Renewable Energy

Renewable Opportunities: Jobs in the Wind Energy Sector in India (Episode 3)

Author: Dr. Rupak Banerjee

In the past, I have written about the scope of opportunities in the renewable energy sector, and the specific opportunities in Solar Energy. In this post, let’s take a look into the opportunities that Wind Energy provides us with.

According to Dr. S Gomathiayagam of the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE), Chennai, India has the potential for wind power installation of 48 GW, mostly focused in the south and western parts of the country (Gujarat, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu taking the biggest shares of the pie). However, this estimate has been arrived at assuming 50-meter-high wind turbines. Over the past 20 years, the height of the wind turbine has continued to grow, primarily driven by new engineering designs and the economic benefit of fewer taller towers compared to larger number of shorter towers, as detailed in this article in Renewable Energy World. Fewer towers not only means less towers to buy, but also smaller land requirements, lower maintenance costs, and less service road construction. In a country with a high population density as India, the reduced land requirement can be a big selling point. Therefore, it is better to strive for the taller, more economic wind turbines. For 80-meter-high wind turbines, the potential for wind power installation increases to over 100 GW. Current state-of-the-art wind turbines can reach over 100 meters in height, which is what India should strive for.

   
  
    
  
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  Muppandal wind farm along NH 44 (Credit:   
  
   
  
    
  
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  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons )

Muppandal wind farm along NH 44 (Credit: http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html or https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Currently, India has an installed wind capacity of 32 GW, providing a large scope for growth. In keeping with this, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy established the National institute of Wind Energy in 1998. With growth, comes an opportunity for new jobs.

Currently, the large wind turbine market is dominated by manufacturers located in China, South Korea, USA, Germany, and India. India has four major manufacturers: Elecon Engineering, RRB Energy Limited, Suzlon, and Inox Wind. They will provide new opportunities in manufacturing, as the growth in wind power generation picks up speed.

As expected, a quick look at the possible job options in Wind Energy reveals good opportunities for Mechanical and Electrical engineers. There is also a demand for chemical engineers and material scientists looking to build robust turbines which can sustain in harsh environments. These turbines are exposed to the whims and fancies of weather, and therefore, need to be designed to sustain under extreme conditions and corrosive environment. For engineers with Electronics or Computer systems background, integrating wind power into the grid requires modulating the changes in the power generation.

A great way to figure out what kind of jobs are  available or will come about in the future, is by going through the wind career map by the US – Department of Energy. At the entry level, there are options which range from Meteorological Technician who install, maintain, and decommission meteorological towers and equipment, the conception of the project to the operations stage. In a practical sense, having a Secondary School education should be sufficient to tackle these jobs.

As for any large scale construction project, wind farms are going to generate construction work at the manufacturing sites for these wind turbines, which would require an increase in the vocational as well as diploma programs. If you hold a diploma in any Engineering discipline, increase in wind power generation is going to create more jobs. Highly skilled maintenance staff are going to be in demand, ranging from mechanics, electricians, and plumbers, to help maintain these large scale installations.

There would also be an increase in the need for professionals trained in Environmental Sciences or Earth Sciences, as these projects would need more analysis, not only at the land level but at the height they operate at. Wind farms, like solar projects are deployed over large areas. This increases the need for automation and the utilization of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor and check for maintenance, especially at the height of the turbine towers. So, a background in controls, or in robotics is definitely something to benefit from.

With increased deployment, there will also be an increase in demand for Data Scientists who work on energy modeling, financial modeling, and demand predictions for these intermittent sources of energy. If you feel like playing around with wind data, OpenEI provides free to access datasets that you can hone your skills on.

In the meantime, while you figure out how you want to build a career in wind power in India, here is a great visual tool to play around with, from NREL.

And if you feel like reading some more, check out the following books:

1.    Wind Power Plants and Project Development By Joshua Earnest and Tore Wizelius

2.    Build Your Own Small Wind Power System By Kevin Shea

Big Achievements of Renewable Energy in 2017 – End of Year Roundup

Author: Dr. Rupak Banerjee

This past year (2017) has been a year of achievements for the renewable energies field, both in India and globally. So, I decided to take the opportunity at the end of the year to summarize what the major achievements have been. With global and national achievements come opportunities, which is what this blog is all about. Opportunities in growing fields, and this year has been big on renewable energy. So, without further delay, let’s jump right in.

We will be looking at the achievements of the six big economies in the world and how renewable energy opportunities and achievements have left their mark in these economies. Let’s get right in.

United States

The largest economy in the world saw a change of direction this year. The administration announced that it would pull out of the Paris Accord of 2015. However, there were significant achievements in the world of technology to counter that announcement.

Google, which is one of the larger consumers of electricity, has managed to offset all of its power consumption through renewable energy projects. Although this purchase happens across three continents, Google is currently purchasing a total of over 3 Gigawatt of energy from renewable sources, primarily wind power. Amazon is close behind as the second largest buyer of renewable energy at just over 1.2 Gigawatts.

For the first time, solar and wind combined to provide 10% of all electricity consumption in the US in 2017, with Iowa leading the charge at 37% of total electricity generation. Add in the electricity generation from other renewable sources and the total renewable electricity contribution reached a new high in 2017. These obviously lead to a growth in jobs in renewable energy worldwide.

RE_NY_G1.png

China

The second largest economy in the world is however the largest primary consumer of energy in the world, consuming 23% of the total energy demand. In the past two years, it has also become a leader in the growth, implementation, and R&D in renewable energy. China provided the largest government backed R&D funding for renewable energy research, almost twice as much as the US.

In terms of production, Chinese manufacturers of solar panels have developed a 20% cost advantage compared to US counterparts. They are leveraging their scales of production and domestic demand to generate a cost advantage like no other country has been able to provide as of now. In a big shout out to the gains it has made in solar technology and pricing, China announced at the close of December 2017, that they have just opened a 1 km stretch of solar road. This 1 km stretch will be able to produce 1 million kilowatt hours of energy annually. If successful, this can offset the space requirements of large solar farms as China continues to expand on major infrastructure projects.

With the US government taking a step back in terms of leading renewable energy projects, China has taken on the reins and is showing the world what a world led by China can achieve. It is currently home to the largest capacities for hydroelectric power generation, solar and wind generation. It is adding renewables at a faster rate than any other country in the world and bringing down costs at the same time.

Japan

The big Japan story is to come in 2020. Japan has promised to showcase a hydrogen economy at the next Olympics scheduled to be hosted in Japan. It is a large technological giant with a huge appetite for energy consumption, and it plans to hold its own when it comes to renewable energy. While most companies around the world are still banking mostly on batteries for their energy storage, most Japanese companies are keeping Hydrogen as their primary target for portable energy storage solutions.

In 2011, Japan had an installed capacity of 48 GigaWatts of power generation coming from Nuclear power, accounting for a whopping 30% of their total electricity generation. However, after the accidents in 2011, they have given a special impetus on transitioning to renewable sources of energy to maintain a lower carbon footprint and manage their fuel imports. Their key contribution lies in the innovativeness in which they are utilizing existing locations, structures and landscapes to incorporate solar and wind farms. Of note is Toshiba which recently announced that combining all the wind turbines it has produced to date would provide a generation capacity of over 200 GW. Japan has the second largest capacity of solar generation, behind China, with an installed cumulative capacity of 40 GW.

Japan is home to major automakers. Their key contribution to the renewable energy market are the only two hydrogen fuel cell cars currently on sale today, i.e. the Toyota Mirai and the Honda Clarity. Japan and its automakers are taking a slightly different route to electric cars and maybe the bet will pay off in the longer run.

   
  
    
  
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  Solar panels on the sloping side of Kotani Dam, Japan.                                                              Image credit:  www.renewableenergyworld.com

Solar panels on the sloping side of Kotani Dam, Japan.                                                              Image credit: www.renewableenergyworld.com

Germany

As Europe as a whole continues on its path to lowering its carbon footprint and reliance on imported oil, Germany, the largest economy on mainland Europe is leading from the front. However, this is primarily in terms of technology development and R&D. Some of the smaller countries have an advantage here and Germany does not yet break into the top ten European countries in terms of renewable energy deployment. In that regard, Sweden leads the way with almost 54% reliance on renewable energy.

However, 2017 has been good for the renewable energy field in Germany. It managed to generate 85% of its electricity generation from renewable sources on a single day, a new record for the country. However, it definitely needs more of these days.

2017 also saw Germany signing a contract with Alstom (French train manufacturer) to purchase trains running on hydrogen to displace trains that currently run on diesel. The contract was signed after a successful testing of the train earlier this year. A major mode of transport across the world for both goods and people can now see the path to renewables through this act.

 

France

The host of COP 21 where the climate accord was agreed upon, France is the second largest economy of mainland Europe and another stalwart in low carbon economy. In 2017, it only had 3 GW of electricity generation capacity from coal powered plants. Although it has been a big proponent of nuclear energy (73% of its electricity generation came from Nuclear in 2016), it is transitioning rapidly to renewable.

The hydrogen powered train mentioned in the Germany section, was made by Alstom, a French train manufacturer.

France currently has over 17% electricity generation from renewable which is set to grow rapidly as Mr. Macron has given a special focus to climate change research and development.

 

India

At the end of 2016, India overtook Britain as the 6th largest economy in the world. So, let’s take a quick look at the achievements and opportunities in India from the past one year focusing on renewables.

For 2017, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy set lofty goals of over 14 GW of new installed capacity from renewables. As of October, it seems to be on track to meet those goals with over 3.7 GW already installed, and still more than 6 months to go.

India also now boasts of being the 6th in global solar generation capacity and 4th in global wind generation capacity. In terms of wind generation capacity addition, the FY ending in March 2017 saw the achievement overshooting the target for new installation, a first for the renewable energy sector. (mnre.gov.in)

 

Other countries

Some of the other countries of note include Portugal which generated over 95% of its electricity from renewable sources in March 2017, shattering earlier records. In May, it also managed to run 107 hours continuously on electricity generated from renewable only.

Canada has been constantly punching above its weight in terms of renewable energy power and Hydrogenics a company located in Canada was the source of the fuel cells powering the trains made by Alstom and mentioned in the section on Germany.

The UK managed to go a full day without electricity generated from coal power. Compared to the earlier achievements, this doesn’t seem that big, but it is significant as it is the first day since the start of the Industrial revolution that this has been achieved.

December 2017 also saw the activation of a 100 MW battery in Australia. Manufactured by Tesla, it is a major stepping stone towards increased in incorporation of more renewable as the battery allows for greater integration of intermittent generation such as solar and wind to be utilized even during low generation rates.

 

In summary, it has been a good year for renewables. Let’s try to keep the momentum going in 2018.

Renewable Opportunities: Jobs in Solar Energy Sector in India (Episode 2)

Author: Dr. Rupak Banerjee

Let’s pick up where we left off last time. The 6th largest economy in the world is currently growing at a rate of 6 – 7% annually. This in itself presents a huge opportunity to create new jobs. Add the prospect of a whole new industry opening up, and the results are lots of new jobs further feeding a strong economy. With its strong commitment to transitioning to a low carbon economy, India has in fact created the opportunity to create numerous new jobs.

Of the 326 GW of power being currently generated in India, 17.7% (57.7 GW) comes from renewable sources. Wind (power) contributes the largest to this mix, with a total production of 32 GW of power, followed closely by solar at over 12 GW of power. With the transition to a low carbon economy, and in keeping with the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), India has a target of getting to 60 GW of Wind and 100 GW of Solar. Considering that these are the two biggest growth areas, let’s take a look at the job opportunities that this growth in renewables presents us with.

A good case study to look at while understanding solar jobs is the US. In 2016, 2% of all new jobs were created in the solar sector. In the same year, India’s labor force grew by 11 million (worldbank.org). A similar growth (although ambitious) would result in 220 thousand new jobs in solar alone. Is that a number we can afford to ignore?

India currently has 9 National Power Training Institutes (NPTI) spread out across the country. The locations of each are given here. Over the past 50 years of their existence, the NPTI has trained over 140,000 personnel. This includes MBAs in Power Management, Engineers specializing in Power Engineering as well as a variety of Post Graduate Diploma. However, with the possibility of 220,000 new jobs every year, in the Solar power sector alone, it is imperative for India to invest more in its training institutes. There is a well-established spread of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) across the country, 23 in total, which need to create more programs in power engineering with specializations in solar and wind energy.

It is important to keep in mind that this growth is not in the future but is here already. India is currently home to the largest solar plant, at Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, producing 550 MW. The jobs that this industry is bringing with it, are new and exciting. They are also well paying technical jobs, helping to boost the middle class economy.

   
  
    
  
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   Aljazeera  )

Solar power plant at Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu (Photo Credit: Aljazeera)

So what kind of jobs are we talking about. A quick search on job portals brings designations such as Business development manager (Solar), Energy analysts, energy consultants, energy engineers, solar engineers, and project officers to the forefront. You can of course tweak the search with your qualifications to see what you would qualify for specifically. Scrolling through the qualifications being sought highlights business skills, electrical engineering, power engineering, project management, and sales. In addition, there is also a growing demand in financial modeling of energy assets. Getting a foundational understanding of national and international legal challenges in energy trading, balancing both WTO norms with Climate Change demands, will also go a long way.

Although, electrical and power engineering steal the thunder in the changing jobs environment, the solar array in Kamuthi (shown above) has to be cleaned every day. This is done using robots, bringing in automation engineers, coupled with mechanical and computer scientists. These also would require highly skilled maintenance staff, which would further fuel the need for technicians with advanced diplomas as well as engineers leading these projects as well as facilitating their upkeep. There is a growing number of solar tech companies (Saurya EnerTech, Tata Solar Power, and Vikram Solar to name just a few) that are also coming in to the forefront and new graduates should keep them in mind.

In conversations about manufacturing for solar, China often steals the limelight. However, there are several manufacturers based in India, who are accelerating their production, resulting in manufacturing jobs. Indosolar, Vikram Solar, and the Waaree Group come to mind. They are manufacturing their solar panels in India providing carbon free energy and also creating jobs. As students seek admission into Colleges and Universities, they should keep in mind that the job market is shifting at a rapid pace and therefore, selecting courses and majors should be done keeping the future in mind.

Increased solar contribution to the grid also means greater fluctuations in energy production. These have to be met with improved control systems and automation in the energy production. This is only a small glimpse into the diversity of the job market that is developing as a result of the Paris Climate Accord and the resulting shift to a carbon free energy. Everyone has a role to play. From my research into solar jobs in India and how the job market is moving, it is evident that whatever you have trained in, you are probably going to be valuable in the new low carbon economy. So, whenever you are thinking of changing jobs, make sure to take a look at opportunities in Solar and more generally in renewable energy. The sector is booming and more people are needed to make the transition possible and profitable.

Here are some reference books for you to delve into:

  1. The Solar Sales Leap: Stop Knocking on Doors, Cold Calling, and Buying Leads and Start Using the Internet to Grow Your Solar Energy Business for the Long Term By Erik Curren
  2. Top 40 Costly Mistakes Solar Newbies Make: Your Smart Guide to Solar Powered Home and Business By Lacho Pop and Dimi Avram