The 10 Best Colleges and Universities for Studying Renewable Energy
Image: Stanford University, HarshLight (CC BY 2.0)
In the wake of the Paris Climate Accord, much of the controversy about climate change seems null and void — which is great news for the renewable and sustainable energy industries. As these industries are poised for growth, there will be more demand for qualified professionals to develop, install, and maintain renewable energy technologies.
If you’d like to be part of this landmark change, here are the 10 best academic institutions to pursue a degree in renewable or sustainable energy systems.
1. Oregon Institute of Technology
In 2005, the Oregon Institute of Technology rolled out North America’s first four-year undergraduate degree program in renewable energy. Today, the Bachelor of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering program continues to prepare graduates to develop, manage, and implement sustainable energy technologies.
The program provides a foundation in math, physics, and chemistry. Core courses include instruction in energy management, wind power, photovoltaics, and fuel cells. The Institute added a Master of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering in 2012.
2. University of California Berkeley
Berkeley has long been a leader in research that addresses global issues and concerns. Its full-time MBA program in energy and clean technology was created to help individuals in the business and public policy sectors address energy problems. The program explores energy issues from every angle, including engineering, environmental, and fundamental science perspectives, and is one of the few programs like this in California.
The university’s Renewable Energy Speaker Series invites leaders in a variety of sustainable and alternative energy sectors to share their insights with current students. Another class partners students with other graduate students from law, engineering, science, and policy programs to address the challenges of bringing new energy technology to the global marketplace.
3. University of Texas at Austin
The engineering program at UT Austin offers an extensive Energy Systems and Renewable Energy Technical Core for bachelor-level engineering students. The program aims to prepare graduates for careers in power systems and generation, grid operation, and renewable energy sources.
Students in this four-year program study both traditional and renewable energy resources and explore the function and design of electrical machines. Courses delve into topics such as nuclear power systems, solar conversion devices, and the development of solar-powered vehicles.
4. University of Michigan
The University of Michigan’s Energy Institute offers master degrees in energy systems engineering and in sustainable systems. The Energy Systems Engineering program is the first in the country to focus on developing leaders who are prepared to dynamically respond to changes in environmental and energy needs across the globe.
The Sustainable Systems program is a dual degree that prepares graduates with strong foundations in both engineering and sustainability. The program includes courses on ecological sustainability, infrastructure, and how to communicate energy solutions to policy makers. Graduates will be able to engineer energy systems that are sustainable economically, environmentally, and socially.
Through its Center for Professional Development, Stanford offers graduate and professional certificate programs in renewable energy. These energy technologies certificates are designed for working professionals who want to expand their knowledge or broaden their career options. Certificates take between one and two years to complete and are offered online to better meet the needs of students who are already working full-time in their field.
Students can get either a graduate certificate in energy engineering and technologies or a professional certificate in energy innovation and emerging technologies. Courses explore everything from cellulosic biofuels and solar cells to electrochemical energy conversion and entrepreneurship in engineering and science-based industries.
6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
It’s no surprise that innovative tech leader MIT has an energy studies minor that provides students with a combination of theory and hands-on experience. MIT views energy as a subject that permeates across all disciplines — so the university integrates undergraduate energy education across all schools, departments, and programs.
MIT also offers undergraduates the chance to participate firsthand in energy research related to a variety of energy and environmental challenges. Research opportunities are held over the summer and involve energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, and geothermal.
7. North Carolina State University
The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center started in 1988 with a focus on solar energy. Today, the center offers an award-winning Renewable Energy Technologies Diploma Series through part of NC State’s continuing education division. Since its inception, the center has received both state and national recognition, including the U.S. Department of Energy Million Solar Roofs Best Progress Award for the Southeast Region.
Courses focus on practical application and help students obtain professional certifications for photovoltaics and solar heating. Technical professionals can fulfill requirements for certification through three 40-hour courses. The program also offers options for contractors, architects, and engineers to complete required continuing education credits for their professional licenses.
8. San Juan College
San Juan College in Farmington, N.M., has been offering solar training for more than 13 years and has one of the longest-standing renewable energy degree programs in the country. Students can pursue either an Associate of Applied Science degree or a certificate with a concentration in photovoltaic and solar thermal systems.
As part of the School of Energy, the Renewable Energy program emphasizes the National Electric Code as well as the design and application of solar energy systems. Courses also take an in-depth look at energy usage and conservation as well as building energy analysis.
9. Ecotech Institute
The first and only career college focused solely on education for careers in renewable energy technology, Ecotech offers a variety of bachelor and associate-level degrees for people who want a career in sustainable energy. Degrees range from a bachelors in business administration with an emphasis on sustainability to an associate degree in renewable energy. There are also options to focus on residential energy management or specific forms of clean energy like wind or solar.
Students in the Renewable Energy program can customize their degree to the specialization of their choice. Specialties include an emphasis on wind, solar, electrical engineering, and waste management.
10. University of Massachusetts Lowell
Whether you’re interested in minoring in sustainable energy or are ready to tackle a Ph.D., UMass Lowell has a renewable energy program to meet your needs. As a national research university, UMass is on the cutting edge of energy research and development.
From its energy engineering minor to its various doctoral programs, UMass offers a well-rounded education that emphasizes service learning and research. Students are encouraged to participate in renewable energy programs and initiatives in their community through SLICE, Service Learning Integrated throughout the College of Engineering.
With demand for clean, renewable energy sources growing, there will be an increased need for skilled workers. There are plenty of options available for people looking to start a career in renewable energy or expand their current professional goals to include sustainable energy. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, these 10 colleges are the best place to start researching which program will meet your education needs and career goals.