Like many other sub-tropical deserts in the world, the southwestern U.S. has high rates of solar insolation. However, meaningful development there, especially in solar-rich Arizona, has been slow. This article addresses why this is so by concentrating on one critical contributor to success-workforce development. To identify shortcomings and needed changes, we used a survey of the significant solar firms operating in Arizona to ask three questions: Does a gap exist between existing and desired levels of solar engineering education and training? What skills should new graduates possess when entering the solar energy workforce? What course of study is considered important in the education of solar energy employees? We found that a stronger solar economy in Arizona will not depend, at least initially, on advanced graduate training in engineering, but on a broad-based Bachelor's level degree program that complements engineering studies with a strong emphasis on verbal and written communication, as well as business and teaming abilities. Non-technical skills and project management are at least as valuable as solar training. Given the high public awareness of Arizona's solar resource, a stronger solar future there should help stimulate similar progress elsewhere, both in the U.S. and abroad.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law