technical associate’s degree program that can lead to a job, business or higher degree. And you can study in facilities that model sustainable energy principles. People are already coming to the Hudson Valley to take advantage of these resources. As the state’s commitment and this movement grow, more will follow.