Coal to solar: Retraining the energy workforce

Coal to solar: Retraining the energy workforce
Joshua Pearce's lab at Michigan Tech focuses on the accessibility of solar and 3-D printing technologies. Credit: Michigan Tech, Sarah Bird

As more coal-fired power plants are retired, industry workers are left without many options. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though.

In a new study published in Energy Economics, researchers from Michigan Technological University and Oregon State University offer hope for coal workers for high-quality employment in the rapidly expanding solar photovoltaic industry.

Joshua Pearce, who holds a dual appointment in materials science and engineering as well as electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Tech, helped assess what it would take to retrain workers for a different energy field.

"Although coal investors can simply call their brokers to move their money to more profitable industries, coal workers are left with pink slips and mortgages," Pearce says. "Fortunately, the solar energy industry sector is growing at an incredible rate—and they are hiring."

Along with co-author Edward Louie, of the School of Public Policy at Oregon State University, Pearce found that the growth of solar-related employment could absorb the layoffs in the coal industry in the next 15 years. To determine this, Louie and Pearce compared existing coal industry jobs—and the salaries and skill sets of these positions—to ones in the solar industry. Then they estimated the cost of returning to school and re-training time.

Pearce notes that the estimates are simply examples and could vary, although there are numerous low cost options for solar training that people could pursue while still employed. He adds that the appendices from the study will be most useful to current coal workers, where people can look up an existing job and go over the best potential fits in the solar industry and the training necessary.

"Many of these miners have transferable skill sets already," says Christopher Turek, the director of Solar Energy International. "These range from mechanical and electrical expertise, all the way to their confidence in working in a highly technical field with a strong focus on safety."

Currently, based on data from The Solar Foundation, the photovoltaic energy industry is bringing on new workers 12 times faster than the overall economy. As of November 2015, the employs 208,859 solar workers, which is already larger than the roughly 150,000 jobs remaining in the . And the photovoltaic sector is expected to continue expanding.

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More information: Edward P. Louie et al, Retraining investment for U.S. transition from coal to solar photovoltaic employment, Energy Economics (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2016.05.016
Citation: Coal to solar: Retraining the energy workforce (2016, June 24) retrieved 20 July 2019 from
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Jun 24, 2016
Alternative energy will take care of many of the workers abandoned by Dirty Power.

Jun 24, 2016
gskam meant alternative energy (natural gas/fracking) will take care of many of the workers...

Jun 24, 2016
Well, the coal companies won't, will they?

Jun 24, 2016

The times they are a changing.
It is time of "brutalist behemoths" to occupy more and more natural landscapes.
"Note the helicopter landing platforms on the nacelles"

Jun 24, 2016
Beautiful pictures Willie. Do you have any more?


Jun 24, 2016
Beautiful pictures Willie. Do you have any more?

yes a lot of carbon-free windmills

Jun 25, 2016
Hey - this is fun - we should have a competition - https://www.googl...;bih=767
"Don't bite the hand that feeds you." more flexible fossil-fuel plants are necessary to replace carbon-free nuclear power to better compensate intermittency of renewables.

Jun 29, 2016
LOL Willie picks the SAME turbine for 4 different angles to try to make it seem like these things catch on fire often.

Whereas its hard to find a oil refinery NOT catching on fire or polluting the local area.

Totally the same, right? Not.

Jun 29, 2016
solar panels are carbon-free too

Jun 29, 2016
Fossil fuels are carbon free - and have no environmental impact
it is true if employed to compensate intermittency of renewables, e.g. Germany and California.

Jun 29, 2016
He can't. The high-cost nukes in the "Midwest" are trying to get more subsidies just to stay open.

Jun 29, 2016
3 cents a Kwh -
"3 cents a Kwh" "batteries not included"
It is cheaper if you allow fossil fuels to compensate intermittency.

Jun 29, 2016
- we have 24/7 solar now.

It is a nice way to cook birds in midair by using a high-tech landscape-destroyer, very very ecologically friendly.
"The tower holds more than 3 million gallons of liquid salt which is heated to a balmy 500+ degrees by the solar array and then used to heat water which in turn becomes steam and spins a turbine."

Jun 30, 2016
Except that the problem has been solved -
Pretty simple, banish wildlife from their natural habitats. With eco-friends like renewable, who needs enemies.

Jun 30, 2016
Why are you wasting time on Willie? He has no valid point, so is just irritating you purposely.

Jun 30, 2016
Maybe it is too cloudy where he lives to kill ants with his magnifying glass.

Jun 30, 2016
I think we are subject to this kind of thinking because of religion, which uses emotion and refutes rationality for what is more pleasing. We seem to be especially cursed by it in the United States.

Jun 30, 2016
It is kind of an exercise for me
then by all means, keep up the great work
check this out too: https://www.youtu...EwjBXlZE

challenging such a shill as Willie. Maybe part of my own process
anything that makes you go research a topic to learn more or to validate your own claims is a good thing, IMHO
Facts seem to come secondary to ideology
this is absolutely true, and it's been validated so many times it aint even funny

Jun 30, 2016
pretty simple, just ignore the truth bury it and go away.
"wind farm doesn't want bird kill data released"

Jul 01, 2016
Yes - we have noticed your strategy. http://www.ucsusa...oDzU8uM8
"Union of Concerned Scientists" is notoriously biased antinuclear, pro- bird-choppers, pro natural gas/fracking.

Jul 01, 2016
You uneducated fool, the UCS was put together by nuclear scientists!

My god, why do we have to endure this constant nonsense from a paid and ignorant Willie?

It is just tiresome spam.

Jul 01, 2016
the UCS was put together by nuclear scientists!
UCS does not represent all scientists; it is just a group of biased antinuclear/pro-renewable/pro natural gas/fracking paid shills.
"Two-Thirds of Scientists Support Building More Nuclear Power Plants"
"Nuclear power is the greenest option, say top scientists"

Jul 01, 2016
We have 3 cents Kwh
you have less than zero cents Kwh due to intermittent oversupply.
renewables provide cheap/clean/abundant energy
where each gigawatt needs a gigawatt of fossil fuels to compensate intermittency, large lands/offshore areas
what do you have?
compact carbon-free nuclear power, lowest ecological impact per unit of energy produced.

Jul 01, 2016
Costa Rica
as if Costa Rica were 100% wind/solar; hydro is included or excluded in a convenient way to make numbers more attractive; also environmental impacts of dams are neglected.
"droughts ...This forced Costa Rican utility companies to burn fuel to generate power, releasing greenhouse gases and causing rate rises."
hydro"..require environmental loss of a different kind, by altering rivers, displacing people and animals, and destroying vegetation."

Jul 01, 2016
Willie does not like it that I produce my own electricity for the house and car without high-level radioactive waste, and at low cost. Because I am still connected to the grid, everybody wins, because I give the grid my high-value power at peak, and use their cheap power at night. We trade kWh.

Willie has no idea how far he is behind. Hinkley? Vogtle? Say good-bye to nukes, Willie.

Jul 02, 2016
Roof top solar will probably win the day
"batteries not included"
..I produce my own electricity for the house and car... at low cost. Because I am still connected to the grid, everybody wins, because I give the grid my high-value power...
"it's not a lie if you believe it"
..and use their cheap power at night. We trade kWh.
dirty cheap natural gas/fracking.
Good-bye carbon-free nuclear power.

Jul 02, 2016
Good-bye Diablo Canyon.

Good-bye San Onofre NGS.

Good-bye midwest nuke plants.

Good-bye Willie.

Jul 02, 2016
Good-bye Diablo Canyon.

Good-bye San Onofre NGS.
Welcome bird-choppers/landscape-destroyers, "batteries not included" but you have natural gas/fracking instead.

Jul 02, 2016
Good-bye Diablo Canyon.

Good-bye San Onofre NGS.
"The idea to replace carbon-free power with carbon-free power makes little sense from a climate perspective" even less sense if it were considered that renewable's components are not made in wind/solar-powered factories and is necessary fossil fuels to mine, manufacture, transport and to compensate intermittency of these eco-friendly bird-choppers/landscape-destroyers.

Jul 02, 2016
Willie does not like it that I produce my own electricity for the house and car
Naw like the rest of us he does not like the fact that george kamburoff the psychopathic compulsive liar has to lie about most everything.

George sent ira pictures of his neighbors roof to prove that he has PV. Ira found that there is no DMV record of georges EV. Stumpy got documents indicating that georges military claims are a lie. Ira found out that george bought an honorary MS so he could claim it was for environmental mgt.

Lies lies lies. This is what we dont like.

Jul 02, 2016
Good-bye Diablo Canyon.
"Compare the land usage of Diablo Canyon and Topaz Solar Farm - desert land is special, and must also be protected."

"If Diablo Canyon closes, the company will still need to provide electricity, but from other fuel sources — most likely, natural gas — when the sun goes down and demand for electricity rises."
"If Diablo Canyon is closed, California's dependence on natural gas is likely to become dangerously high."
"If California indeed closes Diablo Canyon, emissions will either rise or fail to fall as quickly as they could, and the antinuclear agenda will be exposed as anathema to climate protection."

Jul 02, 2016
Good-bye Diablo Canyon.
"Replace Fossil not Nuclear"

Oh yeah bird-choppers/landscape-destroyers are replacing coal in Germany, or maybe not.
"Germany has abandoned plans to set out a timetable to exit coal-fired power production"

Jul 02, 2016
We will have to wait and see.
Ecologically, nuclear energy is worth the price; it is safe, efficient and pro-environment.
"Californians will pay more in electricity when natural gas prices rise in the future"
"Unfortunately, "traditional environmentalists" are promoting wind and solar energy with natural gas backup without regard for minimizing emissions."
"closing Diablo Canyon will deal a major setback to California's efforts to reduce carbon dioxide."
"Diablo Canyon — a single power plant — produces twice as much electricity as all of California's solar panels, 41 times more than its largest solar plant, 33 percent more electricity than all of California's solar, and 24 percent more electricity than all of its wind,"
"No one has died from nuclear power in the United States and no one died in Fukushima, Japan, from radiation."

Jul 03, 2016
"they are a lot cheaper ...We have 3 cents Kwh
but you do not mention that it is out-of-phase with demand, and prices go below zero, negative, and then more fossils to smooth fluctuations on the grid. So yours "3 cents Kwh" is not real, it is imaginary. In the real world wind/solar(Germany) is twice costly than nuclear(France).
"..power prices went negative ...meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity"

Jul 03, 2016
I put Willi-kins on ignore because he is just a kid who giggles when he sees he got an adult to respond.

How many of his responses were real words versus copy and paste of what he does not understand? We caught him many times sending references which oppose his own position, obviously not read or understood.

It's a kid. Don't waste your time entertaining him.

Jul 03, 2016
on ignore because
If reality hurts you so much, and you can't handle it, then ignore it, don't pay attention to it, and it will go away, and you can stay dreaming in a marvelous world 100% powered by unicorn fart energy, and just remember, "it's not a lie if you believe it", as gskam and his home and his EV running 100% on sunshine.

Jul 03, 2016
"What will nukes be in 10 years Willie?"

Jul 03, 2016
Yes it is. http://www.forbes...8bf62a34
Dubai huh! ok Germany, after spent trillions of euros, is no more a good showcase as it is exhibiting failures of renewables in being ecologically good for environment and in replacing coal and other fossil fuels.
"Dubai ... a massive 800-megawatt solar plant that will produce electricity at an average cost of 2.99 cents a kilowatt hour.."
+2.99/-2.99 Prices can go negative due to intermittent oversupply as in Germany.
"Concentrating solar collects the sun's heat using giant mirrors, heating water or molten salt in order to produce electricity using a steam turbine." 500+ degrees
behemoth bird-cookers/landscape-destroyers, "desert land is special, and must also be protected"
It's as cheap and good for environment as natural gas/fracking.

Jul 03, 2016
it is cheaper - and better for the environment.
"Germany's failed energy transition and increased CO2 emissions can be clearly seen in the charts"
"How dirty was French and German electricity production in 2015"
"A comparison of Specific Carbon Intensity"
We have 3 cent a Kwh ... We have 3 cents Kwh.
You can have zero cents, negative cents, how do you think it will pay investments? Oh yes taxpayer's money.

Jul 03, 2016
Yeah, GO, but they say they are going to run the Vogtle reactors for 60 years to pay them off. More likely, they will not last 20, and the taxpayers will be paying off those $8,300,000,000 guaranteed loans. Not one of that design has ever been operated.

"Trust us".

- Plant Manager Fukushima DNPP.

Jul 04, 2016
I will take 3 cents Kwh power -
intermittent oversupply
As Germany shuts down coal - and transitions to renewables - their carbon emissions will decrease. You really can't follow logic can you?
nonsense, just intermittent energy.

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