Where Are the Green Jobs?

Whether you are concerned with the state of the environment or simply believe green technologies will spur the next big wave of economic growth, it's clear that interest in green careers is growing fast.

I turned to Carol McClelland, green careers guru and author of Green Careers for Dummies for some insights on where the green jobs will be.

Here are three industries to watch.

1. Smart Grid

Smart grid is an emerging cluster of technologies and services that address how we use, track and conserve energy in our homes, factories and offices.

Our power grid was built starting after WWII by different utilities at different times. The result is a patchwork of regional systems that have been linked together inefficiently. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are providing a growing portion of our power while utility companies have been struggling to quickly spot and fix local outages and avoid blackouts and brownouts during peak times. All in all, it's become apparent that it's time to upgrade.

The power grid will be brought into the 21st century with "smart" components that allow various parts of the power supply chain to communicate with one another. For example, imagine how your energy consumption might change if your dryer or dishwasher could access the grid to determine the cheapest time of day to run your load of clothes or dishes.

Where the Jobs Will Be

Utility companies need hardware and software engineers as well as telecommunications specialists to upgrade their infrastructure. Utility employees and operations people at manufacturing plants and office buildings will have to come up to speed on the technologies that make all of this work. Some say the shift to the smart grid will have more of an impact on our lives and work than the Internet has!

2. Solar Energy

The Solar industry is also growing. Most people have seen or read about solar panels on residential rooftops, but adaptation by utilities will have a much bigger overall impact. Power companies are turning to vast solar farms to meet state requirements to get a certain portion of their electricity from renewable sources by a particular date. A number of companies in the U.S. and elsewhere are developing and manufacturing innovative solar cells.

Where the Jobs Will Be

Several job titles to watch for include cell engineer, drafter, photovoltaic designer, construction project manager, electrical foreman and residential solar consultant.

3. Energy Efficiency

A third industry showing signs of growth deals with energy efficiency. This could be redesigning and retrofitting large skyscrapers or helping home owners and small-business owners to insulate better, upgrade to energy-efficient appliances or install windows that keep both the summer heat and winter cold at bay. The federal and state governments are offering rebates and tax credits to help people defray the sometimes high initial costs of these long-term money-savers.

Where the Jobs Will Be

When owners decide to invest in retrofitting, they put building auditors and trades people to work. Watch your local media and announcements from your local governments for more information about this trend.

Although each of these sectors offers clear opportunities for those with technical knowledge or trade skills, green economy companies will also need the employees that every business needs: managers and human resources, operations, finance, customer support and business development professionals.

There's room for everyone in the green economy.

Next:10 Careers That Didn't Exist 10 Years Ago >>

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