Renewable energy is the energy generated from natural sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished. Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power, biomass and bio-fuels for transportation.
As the Earth’s reserves of fossil fuels and other sources of power are continuously dwindling, science is working on finding ways to harness electricity and fuel we need for our future, from alternative and non-conventional sources. With no short-term solution to the current energy crisis, the need arises for people to work in these newer fields and therefore, a career in renewable energy becomes a very good option. Opportunities for specialists in renewable energy are growing and there is an increased demand for engineers and consultants equipped with this specialised knowledge.
A bachelor’s or master’s degree in renewable energy arms the students with the knowledge required for some of the career opportunities in these fields such as- energy consultant, wind power equipment engineer, solar panel equipment engineer, energy auditor, energy consultant- to name a few.
At the Bachelor’s Degree level, there are two types of courses available. While Bachelors of Engineering (BEng) focuses on practical engineering, Bachelor of Science (BSc.) focuses more on the more general theory and application. Some of the well-known and popular Bachelor’s courses in the subject are available in the following foreign universities.
University of Dundee, Scotland: BSc Physics with Renewable Energy Science teaches methodologies of physics and how this relates to renewable energy. Students learn about technologies related to hydroelectricity, solar power, biomass, wind energy, ocean tides and their application in real life.
University of Exeter, England: The BSc Renewable Energy offered by the university includes modules like fluid mechanics, energy management and geothermal energy with emphasis on practical and vocational learning by way of field trips.
BBW University of Applied Science, Germany: BEng in Mechanical Engineering with Solar and Wind Power Engineering offered by the university is a very popular course. As Germany is the biggest employer in renewable energy in Europe, it naturally is one of the most popular places to earn a degree in this field. Along with the engineering aspects, the modules in this course also give an overview of interdisciplinary skills such as communications and law to help graduates desirous of working in the business world.
BEng Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology, Glyndwr University, Wales: The course aims to prepare students for working in the renewable energy industry by teaching modules including Electrical Science, Thermal Energy systems and Modern methods of construction.
A master’s degree in the subject provides the opportunity to develop specialised skills in the development and sustainability of the world’s renewable energy on the planet. Some of the top masters courses offered in this field (not in any order of ranking) are:
- Msc Sustainability and Adaptation, Centre for Alternative Technology, United Kingdom: This programme combines theoretical knowledge with practical and research experience. Some of the topics covered include environmental politics and transformational change, new economic systems, sustainable building design, renovation and energy flows in buildings, land use and ecosystem services and waste management.
- Masters in Ecotechnology and Sustainable Development, MID Sweden University, Sweden: The International Master’s Programme in Ecotechnology and Sustainable Development teaches about environmental and natural resources from the point of view of sustainability and at local, regional and global levels. These broad issues, which vary in relation to time, place, complexity and connectedness, are approached in an interdisciplinary and systemic way. The programme includes courses in both Environmental Science and Environmental Technology. Environmental Science focuses on knowledge about how natural resources and the environment from preconditions to create sustainable societal functions. Environmental Technology on the other hand, focuses on the technology and technical systems from a sustainability perspective.
- European Master in Renewable Energy, EUREC, France, UK, Germany, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Netherlands, Loughborough: The aim of the European Master in Renewable Energy is to train post-graduate students to fill the gap between the growing industry demand for specialised renewable energy expertise and the skills currently available in the market. The course is structured in three sections. The students spend time in at least two different EU countries and make contact with a wide range of European institutes and companies involved in the renewable energy sector. The participating universities are well-established in training and education and are recognised at the international level for their work in the field.
- Masters in Renewable Energy and Energy Sustainability, UNIBA, Spain: The curriculum addresses all aspects of the current energy and environmental issues and prepares students to work in companies and institutions that provide sustainable solutions and integrate sustainability into its business strategy. The faculty of the Masters program come from the departments of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology, Law, Economics and Business and the University of Barcelona. In addition, online classes are supplemented by seminars addressed by professionals from major companies.
- Masters of Arts in Energy and Environment, Boston University, USA: This program prepares students for professional opportunities in energy-related fields in private sector (e.g. consulting companies, electric utilities), government sector (e.g. Energy Information Administration, public utility commissions) and nongovernmental organizations (e.g. Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, Inc. NEEP).
Opportunities are growing for specialists in renewable energy to develop, manage and control energy needs. Graduates in these courses are working in energy and environmental industries, renewable energy and engineering companies and government at local, national and international levels, in planning, energy economics and energy policy.