System design involves the combination of selecting, sizing, and properly integrating the components that have been produced into a solar power system that meets all applicable codes, standards, and accepted industry practices. Seven occupations are shown on the solar career map for the system design sector. For large PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) systems, design is primarily an engineering function. For residential and small commercial PV and solar thermal systems, a two-year technical degree is a typical minimum requirement for most solar companies. Note that no entry-level occupations are listed for this sector.

System Design |MID LEVEL OCCUPATIONS

System design mid level

 

Engineering Technician

Education and Training Level: High school-level trigonometry, geometry, and algebra are essential for this position. The A.S. or A.A.S. degree in Engineering Technology is strongly preferred. Education paths vary depending on the type of engineering involved. Technicians usually need a four-year degree to advance to Technologists or Applied Engineers.
Preferred: A.S. or A.A.S. degree; certification
Solar Content Integration: Standards and curriculum frameworks for two-year A.S. and A.A.S. Engineering Technician programs are well established. Two or more solar-specific Solar Content Integration courses in PV and/or solar thermal system fundamentals, installation, operation, and maintenance, possibly as part of embedded certificate programs, would provide an attractive option and would add to the marketable skills of students interested in working as Technicians in the solar design field.

Residential PV System Designer

Education and Training Level: A.A.S. degree programs that combine green building and residential PV system design provide excellent entry into the solar industry. Other technical design professionals can move into this area with supplemental training. A B.S. in Engineering Technology is recommended to advance.

Preferred: B.S. Degree; certification
Solar Content Integration: Standards and curriculum frameworks for Construction Technology and Residential Design are well established. Two or more courses in the fundamentals and design of residential and small commercial solar systems, possibly embedded in certificate programs, would be excellent preparation for future PV and solar thermal system designers.
Utility Interconnection Engineer
Education and Training Level: Utility Interconnection Engineers have at least an A.S. or A.A.S. degree and significant experience. They may be promoted from the skilled trades, particularly electricians familiar with grid infrastructure, and advance into management. A B.S. in engineering is becoming the expected entry-level degree.
Preferred: B.S. degree
Solar Content Integration: A B.S. in Engineering Technology (BSET), with a major in electrical, electromechanical, or electronics, would provide excellent preparation for Utility Interconnection Engineers and offer an excellent vehicle for incorporating at least one course in photovoltaic systems engineering into the curriculum.

System Design | ADVANCED LEVEL OCCUPATIONS

System design advanced level

 

Solar Utility Procurement Specialist

Education and Training Level: A bachelor’s degree with a strong background in math and writing is required for this position. Prior experience with energy markets, renewable energy, energy distribution, and/or grid infrastructure is preferred. To be competitive at the entry level or to advance, an M.B.A. is recommended.
Preferred: Postgraduate degree
Solar Content Integration: For this important position, especially when dealing with large commercial or utilityscale solar systems, a single course in photovoltaic systems engineering would be extremely valuable. This could be done as an upper-division elective in an undergraduate program, or as part of a highly focused continuing education course.

Structural Engineer

Education and Training Level: A B.S. in engineering (typically civil, mechanical or aerospace) with experience in commercial construction and structural evaluation of buildings is preferred for this position. Entry-level engineers are hired as junior team members and work under the close supervision of senior engineers. Professional Engineer (P.E.) license may be required.
Preferred: P.E. license
Solar Content Integration: An attractive option for students interested in working in this sector of the solar industry would be a 3 credit-hour course (for a semester or an equivalent number of instructional hours) in photovoltaic systems engineering, possibly as an upper-division elective, combined with a capstone engineering-design project related to PV or solar thermal system design and applications.

Power Systems Engineer

Education and Training Level: A B.S. in Electrical Engineering, or a graduate degree in Power Engineering, a professional engineering license, and, sometimes, certification in specific power systems are required for this position. An M.S. degree is often necessary for advancement. New engineers generally enter as junior team members under supervision.
Preferred: Postgraduate degree; P.E. license
 
Solar Content Integration: An attractive option for students interested in working for a solar system integrator would be at least one 3 credit-hour course (for a semester or an equivalent number of instructional hours) in photovoltaic systems engineering, possibly as an upper-division undergraduate or graduate elective.

Solar Energy Systems Designer

Education and Training Level: Those interested in this position must possess at least a B.S. degree in science or engineering. To lead large projects, a significant amount of experience in the solar industry and an M.S. Degree may be preferred.
Preferred: Postgraduate degree; P.E. license
Solar Content Integration: An attractive option for students interested in becoming Solar System Designers would be at least one 3 credit-hour course (for a semester or an equivalent number of instructional hours) in photovoltaic systems engineering, possibly as an upper-division undergraduate or graduate elective, combined with a capstone engineering-design project related to PV or solar thermal system design and applications.
 

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