The renewable sectors of solar, wind, and geothermal energy and the sector of carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS), which includes geological carbon sequestration, are not as mature or as long established as the sectors of oil and gas, nuclear energy, and mining discussed in Chapter 2. The subjects of this chapter, these four sectors are still emerging and their places in of the future U.S. energy quilt are still evolving.
The following discussions of each sector include an overview of typical systems and related technologies, market trends, industry overview and profile, public policy and regulatory issues, occupational categories, career pathways, employer needs and challenges, workforce education and training, and potential impact of innovation. This chapter also highlights an example of a successful geothermal education program that could be emulated for other energy and mining sectors.
Recommendations of importance for each of the emerging industries in this chapter, along with the information and data to support them, are provided within their respective chapter sections. In addition to these industry-specific recommendations, a set of Shared Recommendations that apply across the industries in this chapter are presented at the final section.
Common to all of these emerging sectors is the availability of reliable workforce estimates and projections. As noted in Chapter 1 and described in Appendix B, this report primarily uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to profile the workforce. However, to examine the energy and mining workforce, there are shortcomings with using BLS data. The dominant limitation is the way
in which the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) system handles the emerging sectors. Whereas there are NAICS codes that are helpful in understanding the more mature industries covered in Chapter 2, the emerging industries are not represented by unique NAICS codes, making it currently infeasible to examine or project the workforce in each of these areas using BLS data. This limitation may be mitigated in time as the NAICS codes are updated. As an example of this possibility, in the 2012 version, separate NAICS codes are available for solar electric power generation, wind electric power generation, and geothermal electric power generation. Unfortunately, these changes will not make their way into all of the data sources available from the BLS and other agencies for several years.
Workforce information, data, and projections from sources other than BLS are used and discussed as appropriate in each of the emerging sector sections. There are variations among data from different sources, and these differences are noted in the discussions that follow.
A few general points are worth noting. Workforce estimates are prepared by The Solar Foundation (TSF, which regularly conducts a solar jobs census), the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA, which regularly prepares wind market reports), and the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA, which reports on the geothermal industry). Also, TSF provides near-term workforce projections, GEA provides scenario-based workforce projections, and government entities (the National Renewable Energy Laboratory [NREL] and Department of Energy [DOE]) have conducted studies that include long-range workforce projections for solar and wind, respectively, based on specific scenarios. Such data are presented from these and other authors. The projection time frames vary widely among the different data sources.
Industry market trends and projections are helpful in providing insights into possible workforce trends. Because the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is the source of energy statistics from the U.S. government, EIA data are used to show industry market trends and projections out to 2035. Trend information from TSF, AWEA, GEA, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC, for solar), and others are also presented.
The data in this report were collected by different entities for different purposes using a variety of methods and workforce definitions, making direct data comparisons difficult and inexact. Additional information about these data can be obtained from their referenced reports and papers.
Introduction and Overview of Solar Power Systems
Three major categories of solar power systems are discussed—photovoltaics (PV), solar heating and cooling (SHC), and concentrating solar power (CSP).
PV systems convert solar power directly into electric power. SHC systems convert solar energy into thermal energy that can be used to heat potable water, heat and cool buildings, and heat swimming pools. CSP systems are thermal electric systems that first convert solar energy into thermal energy to produce high-temperature steam, and then the steam is used to drive a turbine generator to produce electric power.
The PV effect is the underlying phenomenon that allows PV systems to be effective electric power systems. When they are part of a complete electrical circuit and subjected to sunlight, PV (or solar) cells produce direct-current (dc) electricity. Many types of semiconductor materials can be used to make PV cells, but silicon is by far the most common. The typical silicon wafer is treated (doped) with both boron and phosphorous.
The PV cell is the basic building block of PV power systems. Manufacturers electrically connect the cells and enclose them in a laminate structure to form PV modules, which are the principal product sold by PV manufacturers. System designers and integrators combine modules in series and parallel configurations to form PV arrays with a desired current and voltage output.
A PV system that operates in parallel with the electric utility grid is referred to as utility interactive or grid tied. In this configuration, an inverter converts the array’s dc output into alternating current (ac) and serves as a power conditioning unit to ensure high-quality electrical output. The ac signal from the inverter typically is connected to the utility grid in an electrical service panel, and from there is routed to the electrical loads. If the PV system output exceeds the total demand from the loads, the excess power flows into the utility grid, and the owner of the PV system is credited by the utility company for the metered electricity fed into the grid.
Batteries or other types of energy storage systems can be used with grid-tied systems. Systems with backup storage are more common in areas that are susceptible to extended power outages. During utility outages, stored energy can be used to supply critical loads for a selected period of time. However, most grid-tied PV systems do not have backup storage and if an outage occurs, the inverter automatically shuts down and no PV-generated power is available.
Stand-alone PV systems are not connected to the grid and most require energy storage, typically batteries. Their design requires an analysis of all electrical loads and a specification of the number of days of storage required to provide needed electricity for periods lacking sunshine.
The range of dc power output from residential PV arrays is typically 1-10 kW. Systems may be stand-alone or grid tied, and system size is often driven by incentive programs offered in various states and by utility companies. The design and installation of small commercial PV systems is very similar to that for residential systems, and they may be in the range of 10-100 kilowatts (kW) or
FIGURE 3.1 (Left) Utility-scale PV system . (Right) Construction of concentrating sollectors for the Martin Solar Plant (a concentrating solar power system). SOURCE: (Left) http://solarpanelspower.net/solar-power/the-politics-of-solar-power. (Right) Sherwood (2011).
higher. Large commercial PV systems range from greater than 100 kW to several megawatts (MW).
The combination of lower PV costs and an increasing number of states with renewable portfolio standards (RPSs) has led many utility companies to pursue utility-scale systems that range from 1 MW to hundreds of megawatts (Figure 3.1). Also, it often takes less than a year to obtain permits and build multimegawatt PV systems, generating great interest among utility companies.
Solar Heating and Cooling
SHC systems convert sunlight into thermal energy for a variety of applications; most commonly for heating water, heating and cooling buildings, and heating swimming pools. Flat-plate collectors may be glazed and insulated for heating potable water in buildings, or unglazed and not insulated for heating swimming pools. Evacuated tube or concentrating collectors can be used for higher-temperature applications, including industrial process heat. Passive building design is used to control the amount of solar thermal energy entering a space and storing it for later use. Solar thermal energy can also be used to drive an absorption chiller to actively cool buildings.
Concentrating Solar Power
Large concentrating solar power systems are becoming increasingly attractive to utility companies for large-scale electric power generation as costs decrease. There are a number of CSP plants operating and under construction, totaling a few gigawatts. These systems receive solar energy over a large area using either
FIGURE 3.2 Number of U.S. installations per year by technology sector (2001-2010). SOURCE: Sherwood (2011).
mirrors or concentrating collectors, and focus it onto a target of much smaller area. Depending on the level of concentration, temperatures above 1,000oF can be attained in a working fluid. The thermal energy can produce steam to drive a turbine generator, which then produces electric power. CSP systems can be paired with more traditional turbine generators, possibly in conjunction with another fuel source. Figure 3.1 shows the construction of concentrating collectors for a CSP system in Florida. These collectors are the building blocks for Florida Power and Light’s 75-MW Martin Solar Plant CSP system that came online in 2010.
Solar Market Trends
Workforce trends follow market trends, so market trend information is a helpful indicator of potential workforce trends. Solar markets have been and continue to be very strong, mainly due to financial incentives from federal, state, and local governments, and electric utility companies. These incentives have produced significant demand for solar products. In 2010, the number of new solar installations completed was 124,000, including both solar electric and solar thermal systems, representing an increase of 22 percent, from 2009. The solar energy capacity installed in 2010 was 981 MW of dc electricity and 814 MW of thermal energy (Sherwood, 2011). As described below, the solar market has continued to grow since 2010 (Sherwood, 2012, SEIA/GTM, 2012a).
Financial and other incentives that drive the solar market vary considerably among the states. Therefore, the more robust solar markets are concentrated in relatively few states with the greatest incentives. Nationally, the 30 percent federal business investment tax credit (ITC) has been extended through December
FIGURE 3.3 Annual installed capacity of U.S. grid-connected PV installations by sector (2002-2011). SOURCE: Sherwood (2012). Used with permission from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.
31, 2016. This, along with recent legislation allowing utilities to take advantage of it, should result in continued near-term growth in solar markets.
Figure 3.2 is a snapshot of solar market trends for solar PV, SHC, and solar pool heating for the first decade of the 21st century. In terms of numbers of installations per year, note that the most dramatic growth was for grid-tied PV, which was significantly higher than for off-grid. Note also that the number of solar pool heating installations declined over the last half of the decade, primarily due to the collapse of the housing market and the associated decline in new home construction. For all four categories, the solar market grew from approximately 30,000 to nearly 130,000 installations per year over the decade (Sherwood, 2011).
Grid-tied PV applications fall into three sectors: residential, nonresidential (i.e., commercial, government, and military installations), and utility-scale. Figure 3.3 shows the breakdown of annual installed capacity for these sectors for 2002-2011.
More than 64,000 grid-tied PV systems were installed in 2011 (a 30 percent increase from 2010). From Figure 3.3, note that the capacity of grid-tied PV system installations more than doubled in 2011 compared with 2010. Both the increase in the number of utility-scale systems and the sizes of these systems accounted for this tremendous growth. The total installed capacity in 2011 alone was 1.845 GWdc, which was more than 10 times the capacity installed 4 years earlier in 2007. The cumulative installed capacity of grid-tied PV by the end of 2011 was 4 GWdc (Sherwood, 2012).
The average size of grid-tied systems has been growing in all three PV sectors. Average size varies from state to state and depends on available incentives, interconnection requirements, net metering regulations, and other factors. In 2011, PV installations represented 7 percent of all new electricity generation installed that year in the United States (Sherwood, 2012)
The growth trend in annual installed capacity was 848.5 MWdc in 2010, 1,886 MWdc in 2011, and 1,992.4 MWdc through the first three quarters of 2012. The cumulative PV capacity in the United States at the end of the third quarter of 2012 was 5.9 GWdc. The solar industry is projecting installations for 2012 to be 3.2 GWdc—a 70 percent annual growth rate for the year (SEIA/GTM, 2012b).
Solar Heating and Cooling
Solar thermal systems can be used to heat and/or cool buildings, heat water for swimming pools, and heat water for various industrial processes. Figure 3.2 shows the number of annual installations for SHC and for solar pool heating. In 2010, the total annual installed capacity for SHC of buildings was nearly 160 MW-thermal. Solar water heating installations increased by 6 percent in 2010 compared with 2009, and 84 percent were in the residential sector. The annual installed capacity for solar pool heating was around 650 MW-thermal in 2010, with about 90 percent in the residential sector. In 2010, the capacity of solar pool heating installations grew 13 percent compared with 2009, but it is still 30 percent less than the peak reached in 2006 (Sherwood, 2011).
Concentrating Solar Power
In CSP systems, the thermal energy in a working fluid can be used to generate bulk electric power for utilities. From 1992 until 2006, there was very little CSP activity. However, because of RPSs, other incentive programs, and technology improvements, there is renewed interest among utilities in CSP systems. In 2010, only a 75-MW Florida Power and Light CSP plant and a small plant in Colorado were installed (Sherwood, 2011). However, a number of new and very large CSP power plants are in the planning or construction stages and are expected to be completed between now and into 2017. These plants include seven in California and one each in Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, with a total ac power output of 2.737 GWac. (SEIA/GTM, 2012b).
Cost and Price Trends
Of all of the solar technologies, the greatest actual and potential cost reductions have been in PV systems. In 1976 the average cost of a PV module was approximately $60 per watt (using 2005 U.S. dollars) (USPREF, 2012). By 1985, the average cost was approximately $6.50 per watt (Mints, 2008), and by 2010, PV module costs averaged $1.70 per watt (Mints, 2011). In 2012, some module costs had dropped to below $0.90 per watt! With the rapid development of new materials and improved manufacturing, costs will continue to decline. The new
FIGURE 3.4 Price reductions to achieve the SunShot Initiative goal of $1/watt PV system costs. SOURCE: Friedman (2011).
SunShot Initiative, led by DOE, has set a goal of reducing PV module costs to $0.50 per watt, and to reduce installed PV system costs for utility-scale applications to $1 per watt by 2020 (Friedman, 2011). Figure 3.4 shows the price reduction goals for PV module, power electronics, balance-of-system, and installed system costs to achieve the SunShot Initiative goal.
Given current U.S. economic conditions and the dependence of the solar market on government policies and incentive programs, it is difficult to project the size of solar markets in the long term. In the committee’s judgment, trends over the past 10 years indicate the following:
- Solar pool heating capacity peaked in 2006. This market is partly driven by residential construction (which is not expected to fully recover soon) and the cost of installations is not expected to drop appreciably. Therefore, no significant near-term growth is anticipated.
- The solar heating and cooling system market should continue to grow at a moderate rate as the price of conventional energy continues to rise. Federal, state, and utility incentive programs can favorably influence these markets, but no technological breakthroughs leading to significant cost reductions are anticipated.
- Large CSP systems can help meet the requirements of RPSs for states that have them. Because they work best in areas with a high percent-
age of direct sunlight, significant growth in CSP is anticipated in the southwestern United States.
- Of the solar technologies, PV technology offers the greatest opportunity for significant growth in the near and long term. PV costs are decreasing rapidly, making PV more attractive to all major user sectors. Also, since PV power production is well aligned with peak utility demand, utilities are increasingly attracted to the technology. Grid parity is expected to be reached within the current decade, whereby PV-generated electricity will be cost-competitive with conventional generation. When that occurs, even higher rates of growth in PV markets can be expected, with utility companies leading the way.
The EIA has projected the solar thermal and solar PV net summer capacity and electrical generation for the electric power sector, as well as the solar PV net summer capacity and electrical generation for end-use generators through 2035 and Table 3.1 shows strong growth expected in the solar energy sector (especially for solar PV) in that time period. Note that the values for net summer capacity (GW) shown in the table should not be confused with the rated capacity of installed solar PV at standard test conditions (see notes following the table).
Solar Industry Overview and Profile
Structure and Location of the Industry
The structure of the solar industry across its entire value chain consists of the following areas:
- Fundamental and Applied Research. Fundamental or basic research is performed primarily by scientists and engineers with advanced degrees, and resides mostly at universities and research laboratories. Applied research is closer to product or process development and may include industry researchers in addition to those mentioned above.
- Product Development. This area is much more industry-based, involves concept development, value propositions, component design, and process design for manufacturing and production. It is typically represented by a variety of business engineering and scientific professions. Most have either a baccalaureate or graduate degree.
- Manufacturing. This group is industry based and includes a more diverse workforce. Much of the engineering involves process development, automation, lean manufacturing, computer control, and robotics. Test, evaluation, and quality assurance are important requirements for all manufacturing, and the associated workforce consists of a variety of operators, technicians, and professionals with 2- or 4-year degrees.
TABLE 3.1 Solar energy generating capacity and generation (EIA Reference case).
|2009||2010||2015||2020||2025||2030||2035||Annual Growth 2010-2035 (%)|
|Electric Power Sector|
Net Summer Capacitya (GW)
Generation (billion kWh)
Net Summer Capacitya (GW)
Generation (billion kWh)
a Net summer capacity is the steady hourly output that generating equipment is expected to supply to system load (exclusive of auxiliary power), as demonstrated by tests during summer peak demand.
b Does not include off-grid PV. On the basis of annual PV shipments from 1989 through 2009, EIA estimates that as much as 245 MW of remote electricity generation PV applications (i.e., off-grid power systems) were in service in 2009, plus an additional 558 MW in communications, transportation, and assorted other non-grid-connected, specialized applications. The approach used to develop the estimate, based on shipment data, provides an upper estimate of the size of the PV stock, including both grid-based and off-grid PV. It will overestimate the size of the stock, because shipments include a substantial number of units that are exported, and each year some of the PV units installed earlier will be retired from service or abandoned.
cIncludes combined heat and power plants and electricity-only plants in the commercial and industrial sectors; and small on-site generating systems in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors used primarily for own-use generation, but which may also sell some power to the grid.
SOURCE: EIA (2012a, Table A16, pp. 162-163).
- System Design. Designers of large PV and CSP systems typically have a baccalaureate or graduate degree in engineering and are responsible for selecting, sizing, and integrating components and hardware into a solar system that meets both functional and operational requirements, and complies with all applicable codes, standards, and industry-accepted practices. Designers of residential and small commercial PV and SHC systems may be required to have an engineering license in
some jurisdictions, but a 2- or 4-year technical degree may be sufficient in others.
- Marketing, Sales, and Distribution. Most of the workers in this group would have a 4-year degree in a relevant field.
- Construction and Installation. This is the largest group in the solar workforce and it consists of practitioners from a wide variety of construction trades, including electricians, plumbers, roofers, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), mechanics, carpenters, iron and steel workers, and glazers. Completion of a construction trades apprenticeship or similar vocational program, including both classroom instruction and on-the-job training, is the typical background requirement for this group of workers.
- Operation and Maintenance. This group consists primarily of workers with a technical background and possessing skills in computers, controls, instrumentation, measurements, diagnostics and troubleshooting, and service and repair. Workers would normally have a 2- or 4-year technical degree.
The heaviest concentration of U.S. solar activity, establishments, and jobs is in California, which currently employs approximately 25 percent of the solar workforce (TSF, 2011). The top 10 states in terms of the number of establishments are California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Ohio.1 In terms of installed PV capacity, the top 10 states are California, New Jersey, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Nevada.
Size and Employment
In the absence of BLS data, TSF’s National Solar Jobs Census series is considered the most comprehensive study on solar jobs. The Census 2012 identified 119,016 solar workers as of September 2012 (TSF, 2012). Approximately 90 percent of workers who satisfied TSF’s definition of a solar worker (i.e., someone who uses at least 50 percent of their time for solar-related activities) spent 100 percent of their time for solar work. Thus, although these are not full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, these are considered “direct” jobs and the 50-percent metric is a reasonable proxy for measuring the solar workforce. The reason for this definition is that some jobs—for example, that of an electrician working for an electrical contractor—may involve both solar and nonsolar activities. If the solar activities over the year constitute 50 percent or more of the electrician’s time, then the job is counted as one solar job. Therefore, the number of FTE solar jobs is somewhat less than 119,000.
1 The term “solar establishments” refers to the range of solar activities, including installation, manufacturing, sales and distribution, project development, and other (i.e., utilities, financial, legal, etc.).
TABLE 3.2 Solar Job Categories, Numbers of Jobs, Growth Rates, and Projections for 2010-2013.
|Subsector||2010 Jobs||2011 Jobs (revised)||2012 Jobs||2011-2012 Growth Rate (%)||2013 Projected Employment||2012-2013 Expected Growth Rate (%)|
|Sales and distribution||11,744||13,000||16,005||23.1||19,549||22|
SOURCE: Adapted from TSF (2012).
Despite the weak economy, the number of solar jobs grew approximately 13.2 percent between August 2011 and September 2012, which is about six times the employment growth rate for the nation as a whole. Table 3.2 shows the changes for various job categories.
There are a number of challenges to the growth of solar markets. They include a lack of economic growth; dependence on federal, state, and utility incentives in a depressed economy; limited consumer knowledge of solar products, applications, and their benefits; difficulty in obtaining financing for solar projects; and a shortage of an adequately trained workforce.
Public Policy and Regulation Issues
Solar industry growth over the last decade was in large part due to government and utility policies, related incentive programs, and regulatory changes that occurred. Some of the more important of these are RPSs, solar-specific set-asides, solar renewable energy credits and credit multipliers, net metering, the federal investment tax credit, and third-party ownership of solar systems.
RPSs2 provide states with the means to increase renewable energy generation by requiring utilities and other retail electric providers to supply a specified minimum amount of their customer load with electricity from renewable resources. The primary goal of RPSs is to stimulate market growth and renewable technol-
2 A source for up-to-date information on RPSs and other incentive programs is the Database on State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, IREC and the North Carolina Solar Center (online and constantly updated). Available at www.dsireusa.org (accessed on April 23, 2012).
ogy development so that renewable energy will become economically competitive with conventional generation sources.
Currently, 29 states plus the District of Columbia and 2 territories have RPSs, and 8 states and 2 territories have renewable portfolio goals (but no standard). California has the most ambitious RPS, calling for 33 percent of electric generation from renewables by 2020. However, only 16 states and the District of Columbia require a specific percentage or amount of energy to be supplied by solar. Such a requirement is called a solar-specific set-aside.
With respect to solar renewable energy credits, most states with RPSs are involved in the trading of renewable energy certificates (RECs). RECs provide a way for states to track the amount of renewable energy being sold, and to financially reward those producing electricity using renewable energy. To promote a specific type of renewable energy, such as solar, some states offer a multiplier to the RECs earned. For example, instead of receiving one credit for each unit of electricity produced from renewable energy, a state may choose to offer two or three credits if the unit is produced from solar (as opposed to another form of renewable energy).
Net metering is a policy allowing owners of electric power systems, such as homeowners with PV systems, to receive retail credit for the electricity they produce that is fed back into the grid for use by other customers. This policy provides an economic incentive for consumers to purchase solar systems, and it can be implemented either by the utility or at the state level.
Another important incentive is the federal investment tax credit (ITC), which provides up to 30 percent of the total capital costs of a solar project. The ITC provides financial support to consumers who purchase solar systems and to the solar industry in building manufacturing plants, developing a solar workforce, and investing in large-scale solar electric power plants. It also allows regulated utilities to claim tax credits, and it has been an important element in the development of utility-scale solar systems.
Third-party ownership of solar systems has been another major driver of the solar market. For this model, a third-party owner uses a power purchase agreement (PPA) to build, own, and operate a PV system on a customer’s property, and then sell the PV-generated power back to the customer at an agreed-upon rate. It is attractive to customers who want to support solar power production, but who also want to avoid the initial costs and the responsibilities for constructing, operating, and maintaining the system.
The development of the solar markets, industry, and workforce has been very heavily dependent on incentive programs as part of federal, state, and local government policies, as well as those of individual utilities. The economic impact of these incentive policies cannot be overstated. Without them, technologies such as PV could not compete with conventional generation at the present time in
most locations. With incentives and the associated economies of scale, the cost of PV modules has fallen dramatically from about $6.50 per watt in 1985 to less than $1.70 per watt in 2010 (Mints 2008, 2011), and to less than $0.90 per watt in some cases in 2012. In addition to PV modules, the costs of power electronics and both mechanical and electrical balance-of-system costs have also fallen, reducing overall system costs to levels that make them more attractive to various user sectors. The national goal is for PV to achieve grid parity with conventional generation by 2020, at which point federal and other subsidies will not be nearly as important as they are today. If current cost reduction trends continue, this goal may be achieved.
Solar Workforce Occupational Categories
The National Solar Job Census 2012 (TSF, 2012) identifies six different occupational categories among solar establishments surveyed, including installation, manufacturing, sales and distribution, project development, and other. In addition, DOE contracted with the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) to develop an interactive solar career map that identified 36 specific occupations in four different occupational sectors. Table 3.3 was constructed using information from both sources. The left column of the table lists the occupational categories from the census, and the right column lists specific solar jobs for each category.
Solar Career Pathways
A common view within the industry is that renewable electric technologies, such as solar technologies, attract students and other potential workers because of the industry’s positive image. Potential workers are enthusiastic about the so-called “clean energy industry,” a positive factor for the solar workforce.
As part of its SunShot Initiative, the DOE contracted with the IREC for a Web-based Solar Career Map3 (DOE, 2011) that describes job opportunities in the solar industry. It includes 36 solar occupations in four sectors (component development; system design; marketing, sales, and permitting; and installation and operations) and at three levels (entry, mid, and advanced). For each occupation, it gives information about the job, including desired skills, competencies, education and training, median salaries, and career pathways. This interactive online career lattice allows users to explore opportunities for entering a specific solar occupation, and to identify possible routes for lateral career changes and career advancement.
TABLE 3.3 Solar Jobs for Selected Occupational Categories.
|Occupational Categories||Specific Job Titles|
|Installation||Solar installation contractor; dedicated solar installers and technicians; electricians, roofers, plumbers, and HVAC technicians with specific skills in solar installations; mechanical assemblers and installation helpers|
|Manufacturing||Engineers of all types; advanced manufacturing technicians; computer numerical control operators; process control technicians; quality assurance specialists; production and operation workers; first-line supervisors or managers of production and operation workers; sales occupations; accountants, accounting clerks and finance staff; marketing staff|
|Sales and distribution||Sales and marketing professionals; accountants, accounting clerks and finance staff; engineers of all types; administrative assistants and clerical workers; in-house legal staff|
|Project development||Solar project planners and developers; project managers; engineers of all types; residential and small commercial solar system designers; solar system integrators; architects and residential designers; site assessors; procurement specialists; construction cost accountants; financial specialists; attorneys with solar and/or environmental expertise|
|Other||Research and development scientists and engineers; interconnection engineers; engineering and service technicians; troubleshooting and diagnostic specialists|
SOURCES: DOE (2011), TSF (2012)
Employer Needs and Challenges
Because it is difficult to project future solar markets, it is difficult to project future jobs. Significant efforts to obtain current snapshots of the solar workforce are recent—for example, TSF’s National Solar Jobs Census series (TSF, 2010, 2011, 2012). Such workforce surveys and analysis efforts offer only short-term projections. As useful as these efforts are, work remains to achieve a complete picture of the solar workforce. As the 2012 census (TSF, 2012) notes, its estimates do not include all jobs in the government, academic, nonprofit, or workforce development sectors, or many of the R&D and other types of employers that do solar work, and so, employment and firm counts are to be considered as a minimum baseline. The report also notes the lack of federal government (BLS) workforce data, and the difficulties encountered in categorizing solar workers (TSF, 2012).
As described in Appendix B, this report strives to rely primarily on workforce data from the BLS. However, data are not currently available for a NAICS code that is unique to the solar industry, making it infeasible to examine or project
TABLE 3.4 Growth rate of solar jobs (TSF, 2012).
Sales and distribution
All other sectors
Overall Growth of Solar
the solar workforce using BLS data. This limitation may be mitigated in time as the NAICS codes are updated. In the 2012 version of the NAICS, a separate code is available for solar electric power generation, but this change will not make its way into all of the federal data sources for several years.
It is very difficult to reliably project workforce estimates far into the future from the data that are now available. Table 3.1, above, offers a possible indication of future solar market trends, based on EIA projections. It shows expected strong growth in the solar sector (especially for solar PV) through 2035. Workforce trends are expected to follow market trends. In addition, NREL performed a study to consider the implications of reaching the SunShot Initiative’s targets (NREL, 2012). According to the study, if the level of solar development defined in the study’s SunShot scenario4 were achieved, 290,000 new solar jobs could result by 2030 and 390,000 by 2050.
Near-term workforce estimates are available. As noted above, data from TSF (2012) indicate about a 13.2 percent growth rate in solar jobs between August 2011 and September 2012. This was almost 6 times higher than the national average growth rate of 2.3 percent. The report projects a significant growth rate 17 percent in 2013 in all subsectors (See Table 3.4).
Required Occupational Knowledge and Skills
Occupational analysis is used to determine the duties, tasks, knowledge, skills, and traits for a given job—commonly using a DACUM (Developing a Curriculum), typically involving focus group meetings with high-performing, veteran workers who can thoroughly define the job. An important DACUM output is a job task analysis, specifying the tasks, knowledge, and skills required in the job. A similar method of job analysis is job profiling. ACT has developed a database that includes occupational profiles for 18,000 professional and blue-collar jobs.5
4 The SunShot scenario assumes that the SunShot Initiative’s targets will be reached by 2020. The targets are for installed system prices of $1 per watt for utility-scale PV systems, $1.25 per watt for commercial rooftop PV systems, $1.50 per watt for residential rooftop PV systems, and $3.60 per watt/W for CSP systems with a capacity of up to 14 hours of thermal energy storage.
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), Underwriters Laboratories University (ULU), the Electronics Technicians Association International (ETAI), and the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) have all developed task analyses for PV installers that are used for training and certification. NABCEP also has developed task analyses for solar thermal installers, small wind installers, and PV technical sales persons that are used in their certification programs. The IREC uses these task analyses as a basis for accrediting training programs and certifying instructors and master trainers.
Through the national Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN), new courses and programs are being developed and offered by educational and training institutions around the United States. Most focus primarily on training PV installers and use the task analysis developed by NABCEP. Also, the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) has developed a competency model for the energy industry—see Figure 7.5 in Chapter 7 and the related discussion (Randazzo, 2011).
The SITN is encouraging partnering educational institutions to adapt the CEWD competency model in developing their solar education and training curricula. Standardized core requirements based on the competency model should lead to a better educated and more skilled workforce.
Hiring Difficulty, Educational Preferences, and Workforce Opportunities
The 2011 Solar Jobs Census (TSF, 2011) indicated that more than 50 percent of solar company respondents expressed either great difficulty or some difficulty in hiring solar designers or engineers, solar installation managers or project foremen, solar sales representatives or estimators, solar water or pool heating installers or technicians, and PV installers or technicians. For manufacturing and for sales and distribution jobs, over 50 percent of the respondents indicated that there were too few qualified applicants for the job openings (TSF, 2011).
For training PV installers (the solar occupation in most demand) over a third of the solar company respondents to the survey (TSF, 2011) indicated that they preferred graduates of construction trade apprenticeship programs, similar to the 5-year electrician apprenticeship programs offered by the more than 300 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) training centers around the U.S. According to 2012 Solar Jobs Census (TSF, 2012), with job growth expected, opportunities for employment in ranked order are sales and distribution; installation; other (e.g., finance, legal services, and research and development); project development; and manufacturing. The 2012 census also indicates that the largest category of new solar workers includes technical or production-related positions, followed by management, administrative, and sales jobs.
Education and Training
In 2008, several organizations, including the IREC and the Florida Solar Energy Center, conducted focus group meetings with industry representatives and highly experienced faculty to identify the most pressing needs for solar training. The result was a prioritized list of training needs, as follows: system installers, system designers and engineers, licensed contractors, building code officials, sales and site assessment personnel, architects and building designers, utility personnel, and construction cost accountants (Ventre and Weissman, 2009). Education and training for these occupations fall into one of three categories: vocational/construction trades; 2-year technical; and 4-year professional.
The construction trades are best suited to installing solar electric and thermal systems, and training is usually provided by vocational technical institutes, construction trade associations, community colleges, and solar energy research and educational entities. (PV system installation is primarily electrical construction, and thermal system installation is an extension of plumbing skills.) Organizations such as the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC), jointly sponsored by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), have made efforts to infuse PV training into their electrical apprenticeship programs. The Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC) Association has made similar efforts, and other groups also have made significant efforts to affect installer training.
Two-year technical programs at community colleges that produce trained technicians are well suited to the needs of solar occupations. Associate in applied science degrees stress applied technology for a specific occupation. Associate in science degree programs also stress technology for career education, and the degree credits can be applied to a 4-year program, such as a bachelor of science in engineering technology (BSET, or BET).
Four-year professional education is also important. Professional-level occupations in solar energy include business administration, project management, finance and accounting, and computer science. The most prevalent profession in solar energy (and energy systems in general) is engineering (all disciplines). The BSET prepares students to apply engineering principles to product improvement, design, manufacturing, and engineering operations. The bachelor of science in engineering provides a strong foundation for graduate school and research, and it prepares students to apply advanced mathematics, science, and engineering principles to design, product development, manufacturing, test and evaluation, and project management.
The professional science master’s degree is a very attractive alternative for those desiring to combine the strong aspects of a master’s of business administration degree with solar engineering. Such a combination provides an excellent background for project development, project management, and solar business administration and management.
With the broad spectrum of training needs, community colleges can play a special role. In addition to vocational, apprenticeship, certificate, and associate degree programs, community college offerings include 2+2 programs with 4-year institutions, and 2+2+2 programs among high schools, community colleges, and 4-year institutions. Also, solar education and training can be and is being incorporated into well-established programs, such as construction technology, industrial technology, and engineering technology.
Some states have actively supported solar education and training. For example, New York through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and Florida through its Workforce Florida Banner Centers and the Florida Solar Energy Center, have actively supported education and training of the solar workforce for many years. Moreover, the solar industry has relied heavily on public funding support for workforce development, a lack of which would contribute to a greater shortfall of qualified solar workers.
Solar Instructor Training Network
Beginning in 2009, DOE has supported development and implementation of the SITN, consisting of nine regional training providers (RTPs) throughout the United States (DOE, 2012a). The RTPs provide faculty at partnering educational institutions with instruction and resources to develop courses and programs that address the urgent need for high-quality, locally accessible education and training. The IREC is the national administrator for the SITN. Since its inception, the SITN has trained more than 700 faculty members, representing more than 200 institutions. The RTPs train trainers representing institutions within their regions. The majority of the institutions are community colleges, but vocational-technical institutes and some high schools are represented. Participating institutions are encouraged to work closely with the solar industry in their vicinity. Efforts are made to train faculty at institutions where there is a market for students to be trained in solar energy.
The IREC is in the process of developing a compendium of best practices documents for renewable energy training. Five have been published, including Curriculum and Program Development, and several others are nearing completion (IREC, 2012). IREC has developed a menu of courses based on the NABCEP job task analysis for PV installers that provides educational institutions and training organizations with a variety of options for integrating solar installer content into existing certificate and/or degree programs (Sarubbi and Ventre, 2012).
Training Accreditation and Instructor Certification
The IREC is the North American licensee for the Institute for Sustainable Power Quality (IREC ISPQ) Standard 01022: 2011, which has been the basis for accrediting solar, renewable, and energy-efficiency training programs and continuing education providers, and for certifying master trainers and instructors
teaching renewable energy courses. The goal of IREC credentialing is to provide evidence that graduates from accredited training programs achieve the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful. The IREC also uses the ISPQ standard to certify master trainers and instructors that teach solar courses. The categories of ISPQ certification are independent master trainer, affiliated master trainer, independent instructor, and affiliated instructor. In addition to the above standard, IREC Standard 14732: 2012,6 General Requirements for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Certificate Programs, has been extensively reviewed and was recently promulgated. This new standard was developed in partnership with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to assess credit and noncredit energy-related certificate programs for ANSI-IREC accreditation. Accreditation requirements include a systematic program plan, summative examination, and rigorous auditing and surveillance.
Practitioner certification provides assurance that solar workers have met qualification requirements. Several organizations are involved in certifying and/ or approving practitioners.
The NABCEP certifies four types of practitioners: PV system installers, solar water and pool heating system installers, small wind system installers, and PV technical salespersons. NABCEP certification of additional solar occupations is in the planning stage.
The ULU trains and certifies PV installers. Unlike many training organizations, the ULU requires that participants be licensed electricians, electrical contractors, or building officials with significant and relevant background knowledge and skills.
The ETAI approach to training and certification is unique. It includes a variety of pathways to attain one or more of three levels of PV technician status. The approach combines technical education with many of the same features of apprenticeship training for electricians, but with more grounding in alternative energy and a strong focus on PV technology.
The NRCA, through its Roof Integrated Solar Energy, Inc. Certified Solar Roofing Professional (RISE CSRP) program, has developed a task analysis specifically to certify roofers that install solar systems. The task analysis is the basis for both training and certification.
Much of the innovation in solar thermal technology has been incremental; most resulting in new materials, better components, more efficient designs, improved manufacturing processes, and a more skilled workforce. Because SHC systems are reliable, work well, and are economically attractive, continued growth is expected for the foreseeable future.
For concentrating systems, incremental innovation has been the rule. Higher concentrating solar collection and advances in thermal-to-electric conversion technologies may provide more options for utility-scale power generation. In any case, innovation is expected to continue and applications are expected to grow.
Most of the advances in PV technology have been incremental. Much of the research done by national laboratories and universities has focused on developing higher-efficiency cells at lower costs. Crystalline silicon has been the industry’s mainstay for most of its history, and advances in efficiency and cost reduction have been significant. Research and development of a variety of thin-film materials and tandem cell configurations have produced many new and better-performing modules. Consequently, the cost of PV modules has been reduced substantially. The cost of the power electronics used to invert and condition the power output of PV systems also has been decreasing dramatically. This trend is expected to continue, with PV technology becoming increasingly competitive with conventional generation, coupled with the maturation of the industry, leading to more specialization and higher labor efficiencies.
Predicting technological breakthroughs or transformational innovation is difficult. In addition to research on a variety of III-V and II-VI materials for PV cells, other technologies being investigated include thermophotovoltaic cells, intermediate-band solar cells, super tandem cells, hot carrier cells, optical up-and-down conversion, and organic PV cells (Messenger and Ventre, 2010). Considerable progress also has been made in microinverters that extend their lifetimes to over 20 years, making ac modules much more attractive to many users. And, automation will continue to reduce labor intensity. However, it is questionable whether any of these activities will result in transformational innovation.
However, two other possibilities should be considered. One is the Smart Grid (Chapter 4). The existing grid needs significant improvement to make best use of solar and wind power. All aspects of the Smart Grid would add value to large-scale solar and wind generation, transmission, and distribution, and the resulting enhanced connection to solar and wind sites would help mitigate the effects of weather variability. The Smart Grid could be transformational, and accelerated Smart Grid development would accelerate the realization of its potential benefits.
Finally, it should be noted that grid parity between conventional generation and PV power production is a tipping point that appears to be rapidly approaching, especially for utility-scale applications. Once achieved, transformational changes could occur in the generation and distribution of electricity. Concentrating PV collectors, which are now being offered to utility companies, will reduce costs even more. With the average time to permit and build a 1,000-MW PV power plant being approximately 1 year, compared with a minimum of 5 years to more than 10 years for conventional power plants, significant changes may be forthcoming.
Conclusions and Recommendations
3.1 The National Solar Job Census 2012 (TSF, 2012) estimates that there are about 119,000 solar workers. Approximately 90 percent of workers who satisfied The Solar Foundation’s definition of a solar worker (i.e., someone who uses at least 50 percent of their time for solar-related activities) spent 100 percent of their time on solar work. Projections of the future solar workforce are difficult to make, but DOE’s SunShot Vision Study projects that, if the SunShot Initiative’s system price targets are met by 2020, 290,000 new solar jobs could be supported by 2030.
3.2 Photovoltaic system sales have experienced continued exponential growth for the past 10 years, including during the recent economic downturn. Continued growth is expected for the foreseeable future, thus leading to more solar jobs.
3.3 The power output of PV systems is closely aligned with peak demand from utility customers for many service areas for much of the year, thus making PV systems more attractive to utilities and spurring growth in solar markets and the solar workforce.
3.4 The Smart Grid would facilitate increased integration of solar sources, bringing more systems online and reducing power swings caused by source variability, further enhancing the attractiveness and competitiveness of solar electricity generation and leading to more solar jobs.
3.5 Solar market growth, and hence workforce growth, has been and still is heavily dependent upon government policies and incentive programs.
3.6 The amount of solar subsidies is small compared with those for conventional fuels. Subsidies, incentives, investments in promising emerging technologies, and manufacturing innovations have resulted in significant cost reductions in PV systems, thus yielding better returns on investments. With continued federal and state government financial support, solar electric technologies should achieve grid parity and be
competitive with conventional electric power production before 2020. When parity is achieved, significant increases in solar job growth can be anticipated.
3.7 A 1,000-MW PV power plant can be permitted and installed in 1 year, leading to not only significant clean energy production, but also significant job creation. Considering that 18,000 MW of PV power modules were shipped worldwide in 2010 alone, the energy and job creation potential of solar technology is enormous.
3.8 There is a shortage of adequately trained workers for the solar energy industry.
3.9 An interactive solar career map with 36 solar-related occupations and pathways for career placement, change, and advancement is available online to help education and training providers and those seeking employment.
3.10 Workforce education and training are being comprehensively addressed, and include construction trade apprenticeship, 2-year technical degree, and university-level professional training programs. The Solar Instructor Training Network coordinates nationwide education and training programs where needed for target audiences. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council accredits solar and energy-efficiency training programs and certifies master trainers and instructors. It also has developed a compendium of best practices documents for renewable energy training.
3.11 Historically, the solar industry has relied heavily on public support for workforce development. Without this support, there will be an even greater shortfall of qualified solar workers.
The following recommendations should be initiated as quickly as possible and some will take longer than others to become fully operational. The recommendations have been ordered and labeled in terms of when they would be expected to be operational. Moreover, recommendations 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, and 3.6 are sequential. The recommended actions are expected to continue for the long term.
3.1 The committee recommends that the Department of Energy continue to support solar workforce development programs, including the national Solar Instructor Training Network, and the updating of the Web-based interactive Solar Career Map. (Short Term)
3.2 For the purpose of building a stronger, more diverse, and higher-quality solar workforce, the solar industry should encourage certification of practitioners by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, and the pursuit of industry- and state-approved stackable
credentials through construction-trade, vocational-technical, community college, and university certificate and degree programs. (Medium Term)
3.3 Solar content should be integrated into the curricula for traditional occupations that meet solar workforce needs, thus making education and training institutions more efficient, effective, and flexible in responding to changing solar markets. (Medium Term)
3.4 Accreditation of renewable-energy and energy-efficiency education and training programs and certification of instructors should be pursued using well-accepted, high-quality standards, such as the IREC ISPQ Standard 01022: 2011 and the IREC ANSI Standard 14732: 2013. (Medium Term)
3.5 The Department of Energy should ensure that education and training institutions inform their placement offices, faculty, and students, as well as local workforce development agencies, about the DOE’s interactive Solar Career Map, its use, and its benefits to those seeking employment. (Medium Term)
3.6 The committee recommends that professional associations encourage industry, government, educational and vocational institutions, unions, and other organizations involved in solar workforce education and training to develop a robust and flexible education and training infrastructure for the solar energy workforce, rather than basing decisions on uncertain projections. This is best accomplished by using competency models, such as those developed by the Center for Energy Workforce Development, and by embedding needed content and curricula into existing educational and training programs. This can be done for the construction trades, technicians, and both technical and business professionals. This approach will facilitate a nimble workforce that will be able to quickly react to unfolding demands in the market. (Long Term)
In addition to these recommendations, the Shared Recommendations (at the end of the chapter) also apply for the solar industry.
Modern wind-powered electricity generation systems transform the kinetic energy of wind into electrical energy. However, conversion of wind energy for practical use has a long history.
Large wind turbines used to generate electricity were first used widely in the U.S. after World War II. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil embargo of the early 1970s spurred wind turbine technology development in the United States and elsewhere. Federal and state credits offered during
FIGURE 3.5 Typical 1.5-MW-class wind turbine system. SOURCE: Wilburn, (2011, Fig. 1, p. 2).
the 1980s to the 2000s significantly stimulated the use of renewable resources, including wind, in the United States.
According to the Global Wind Energy Council, at the end of 2011, installed wind-generated electric power capacity was almost 238 GW worldwide. The United States is the No. 2 ranked country in installed capacity, accounting for approximately 20 percent of that total (nearly 47 GW at that time). The United States led the world in installed capacity until 2010, when it was overtaken by China (GWEC, 2011, 2012).
Overview of Wind Power Systems
Figure 3.5 shows a typical utility-scale turbine, along with a diagram of the major components in a wind turbine. The diagram on the left shows the size of a typical (around 1.5 MW) turbine rotor and tower compared to a Boeing 747. Newer turbines are in the 2- to 5-MW class, and offshore turbines may be as large as 10 MW. The diagram on the right shows the main components of a typical indirect-drive turbine, including pitching rotor blades, main shaft and bearing, speed-increasing gearbox, generator, and controller. This kind of turbine is of an older style that employs induction machines and gearboxes. Newer turbines, although still using induction machines (albeit of a different type), have electronic power converters that match the power generated by variable wind speed to grid frequency and voltage.
The latest generation of turbines is “direct drive.” That is, there is no speed-increasing gearbox. Instead, synchronism is achieved primarily by the use of solid-state power converters. In addition, the generators employ permanent magnets to create a synchronous field that is independent of the operating speed and torque on the machine. These turbines are lighter, have fewer moving parts,
FIGURE 3.6 Wind farm. SOURCE: http://www.dis.anl.gov/projects/windpowerforecasting.html. Used with permission from U.S. DOE’s Office of Science.
and are more reliable, easier to install, and require less maintenance. Because generated power is proportional to rotor speed and magnetic flux density, high-energy-density permanent magnets are critical to the development of direct-drive systems. Some of the components for different types of wind turbines require different materials derived from minerals. A brief discussion of minerals used for wind turbines is presented in Box 3.1.
In much of Europe, onshore wind turbines are placed near communities, on farmland, and elsewhere. In the United States, they are most commonly installed in collections known as “wind farms” (Figure 3.6). Wind farms allow power collection and single ties to the grid. They also maximize space utilization and often share space with farming or other activities. Placing wind farms in remote areas also tends to reduce community resistance to the sight of wind turbines.
Wind Market Trends
Although wind power generation growth has slowed in the last 2 years, 6.81 GW of wind power was installed in the United States during 2011 (Swift, 2012; Figure 3.7). Power purchase agreements (PPAs) are being signed in the 5- to 6-cents/kwh range, making wind competitive with new natural gas generation (GWEC, 2011).
The year 2010 showed a significant slowing of wind growth. The DOE 2010 Wind Market Report sums up the situation succinctly:
“The U.S. wind power industry experienced a trying year in 2010, with a significant reduction in new builds compared to both 2008 and 2009.
Minerals Used in the Wind Turbine Industry
Minerals used in the fabrication, construction, and connection of utility-scale wind turbines include iron, steel, copper, and aluminum. In addition, some newer turbines use ceramic magnets that contain barium or strontium, and high-energy-density rare-earth magnets containing neodymium and boron (Wilburn, 2011).
High-energy-density permanent magnets are used to create high magnetic flux densities in efficient generators. Turbines with direct-drive systems rather than gearboxes have the potential to reduce operation and maintenance costs. Indirect-drive generators operate at multiple blade rotor speeds while direct-drive turbine generators rotate at the same speed as the blade rotor.
Because the vast majority of turbines in service and now being sold have wound rotor generators, only a relatively small amount of rare-earth materials is currently used in the wind turbine industry. The composition of the market for different types of turbines at the end of 2008 is shown in the Table 1 (Wilburn, 2011).
Because generators designed to use permanent magnets tend to be lighter than other generators that also use power electronics rather than gearboxes to achieve grid control, the use of permanent-magnet materials is likely to increase. Rare-earth magnets have a higher energy product (a measure of the energy that
TABLE 1 Market Share of Wind Turbines by Generator Type in 2008.
Turbine Generator Type
|Percent of Market|
Double-fed induction generator (wound rotor)
Induction generator (cage rotor)
Direct-drive generator (wound rotor)
Direct-drive generator (permanent magnet)
NOTES: Numbers represent percentage of wind turbines under contract for development in 2008. SOURCE: Data from Wilburn (2011).
The delayed impact of the global financial crisis, relatively low natural gas and wholesale electricity prices, and slumping overall demand for energy countered the ongoing availability of existing federal and state incentives for wind energy deployment” Wiser and Bolinger (2011, p. iii).
In spite of the economic situation, wind power capacity grew by 15 percent in 2010 and 17 percent in 2011.
Installation of offshore wind power plants has commanded significant industry attention over the past several years, yet none of the new U.S. power installation was offshore. However, by the end of 2011, 15 offshore projects and a proposed offshore transmission line were proposed (AWEA, 2012a).
In 2011, the manufacturer with the largest U.S. market share was GE, at slightly over 40 percent. GE was followed in order by Vestas (slightly over 20 percent), and Siemens (12.5 percent), with a total of over 73 percent of the U.S. market. Mitsubishi, Gamesa, Suzlon, and Clipper together had 21.3 percent of the U.S. share. (AWEA, 2012a) GE, Vestas, Siemens, Mitsubishi, Gamesa, and
a magnetic material can supply to an external magnetic circuit) than ceramic magnets, and so generator fields constructed from permanent magnets can be lighter and more efficient. According to Wilburn (2011), leading manufacturers, including Vestas, Siemens, and GE, are all introducing direct-drive permanent-magnet generators for their turbines. As a result, it is reasonable to expect that the share of generators with permanent-magnet fields, and therefore employing rare-earth materials, will increase significantly.
According to DOE, the use of major minerals by weight in a typical wind turbine is 89.1 percent steel, 1.6 percent copper, and 0.8 percent aluminum (DOE, 2008). The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) extrapolated estimates for a typical turbine and matched them to the DOE’s “20 Percent by 2030” plan to reach 20 percent of electricity generation to be produced from wind by the year 2030 and estimated the average annual use of minerals needed from 2010 to 2030. A summary of the results published by USGS is shown in Table 2 (Wilburn, 2011). The table shows the average annual material requirement, without consideration of recycling and recovery.
Although the quantities of most of the materials listed in Table 2 are relatively small compared with the market, the amount of the rare earth mineral neodymium needed is of concern because of source limitations and market conditions.
TABLE 2 Approximate Average Annual Material Requirements for 2010-2030 for Wind Turbines in Order to Meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s Goal of 20 Percent Wind Energy by 2030.
SOURCE: Adapted from Wilburn (2011, Table 5, p. 12).
Clipper have significant manufacturing capability in the United States. According to DOE, imports of wind power equipment were down from 65 percent of total supply in 2005-2006 to about 40 percent in 2009-2010. In addition, exports of wind power equipment from the United States increased by a factor of 9 from 2007 to 2010 and continue to increase (Wiser and Bolinger, 2011). In 2011, 48 percent of the sales capacity of domestic manufacturers went to external markets (AWEA, 2012a).
These manufacturing additions, coupled with the economic downturn, have led to overcapacity in several areas of turbine manufacturing. Nevertheless, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates that the wind energy sector employed 75,000 workers at the end of 2010 (AWEA, 2011) and in 2011 (AWEA, 2012b).
FIGURE 3.7 Growth of wind power installed capacity in the United States. SOURCE: Swift (2012). Used with permission from A. Swift and R. Walker, Texas Tech University.
FIGURE 3.8 Nonhydropower renewable electricity generation capacity by source, including end-use capacity, 2010-2035 (GW). SOURCE: EIA, (2012a, Fig. 100, p. 90).
TABLE 3.5 Wind Energy Generating Capacity (EIA Reference Case).
|2009||2010||2015||2020||2025||2030||2035||Annual Growth 2010-2035 (%)|
|Electric Power Sector|
|Net summer capacitya (GW)|
|Generation (billion kwh)|
|Net summer capacitya (GW)|
|Generation (billion kwh)|
aNet summer capacity is the steady hourly output that generating equipment is expected to supply to system load (exclusive of auxiliary power), as demonstrated by tests during summer peak demand.
b Includes combined heat and power plants and electricity-only plants in the commercial and industrial sectors; and small on-site generating systems in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors used primarily for own-use generation, but which may also sell some power to the grid. SOURCE: EIA (2012a, Table A16, pp. 162-163).
capacity through 2035 will come from wind, but solar and biomass (not considered in this report) generation will increase at faster annual rates. In the EIA’s Reference case, wind capacity is expected to nearly double from 2010 to 2035.
Industry Overview and Profile
The U.S. wind power industry includes utility-class generation used mainly in large wind farms and smaller-scale generation used in distributed applications, such as community wind, in and around industrial sites, and within cities. The economics of wind power favor utility-scale generation, and so wind farms and manufacturers of large wind turbines dominate the market. This market, in turn, is dominated by 10 large turbine manufacturers backed by a significant supply-
chain network. However, consolidation in manufacturing is likely to occur in the current market.
Despite the economic slowdown and difficulties in accessing project financing, nearly 7 GW of wind power was installed in the United States in 2011 (AWEA, 2012b). Total U.S. capacity was nearly 47 GW at the end of 2011 and over 60 GW by the end of 2012 (AWEA, 2012a, 2013), and the United States remains a major player in the global wind market, with nearly 16 percent of the world’s new capacity. China surpassed the United States in total installed wind generation capacity in 2010 and remained the global leader in 2011. Although it is true that wind power installations in the United States slowed in 2009 and 2010, it is worth noting that the United States is still ahead of schedule if it is to meet the 20 percent wind power generation by 2030 plan that was described by the DOE (DOE, 2008).
As shown in Figure 3.9, 39 states plus Puerto Rico now have installed wind power. Several more states are considering wind power installations, particularly if offshore wind becomes a reality here. Texas leads the other states with more than 12 GW of installed capacity, followed by California, Iowa, Illinois, and Oregon. However, Texas, California, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Illinois led the way in new installed capacity in 2012 (AWEA, 2013).
While 39 states and Puerto Rico have utility-scale installations, 43 have wind-related manufacturing and many of these are in states without operating wind power. As a result, every state in the United States has a job market that is affected by the wind power industry. (AWEA, 2012a)
In 2008 and 2009, the AWEA counted approximately 85,000 jobs in the wind sector. In 2010, that number dropped by 10,000 to 75,000 (AWEA, 2011) and held steady in 2011 (AWEA, 2012b). There were some bright spots in 2010, however. Employment in manufacturing, operations, and maintenance increased somewhat. Unfortunately, these increases were more than offset by losses in the service and installation sectors. (AWEA, 2011) In 2011, the industry featured significant new installation, and it provided support for manufacturing, construction, engineering, development, and transportation jobs, with 30,000 jobs in manufacturing (AWEA, 2012a).
The distribution of jobs by state follows the installed capacity and manufacturing. Iowa, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and Colorado have the most wind power jobs. However, two states with no installed wind generation capacity at all, North Carolina and Florida, have a large number of wind-related manufacturing jobs compared with most other states. The overall distribution of wind power employment is illustrated in Figure 3.10.
In 2006, DOE estimated the number of jobs needed to support the plan for 20 percent wind energy by 2030 (DOE, 2008). Their estimate for 2011 is low by nearly 50 percent and that difference tracks with the fact that installations are ahead of the 20 percent by 2030 capacity growth estimates. Even though significant time has passed since the estimates were made, and even considering the
FIGURE 3.9 Wind power distribution by state. SOURCE: AWEA (2013).
FIGURE 3.10 Wind power employment distribution by state. SOURCE: AWEA (2012a, Fig. 55, p. 50).
downturn that was not predicted in these estimates, some inherent conservatism makes these numbers useful for looking at the future workforce needs. Employment projections are discussed in detail further in the chapter.
Public Policy and Regulation Issues
By far the largest public policy issues facing the wind power industry are the renewal by Congress of the production tax credit for wind power production and access to transmission capacity in areas with good wind resources. The production tax credit was scheduled to end in 2012, but was reinstated in January 2013. However, the impact of this uncertainty was already being felt. In early January 2012, faced with the uncertainty created by the lack of renewal, Vestas announced that up to 1,600 jobs would be lost in the United States from Vestas manufacturing and other activities. It is possible that other manufacturers would consider a similar scaling back, based on the uncertainty in U.S. tax policy regarding wind power production.
Some of these uncertainties in wind power production and transmission are being offset by intiatives at the state and regional level. For example, 29 states and Washington, D.C. had renewable portfolio standards (RPS) as of June 2011 and according to the DOE these standards will drive installation of wind power at the rate of 4 to 6 GW per year for the near future (between 2011 and 2020; Wiser and Bolinger, 2011).
New transmission lines totaling 8,800 miles were added in 2010 and 3,100 miles remain under construction. In addition, more than 39,000 miles of new transmission lines are projected to be built by 2020 (Wiser and Bolinger, 2011). An example of these projects is the Texas competitive renewable energy zone (CREZ) transmission project that will ultimately result in the ability to transmit more than 18 GW of wind power from West Texas and the Panhandle to the central and eastern metropolitan areas of Texas7 (Public Utility Commission of Texas, 2010). Also in Texas, significant interest in coastal wind resources has resulted in the construction of several large wind farms that mitigate the transmission issues by being closer to the population centers and they produce power more closely aligned with demand.
Workforce Occupational Categories
Wind power occupatinal categories include a range of engineering, technical, management, and regulatory/government opportunities (Tables 3.6 and 3.7). In addition to these categories, particular expertise is required in site environmental analysis and measurement, permitting, and site and geological survey. Offshore wind farms will require the above categories with marine specialization,
TABLE 3.6 Wind Power Engineering Occupational Categories.
|Tower and foundation design||CE|
|Structural and blade design, testing||CE/ME|
|Environmental management||CE/Env. Eng.|
|Safety and environmental health|
|Wind turbine design||ME|
|Power system integration and substation design||EE/ME|
|Interconnection design/collection system design||EE|
|Lean manufacturing for components and assembly||IE/ME|
|Site operations managers||ME/EE|
|Predictive maintenance specialists||ME/IE|
|SCADA Project engineers||EE/CS|
NOTES: CE = civil engineering, CS = computer science, EE = electrical engineering, Env. Eng..= environmental engineering, GEOL = geology, IE = industrial engineering, ME = mechanical engineering, and SCADA = supervisory control and data acquisition. SOURCE: Adapted from Swift (2012).
along with designers and operators of offshore transportation and construction equipment. These categories do not include the skills required in the workforce involved in design and manufacture of connection equipment, temporary access roads, transportation, and other parts of the manufacturing supply chain. The wind labor distribution by broad job type is shown further on in Figure 3.11.
Wind Career Pathways
A common view within the industry is that renewable electric technologies, such as wind technologies, attract students and other potential workers because the industry has a positive image. Potential workers are enthusiastic about working in a so-called “clean energy industry.” This is a positive factor for the wind workforce.
The standard routes to employment and advancement in the wind industry are shown in an online, interactive, wind industry career map.8 These follow the
8http://www.iseek.org/industry/energy/careers/careers-in-wind.html (accessed September 13, 2012). The Web site was produced and is maintained by iSeek, which is a Minnesota partnership.
TABLE 3.7 Other Wind Power Occupational Categories.
|Resource assessment specialist|
|Wind / power production data analyst|
|Wind / wind power forecasting|
|Technical sales and marketing|
|Utility liaison / interconnection experts|
|Regulatory / government liaison|
|Operations and maintenance management and supervision|
|Risk management and assessment|
|Manufacturing oversight / management|
|Energy analysis / energy auditing|
|GIS specialists / cartographers|
NOTE: GIS = geographic information systems. SOURCE: Adapted from Swift (2012).
job categories noted above. The career map is divided by educational attainment and into four subsectors: manufacturing, installation, general operations and maintenance, and R&D/other. The “other” subcategory includes areas such as site assessment and project planning and execution. The career map also shows typical pay associated with wind careers, and job titles link the user to detailed information about the job (iSeek, 2012). Much has been written on careers in the wind power industry and this information can be readily referenced (DOE, 2001; CBIA, 2009; DMACC, 2009; Hamilton and Liming, 2010; Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, 2011; Oregon Green Career Pathways, 2012).
The skills and competencies required by the wind power industry have been researched and documented extensively. In particular, BLS has prepared a comprehensive report on careers in wind energy (Hamilton and Liming, 2010). The sections in the report that are relevant to competency, training, and education are summarized below. The BLS broke the wind industry down into phases: manufacturing, project development, operation and maintenance, and support.
Large wind turbines are manufactured by large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Many types of engineers and general manufacturing labor are needed to manufacture the components of turbines. Engineering fields needed for wind turbine research, development, and manufacturing include aerospace, civil, electrical, electronics, environmental, health and safety, industrial, materials, mechanical, and engineering technicians. Most engineers enter the industry with a
FIGURE 3.11 Wind industry jobs. SOURCE: Adapted from AWEA (2012a, Fig. 54, p. 49) and Swift (2012).
bachelor’s degree or higher. For general manufacturing jobs, duties include work by machinists, computer-controlled machine tool operators, assemblers, welders, inspectors, and industrial production managers (Hamilton and Liming, 2010). For example, aerospace engineers design and evaluate the aerodynamics of the blades and rotors, and computer-controlled machine tool operators utilize highly technical equipment to cut and form components. The education and training of the manufacturing side of wind generation varies, depending on the job each person is performing. In any case, most workers are subject to a good deal of on-the-job training specifically designed for wind turbine design and manufacturing (Hamilton and Liming, 2010).
Building a wind farm requires years of planning and development. Land acquisition specialists, asset managers, and logisticians are needed for acquiring and administering the land to be used for a wind farm and for coordinating the transportation of materials to the site. These occupations usually require at least a bachelor’s degree with related experience and, once on the job, the employees receive specialized training. In addition to acquiring land, the permitting process and environmental impact studies require a breadth of expertise, including atmospheric scientists, wildlife biologists, geologists, and environmental scientists. Many of the scientists preparing studies and working on permitting carry an advanced degree such as a Ph.D. and many are certified or licensed in their respective fields (Hamilton and Liming, 2010).
Construction of wind farms is complex and requires a number of different and skilled construction workers. Construction laborers and equipment operators
carry out much of the infrastructure construction from access roads to foundations for the turbines. Crane operators are essential to erecting the tall structure and its components. In addition, electricians are required for connecting the internal electrical components and for connecting the turbine to the grid itself. While construction labor does not require specific education or training, many workers receive training through apprenticeships and on-the-job with experienced workers. In the case of electricians, most learn their skills through apprenticeships and many states require that they pass an examination of electric theory and codes (Hamilton and Liming, 2010).
Project managers oversee the entire construction of the wind farm, from siting to installation; they oversee and manage the varied array of contractors and subcontractors. Project managers work for large construction firms, the energy companies themselves, or land owners. They also are responsible for the safety of workers on the site. Management positions usually require a bachelor’s degree in construction management, business management, or engineering, and advanced degrees are becoming more prevalent (Hamilton and Liming, 2010).
Operation and Maintenance
Wind turbine service technicians (wind techs) handle the day-to-day servicing and maintenance of the wind turbines. For the first 2 to 5 years, OEMs provide service and maintenance under warranty and often employ wind techs for this period (Wittholz and Pan, 2004). There also are companies that specialize in turbine maintenance and provide their services to the owners of wind farms. Wind techs are responsible for all parts of the turbine, including the blades, rotors, and nacelles. Because wind farms are generally in remote locations, wind techs typically travel frequently or live in remote locations for extended periods. As a relatively nascent industry in the United States, training and education for wind techs are limited. Employers are increasingly emphasizing a wind-specific education, and formal training programs are developing. Community colleges and technical schools are starting to offer certificate programs (1 year) and degree programs (2 years) in wind turbine maintenance, and professional organizations such as AWEA are working on guidelines for the core curriculum and necessary skills (Hamilton and Liming, 2010).
Many other occupations also support wind power. Even though many companies in the wind turbine supply chain are not focused on wind power alone, some of their workers do support wind power; for example, foundry workers turn raw materials into turbine components. In addition, other needed professional and administrative personnel include human resources specialists, accountants and auditors, lawyers, managers, secretaries, and receptionists. Custodial, maintenance, and security personnel are also necessary (Hamilton and Liming, 2010).
The direct job skills required in the wind power industry are, to a significant degree, the same as skills in other large sectors of the workforce. For example, the skills required to build a wind farm are similar to skills found in heavy construction, power plant development, and the communications and utility industries. The skills needed by the manufacturing subsector are similar to the skills in the manufacture of heavy equipment and utility equipment. Apart from the specialized requirements of project planning, resource assessment, particular environmental issues, and specialized safety skills, most jobs in the wind industry can be accomplished by workers with appropriate backgrounds and moderate on-the-job or short, intensive, specialized training. The problem in finding the appropriate wind workforce is the same one that afflicts the rest of the U.S. energy industry—there are not enough workers with the background training, skills, and experience to fill all of the jobs—and so the wind sector competes with other energy sectors, manufacturing, and construction for workers from a shrinking pool of talent.
Employer Needs and Challenges
Total U.S. employment in the wind energy sector stands at around 75,000 (Figure 3.11). Jobs have been added to the wind industry at a brisk pace since 2007. For example, during 2008 and one of the most severe economic downturns in U.S. history, the wind industry created 35,000 jobs. In addition, and in spite of persistent, high unemployment, wind employment continues to grow. According to WindEnergyJobsInfo.com, “many top wind energy companies are projecting solid growth for wind energy jobs through 2020 due, in large part, to both public support and private investment.” 9 An estimated 310 FTE manufacturing sector jobs, 67 jobs in contracting and installation, as well as 9.5 annual jobs in operation and maintenance are provided by each 100 MW of installed wind power capacity (North Carolina Wind Working Group, 2008).
The following employment projections (Figure 3.12) are based on sustained market growth, industry’s own projections, and estimates based on the DOE’s 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report. Figures 3.11 and 3.12 show that actual employment has outpaced DOE’s estimates by a factor of 2.
However, wind industry growth is currently mired in project finance, policy, and energy use growth issues. The wind power industry experienced a slowdown in 2010 for the first time in many years. Again, according to renewableenergyworld.com, “With less access to the large amount of capital needed to build projects, the industry installed just 539 MW of capacity in the first quarter of 2010, the lowest number since 2007” (Runyon, 2010).
Also, as noted earlier, the wind industry is having difficulty finding the
FIGURE 3.12 Direct manufacturing, construction, and operations jobs supported by the 20 percent wind energy by 2030 report. SOURCE: DOE (2008, Fig. C-6, p. 209).
properly prepared workers it needs, and it competes with other energy sectors, manufacturing, and construction for workers. Moreover, with the aging of the overall U.S. workforce, a large part of the professional and technical wind workforce will retire in the next 10 years. There are concerns in the business, academic, and technical communities about the nation’s ability to adequately replace the retiring workforce. This further challenges the wind power industry to fill jobs with trained workers.
While many of the occupations delineated above are not wind-specific, the growth of the industry is creating the need for wind-specific knowledge. From manufacturing to maintenance, many different occupations are needed that require a breadth of construction, engineering, and technical knowledge and education.
Education and Training
Wind Education: K-12
Wind education in the K-12 classroom ranges from specific curricula for each level of K-12 to extracurricular material and competitions specific to wind energy education. Good national-standards-based curricula have been produced at the elementary, intermediate, and secondary school levels. Examples of strong, organized approaches to the development and dissemination of wind curricula in the United States are the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project, Energy for Educators, and KidWind/WindWise.
NEED is a nonprofit educational association established in 1980 to promote
an energy-conscious and educated society. It is supported by a combination of educators, the energy industry, and public employers. NEED materials are correlated to the National Science Education Content Standards and all state standards. Curriculum guides, teacher guides, and student guides cover all grade levels. Their Wonders of Wind Teacher Guide and Student Guide are geared for the elementary level, and their Wind for Schools Curriculum Guides also encompass intermediate and secondary levels10 (NEED.org, 2012).
Energy for Educators11 is a project sponsored by the Idaho National Laboratory (Energy for Educators.org, 2009). Its Wind for Schools program, DOE’s Wind Powering America program and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory install small wind turbines at hosting rural elementary and secondary schools. They also are developing Wind Application Centers at institutions of higher education. In the schools, teacher training and hands-on curricula facilitate the study of the wind turbine with interactive and interschool wind-related research activities. Students in the Wind Application Centers help with the assessment, design, and installation of the school wind systems, and serve as wind energy consultants. These students also are active in the classroom work and other engineering projects related to wind energy. This experience helps prepare them for wind-related employment after graduation. Wind for Schools projects are now in 11 states (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Virginia). Wind Powering America prepares a list of known school wind projects (DOE, 2012d).12
KidWind13 is a national organization that has trained more than 7,000 teachers through full- and half-day workshops and other presentations on wind energy and through KidWind student wind turbine model competition topics. KidWind estimates that more than 500,000 students have been affected, and the AWEA wind company members sponsored the third year of a national KidWind turbine model building competition at the national AWEA conference in June 2012. KidWind has trained 66 WindSenators (train the trainer teachers) in 21 states and elsewhere. KidWind has held training sessions in 40 states, Costa Rica, Canada, Chile, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. WindWise14 is part of KidWind and it serves as the formal curricular arm used to train teachers. KidWind reports that 80 percent of teachers trained implement the wind materials in the classroom after going through workshops.
10http://www.need.org/Curriculum-Guides-by-Grade-Level (accessed September 13, 2012).
12http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/schools_wfs_project.asp (accessed September 13, 2012
Wind Education: Community Colleges and Universities
There are many energy- and wind-related programs in community colleges. A list of the environmental and energy-related programs can be found on the National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Environmental Education Center Web site.15 Although many colleges purport to have wind programs, only a few meet the rigorous criteria of AWEA for programs to educate wind turbine technicians. On the basis of a skill set developed by AWEA, the AWEA Seal of Approval Program evaluates academic programs to ensure that they adequately prepare students to be entry-level wind turbine service technicians. Programs are evaluated on content provided by the AWEA Seal of Approval Review Committee. The program does not provide certifications or accrediting credentials; it identifies programs that properly teach the skills considered important by AWEA members. The Seal of Approval is for specific courses of study at each school and does not apply to a school’s entire wind curriculum. The programs that have received the AWEA Seal of Approval are listed by AWEA (2012a).16
The Texas Wind Energy Industry Workforce Assessment Report (Baker et al., 2011), released in December 2011, focuses on the current state of the wind industry in Texas, with respect to quantitative and qualitative industry needs and higher education preparation. Much of the report is a compilation of survey data from wind industry stakeholders and academic leaders from 2- and 4-year colleges or universities throughout Texas. With a predicted growth rate of 36 percent for full-time employees in wind energy in Texas over the next 5 years, it is not surprising that more than 68 percent of respondents from 4-year colleges indicated that their institutions anticipate offering a wind energy or renewable energy program by 2016.
Although renewable energy degrees are offered at some 4-year colleges, programs specific to wind and other renewable energy technologies are more commonly offered by community colleges, where new educational programs and curricula can be developed quickly in response to emerging trends in the job market (King, 2011). Most are certificate programs that produce technician-level jobs. The Texas workforce report notes that, for entry-level wind energy jobs in the state, the demand for such 1- or 2-year certificate or degree holders versus those entering the workforce with a baccalaureate degree is about equal. Most academic leaders reported a placement rate for program completers at 90 percent or greater.
Texas produces more energy from wind power than any other state, and as the wind energy industry continues to grow in Texas, educational programs are beginning to follow suit. Texas Tech University in Lubbock offers the state’s first 4-year degree program in wind energy that combines mechanical education
16http://www.awea.org/learnabout/education/awea_soa/index.cfm(accessed September 13, 2012).
with managerial training in an effort to better prepare students for a wide variety of careers in the wind industry. Courses range from design and construction to policy and atmospheric science. Graduate students and professionals can also expand their skill set by pursuing one of two graduate certificate programs at Texas Tech, each of which includes 15 credit hours of graduate-level coursework. The technical graduate certificate is designed for students interested in technical aspects such as engineering and design, while the managerial graduate certificate is designed for students interested in supervisory roles.
Other wind energy education programs and courses are also available. Texas State Technical College has partnered with Texas Tech to offer a 2-year degree and several certificate opportunities under the Wind Energy Technology Program. The program focuses on operation and maintenance of electrical, pneumatic, communication, computer, control, or hydraulic systems related to wind turbine function, and a 2-MW turbine offers hands-on experience. The University of Texas at Brownsville offers a certificate program (Commercial Electrician–Small Wind Turbine Technology). The Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law has been established by the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Law to offer students a way to study the law, policy, and commercial aspects of energy production, protection of natural resources, and dispute resolution.
A glance at the interactive, online map posted by the DOE17 (2012c) that shows the locations of 167 wind energy education and training programs across the nation resembles other maps showing those areas of the United States that have the most wind. These institutional programs offer a myriad of options for wind energy training at many different levels and from many different sources. In some cases, only a certificate program is offered, albeit through an accredited, 4-year institution. In other cases, certain community colleges offer programs ranging from the certificate level to a 2-year associate’s degree, a 4-year bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree, and in some cases even a master of arts or master of science degree. Another complicating factor derives from the option to pursue wind technician training through facilities that are not community colleges per se, such as the EcoTech Institute in Colorado or California Wind Tech. In fact, California Wind Tech’s Web site announces its intention to open a branch in San Angelo, Texas, in 2013.
AWEA maintains an accessible database of wind energy educational programs—the Educational Programs Database (AWEA, 2012c).18 Windustry® is a nonprofit organization that promotes opportunities for wind energy for rural areas, and it maintains a list of postsecondary programs for degrees and training
17http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/schools/education/education_training.asp (accessed September 13, 2012).
certificates with a focus on wind energy systems or renewable energy systems including wind (Windustry, 2012).
Conclusions and Recommendations
3.12 Despite the downturn in the economy, the impact on project financing, and uncertainties in tax treatment of wind power, installations of wind power continue and are significantly ahead of long-term predictions.
3.13 Strong growth in wind power generation is anticipated through 2035, with wind capacity expected to nearly double from 2010 levels, and with most of the increase in renewable capacity through 2035 expected to come from wind.
3.14 Wind power market growth is heavily dependent upon government policies and incentive programs, as well as access to transmission capacity in areas with good wind resources.
3.15 The wind power industry employs 75,000 workers.
3.16 Opportunities for employment across the wind workforce, both skilled and professional, are considered to be bright and will continue beyond 2030.
3.17 As with the overall aging U.S. workforce, a large segment of the professional and technical wind workforce will retire in the next 10 years. There are concerns within the business, academic, and technical communities about the United States being able to replace the retiring workforce. This retirement bubble, along with continued long-term growth in the wind industry and competition from the manufacturing, construction, and other energy sectors will exacerbate the existing shortage of workers in the U.S. wind industry.
3.18 Traditional sources of labor are not expected to be sufficient to make up the deficits caused by these factors, and nontraditional workers will be needed for the workforce.
3.19 Traditional science and engineering programs in the United States do not adequately address the needs of the wind power industry in content or size and they do not produce enough qualified workers.
3.20 There is an urgent need for an enhanced education pipeline to ensure that the demand for U.S. workers will be met.
The following recommendations should be initiated as quickly as possible. They are ordered and labeled in terms of when they would be expected to be operational. The recommended actions are expected to continue for the long term.
3.7 Industry, government, and educational and training institutions should work together to develop an interactive Wind Career Map such as the Solar Career Map to provide Web-based information about wind occupations. (Short Term)
3.8 Industry, government, and educational and training institutions also should work together to initiate an effort to accredit wind education programs and continuing education providers, and to certify master trainers and instructors for wind technicians. (Medium Term)
In addition to these recommendations, the Shared Recommendations (at the end of the chapter) also apply for the wind industry.
Geothermal resources are concentrations of heat that can be extracted and used economically. The Earth contains an immense amount of heat, but it is generally too diffuse or too deep to be used economically. Therefore, geothermal resources are sought in areas where geological processes have increased temperatures sufficiently near the surface that the heat can be used. A detailed treatment of the following introductory information is offered by Renner (2008).
There are two types of geothermal applications: electrical generation and direct use. Direct uses include heat for buildings, industrial processes, district heating systems, and the drying of crops and lumber. Direct use also includes geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) that heat and cool buildings and supply hot water (LtGovernors.com, 2012). Only heat concentrations associated with water in permeable rocks are now being exploited economically to produce electricity and for most direct uses. Researchers are developing methods to enhance permeability in hot rocks to allow economic production from currently uneconomical systems. Systems with adequate natural permeability are termed hydrothermal geothermal resources and systems that will require enhancement of the productivity are termed enhanced or engineered geothermal systems (EGS).
Types of Geothermal Systems
All commercial production is now restricted to geothermal systems that are sufficiently hot for the intended use and contain a reservoir with sufficient water and productivity for economic development (hydrothermal systems). The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) classifies hydrothermal resources as high temperature if they are hotter than 150°C, intermediate if they are 90-150°C, and low-temperature if they are less than 90°C (Muffler, 1979). Hydrothermal systems are used to generate electricity from high-temperature resources, but under some conditions, water at about 100°C can be economically used. Intermediate-temperature
FIGURE 3.13 A flashed-steam power plant. SOURCE: Courtesy of Idaho National Laboratory.
resources are most often applied for direct uses, and low-temperature resources are used by GHPs.
Estimates exist for the amount of energy associated with water coproduced during ongoing oil and gas production (Tester et al., 2006). Although these fluids are generally at temperatures below 150°C, they can be used to generate electricity. A small 250-kWe electrical plant is operating at the Teapot Dome oil field near Casper, Wyoming (Johnson and Walker, 2010), and other sites on the Gulf Coast and in North Dakota are being studied for development.
Enhanced geothermal systems are subsurface zones with low fluid productivity and little water. They are not now commercially viable in the United States; however, the resource base of hot rock is very large. Experts have estimated that “EGS could provide 100 GWe or more of cost-competitive generating capacity in the next 50 years” (Tester et al., 2006, pp. 1-3).
Methods for Electrical Generation
Most geothermal fields are liquid dominated where water at high temperature, but still in liquid form because of the high pressure, fills the fractured and porous reservoir rocks. With such systems, the wells produce a mixture of steam and water, and a separator is used to separate the two phases (Figure 3.13). The flashed steam powers a turbine to drive a generator, and afterward the water is injected back into the reservoir (Renner, 2008).
In several geothermal fields, the wells produce only steam. In these “vapor-dominated” systems, the separators and system for handling the separated water are not needed. These systems are more economical, but rare.
Pumping is used for many water-dominated reservoirs that are below 175°C, to prevent boiling of the water as it passes through heat exchangers, and a low-boiling-point secondary liquid is heated to power a turbine for generating
FIGURE 3.14 A binary power plant using an air-cooled condenser. When wet cooling is used, a cooling tower similar to one in a flash plant replaces the air cooler, requiring a source of water because all of the geothermal fluid is injected back into the reservoir. SOURCE: Courtesy of Idaho National Laboratory.
electricity (see Figures 3.14 and 3.15). This technology is termed binary. Binary geothermal plants have minimal emissions because all of the geothermal water is injected back into the reservoir. There are many more identified intermediate-temperature geothermal systems than high-temperature fields, providing an economic incentive to develop more efficient binary plants. Binary technology also can be used for low-temperature resources by incorporating suitable low-boiling-point working fluids. Such resources will need to be shallow, have high well flow rates, and have favorable economics.
Direct Use of Geothermal Energy
Warm water (generally above 100°C) can be used directly to provide thermal energy for various applications. Swimming pools, space heating, and domestic hot water are the most common uses, but industrial processes and agricultural drying are increasing applications.
The most rapid increase in direct use is geothermal or ground-source heat pumps. GHPs use the ground rather than the air as the heat exchange medium, providing greater efficiencies. Depending on climate, advanced GHP use reduces energy consumption and power-plant emissions by 23-44 percent compared with advanced air-coupled heat pumps, and by 63-72 percent compared with electric-resistance heating and standard air conditioners. (L’Ecuyer et al. 1993, Renner, 2008). Strong growth in GHP use is expected to continue.
FIGURE 3.15 A typical geothermal power plant using air-cooled binary technology at the Casa Diablo field in California, with a generating capacity of about 30 MWe. SOURCE: Courtesy of J. L. Renner.
Geothermal Market Trends
U.S. Geothermal Development
Geothermal capacity and energy generation estimates come from three principal sources. Each year the EIA publishes data on electrical generation for the prior year, as well as the energy from GHPs (EIA, 2011c). The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) publishes an annual report of geothermal electrical generation capacity and projects under development (Jennejohn, 2011; GEA, 2012). Data on geothermal direct use, as well as on electrical generation and GHP use, are summarized every 5 years in a comprehensive update of geothermal energy in the United States, prepared for the World Geothermal Congress (Lund et al., 2010).
Table 3.8 summarizes geothermal capacity and production in 2009. The total installed electrical capacity in 2009 was 3,048 MWe, producing 16,603 GWhe (gigawatt hour electric) from a running capacity of 2,024 MWe. Since the 2005 World Geothermal Congress, 514 MWe has been installed, representing a 20 percent increase or 3.7 percent annual increase over that period. Direct use (not including heat pumps) remained static for 2005-2009; however, GHPs were installed at a 13 percent annual growth rate, with about one million units in operation (Lund et al., 2010).
Table 3.9 shows the annual consumption of geothermal energy for 2004-2010. It shows strong, steady growth in residential consumption (through increasing GHP use) and uneven growth in the generation of electricity.
TABLE 3.8 Geothermal Capacity and Production as of 2009.
|Installed Capacity||Power Produced||Load Factor|
|Electricity||3,048 MWe||16,603 GWh/yr||0.94|
|Installed Capacity||Energy Supplied|
|Direct usea||611.5 MWt||9,151.8 TJ/yr||2,542 GWh/yr|
|Heat pumps||12,000 MWt||47,400 TJ/yr||13,167 GWh/yr|
a Exclusive of heat pumps. Load factor is the ratio between the energy that a plant produces and the total energy that could be produced if the plant produced electricity at full capacity throughout the year.
SOURCE: Data from Lund et al. (2010).
TABLE 3.9 Geothermal Energy Consumption for 2004-2010 (Trillion Btu).
SOURCE: EIA (2011c, Tables 10.2a-c)
NOTE: EIA information derived from records maintained at the Oregon Institute of Technology Geo-Heat Center. EIA estimates that these numbers are underreported by 10 to 20 percent because of the small size of many direct-use applications, isolated locations, and lack of data.
Geothermal electrical generation for 2004-2010 indicates modest growth over the period (Table 3.10). Growth in geothermal electical generation capacity can be examined further through estimates of installed capacity and net summer capacity (Table 3.11). In its latest report, the GEA notes an installed capacity of 3,187 MWe for the United States as of March 2012 (GEA, 2012). These data indicate a growth in capacity of around 12-13 percent through 2010, and continued growth since then. Companies continue to explore and develop geothermal resources at more sites around the United States.
Direct-use applications have grown over the past 5 years (Table 3.9) in large part due to the increased use of GHPs as traditional direct-use development has remained flat (Figure 3.16). For the past 15 years, installation of GHPs has increased at a steady rate. In 2009, an estimated 100,000 to 120,000 equivalent 12 kWt units were installed. As of 2010, estimates were that at least one million units had been installed, primarily in the midwestern and eastern United States. GHPs are located in all states and the number is increasing at a rate of 12-13
TABLE 3.10 Net Geothermal Electrical Generation, 2004-2010 (GWh).
|Lund et al.||14,974||16,603|
SOURCES: GEA (2008), Lund et al. (2010), EIA (2012b, Table 1.1.A, p. 22).
TABLE 3.11 Geothermal Electrical Generation Capacity for 2004-2010 (MWe).
|Net Summer Capacity (EIA)a||2,152||2,285||2,274||2,214||2,229||2,382||2,405|
|Installed Capacity (GEA)||n/a||2,737||2,771||2,850||2,911||3,087||3,102|
aEIA reports net winter capacity of 2,590 MWe in 2010.
SOURCES: EIA (2011d, Table 1.1B, p. 6), Jennejohn (2011).
percent per year. The present installed capacity is reported to be about 12,000 MWt, and the annual energy use in the heating mode is reported to be 40,100 TJ/ yr (or 11,147 GWh/yr) (Lund et al., 2010).
Lund et al. (2010) report 132 confirmed geothermal electrical generation projects in the 2009 time frame, with an estimated potential generating capacity of 4,249-6,443 MWe. The GEA notes that the number of geothermal projects being developed and the geothermal prospects reported in 2011 increased by 12 percent over 2010. In total, these projects were developing approximately 5,102-5,745 MW of geothermal resources (Jennejohn, 2011). The GEA also reports that the total number of confirmed projects and prospects has decreased slightly from what was reported in 2011, and the number of confirmed and unconfirmed projects represents 4,882-5,366 MW of geothermal resources in development (GEA, 2012). GEA (2012) provides a detailed breakdown of the projects in development by state. The EIA estimates for an increase in electrical generating capacity (see Table 3.13) suggest that level of production would not be accomplished until after 2025 (EIA, 2012b).
The confirmed projects are in 15 western states and smaller pilot projects are under early development in the states around the Gulf of Mexico. When considering the portion of the geothermal resources that developers believe to be viable for geothermal power plant production under existing economic conditions (the planned capacity addition, or PCA) in confirmed and unconfirmed projects, the range of power capacity in development is 1,961-2,023 MW. Of this amount, 949-956 MW is considered to be advanced-stage projects that are expected to
FIGURE 3.16 Direct-use growth in the United States without heat pumps. SOURCE: Ton Boyd, Geo-Heat Center.
be completed in the next 3-4 years. Considering the geothermal resources and planned capacity addition (PCA) in development together, an overall total of 5,317-5,836 MW is in development (GEA, 2012). Residential GHP and geothermal electrical generation are expected to grow through 2035 (Tables 3.12 and 3.13) as a result of increased site availability, more favorable resource estimates, and lower costs for the construction of geothermal facilities.
According to the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), the western states share a capacity of almost 13,000 MWe of geothermal energy that could be developed within a reasonable time frame. The WGA notes that 5,600 MW of this amount is considered to be viable for commercial development by the geothermal industry within 10 years of their report’s publication (i.e., by about 2015). The levelized cost of energy of the 5,600 MWe would be about 5.3 to 7.9 cents per kWh (WGA, 2006).
In comparison to the latest GEA information given above, the 5,600 MW considered viable in the WGA report falls within the overall total range (5,317-5,836 MW) and is higher than the resource range (4,882-5,366 MW) noted by the GEA as being in development. It also is considerably higher than the PCA range (1,961-2,023 MW) given by the GEA. Tester et al. (2006) note that 100 GWe or more of cost-competitive generation could be provided in the next 50 years with a reasonable EGS-related R&D investment.
TABLE 3.12 Projected Growth in Residential Geothermal Heat Pumps (quadrillion Btu per year).
|2009||2010||2015||2020||2025||2030||2035||Annual Growth 2010-2035 (%)|
SOURCE: EIA (2012a, Table A4, pp.139-140).
TABLE 3.13 Geothermal Energy Generating Capacity and Generation (EIA Reference Case).
|2009||2010||2015||2020||2025||2030||2035||Annual Growth 2010-2035 (%)|
|Electric power sector|
|Net summer capacitya (GW)||2.37||2.37||2.86||3.57||4.45||5.48||6.30||4.0|
|Generationb (billion kWh)||15.01||15.67||18.68||24.41||31.53||39.89||46.54||4.5|
aNet summer capacity is the steady hourly output that generating equipment is expected to supply to system load (exclusive of auxiliary power), as demonstrated by tests during summer peak demand.
bIncludes both hydrothermal resources (hot water and steam) and near-field EGS. Near-field EG potential occurs on known hydrothermal sites; however, this potential requires the addition of external fluids for electrical generation and will only be available after 2025. SOURCE: EIA (2012a, Table A16, pp. 162-163).
Industry Overview and Profile
Structure and Location of the Industry
The structure of the U. S. geothermal industry includes three relatively separate sectors—generation of electricity, direct use, and GHPs. The electrical generation sector conducts exploration, performs developmental drilling, and builds and operates power plants. The direct-use sector (apart from GHPs) conducts exploration, drills production wells, and builds and operates facilities to use the energy from the produced geothermal fluids.
Although the electrical development and non-GHP, direct-use sectors both explore and drill, there are significant differences between them. Because of the higher value of the product, higher temperatures, and greater depth of the resource, electrical generation projects tend to spend more on exploration and drilling. Drilling for electrical-grade resources generally uses rigs from the oil and gas industry, and direct-use projects generally use water-well drilling rigs.
Installers are an important component of the GHP sector, but because of the large number of heat pumps installed annually, there also are a significant number of workers involved in manufacturing the units. The manufacturers are dominated
by producers of air-sourced heat pumps and traditional air-conditioning units. The GHP sector has the largest marketing component of the geothermal industry.
Electricity is produced from geothermal resources in eight western states (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming), with the majority of the installed capacity in California (about 82 percent) and Nevada (about 15 percent). In addition, small power plants that will utilize coproduced water from oil and gas production are under development on the Gulf Coast and in North Dakota. Exploration and early resource development also are under way in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Washington (GEA, 2012). If the promise of EGS is fulfilled, geothermal electrical generation will be possible throughout the United States.
The majority of direct use is concentrated in states west of the Rocky Mountains. However, geothermal resources are known to be used for space heating and spas in Arkansas, Georgia, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia. GHPs are used and continue to be installed in all states, with activity mainly in midwestern and eastern states, which require both heating and cooling (Lund et al., 2010). Companies developing geothermal projects in the western United States require the goods and services of vendors identified in 43 different states to support the development of the resources (GEA, 2012).
Size and Employment
The primary source of information on the number and types of geothermal jobs available is a series of reports published by the GEA. The GEA estimates that geothermal power plants employ 1.7 full-time positions per installed megawatt (Kagel, 2006). The report was based on a detailed survey of the geothermal industry, also conducted by the GEA (Hance, 2005). Another GEA report assumes 1.7 full-time positions (for power production and management) and 6.4 person-years (for associated manufacturing and construction jobs) per megawatt of installed geothermal power capacity (Jennejohn, 2010). Estimates by the GEA indicate that approximately 5,200 direct jobs associated with power production and management are supported by the geothermal industry, and that geothermal energy has a total direct, indirect, and induced impact that accounts for approximately 13,100 full-time jobs (Jennejohn, 2010).
Lund et al. (2010) summarize the professional personnel working in the geothermal industry in 2009 and estimate that about 0.5 person-years per MWe of installed capacity are for professional personnel. Table 3.14 gives the estimated allocation of professionals for 2005-2009.
The geothermal industry will be affected by the same workforce aging and big crew change as discussed for oil and gas in Chapter 2. The geothermal industry, particularly with respect to exploration professionals, has a similar bimodal age distribution. In addition, the geothermal industry has significant difficulty
TABLE 3.14 Allocation of Professional Personnel with University Degrees to Geothermal Activities (Professional Person-Years of Effort).
|Year||Government||Public Utilities||Universities||Private Industry|
SOURCE: Adapted from Lund et al. (2010, Table 7).
in recruiting and retaining professionals in light of the relatively attractive salaries and benefits offered by the petroleum and mining industries. Replacing retiring workers, expanding the geothermal workforce, particularly professionals, and slowing the attrition of professionals to related industries are crucial. Replacement of experienced explorers and technology development are needed to improve the rate of success in bringing greenfield exploration to successfully operating geothermal fields. Better training of geoscientists in the genesis of epithermal ore deposits and a better understanding of fluid pathways in the subsurface are important in the development of better conceptual models of geothermal systems.
Many geothermal reservoir engineers and drilling engineers are also nearing retirement age and their early replacement is required so that their experience, particularly in the “art” of geothermal drilling, can be passed on to the next generation of geothermal drillers. Hydrologists and engineers trained for the petroleum industry have much of the training required for geothermal operations; however, additional training for drillers is required in the control of lost circulation in geothermal environments, and operational differences in mud, and equipment needs at elevated temperatures.
Challenges to development of geothermal resources are influenced by the quality of the resource, high risk of exploration, cost of drilling wells, cost and efficiency of power conversion, and the selling price of electricity. Access to land for exploration and development is also an important challenge, because much of the resource is on federal land and the leasing and permitting processes may extend the period for development and limit access to good exploration targets.
The USGS has estimated the potential for electrical generation from conventional hydrothermal resources in the western United States (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming), identifying 241 moderate- and high-temperature geothermal systems. The mean power generation potential of these systems is 9,057 MWe, and there is a 95 percent probability of achieving 3,675 MWe and
a 5 percent probability of achieving 16,457 MWe. For undiscovered resources, the mean estimated power production potential is 30,033 MWe, with a 95 percent probability of achieving 7,917 MWe and a 5 percent probability of achieving 73,286 MWe (Williams et al., 2008).
Geothermal exploration has not yet developed tools for exploration and development that have a sufficiently high rate of success to attract investors. The current state of the art is comparable to the days when oil and gas reservoirs were located by drilling in oil seeps. Exploration techniques are needed that can predict not only the presence of elevated subsurface temperature, but also the presence of a reservoir with adequate fluid production to permit economic development.
Small rigs utilized by the hydrology and mining sectors are often used for drilling temperature-gradient wells and small-diameter exploration wells. Wells for geothermal electrical development are generally large diameter (greater than 7 inches), deep (greater than 2,000 ft), and require drilling rigs similar to those used for oil and gas. Consequently, when oil and gas prices rise, the costs of drilling and geothermal development also rise. Decreasing the cost of drilling is a major challenge to geothermal development.
The efficiency of converting geothermal energy into electricity is relatively low because of the low temperatures of even the best geothermal resources. This challenges the industry to develop more efficient energy conversion technology without adding too much to the cost of the generating equipment. The selling price of geothermal energy, the remote location of much of the resource, and access to transmission infrastructure are also challenges that the industry cannot directly influence by improved technology.
Development of technology to economically develop geothermal energy through the use of EGS would create a step change in production of geothermal energy. Estimates by Tester et al. (2006) indicate that about 100,000 MWe or more of cost-competitive generating capacity could be developed in the next 50 years with a reasonable investment in research and development. Their estimates also indicate that 14 × 1024 Joules of energy are available between depths of 3 and 10 km in the United States. With a recovery factor of 2 percent, about 1,249,000 MWe for 30 years should be available between 3 and 10 km depths (Tester et al., 2006).
Public Policy and Regulatory Issues
Public policy and regulatory issues play an important role in the development of geothermal energy, particularly for electrical generation and GHPs. For example, RPSs in many of the western states with geothermal resources have made development of geothermal electrical generation products more attractive. Of the Gulf Coast states with the potential for moderate-temperature geothermal
energy associated with oil and gas production or in geopressured resources, only Texas has an RPS.
Federal incentives and funding that aid in offsetting the associated high capital cost and risk have stimulated the development of geothermal projects. Geothermal power projects are eligible for the production tax credit (PTC) and the investment tax credit. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; Public Law 111-519) made projects that are eligible for the PTC also eligible for a cash grant in lieu of the credit from the Treasury Department. The grant is equal to a tax credit of 30 percent for the eligible parts of the capital investment. Projects that were under construction by the end of 2011 and in service by the end of 2013 may receive the cash grant (Jennejohn, 2011).
The DOE federal stimulus legislation funding (ARRA) is also having an important influence on the U.S. geothermal market through cost-shared projects with the geothermal industry in the development of innovative geothermal exploration technology, demonstrations of EGS, and projects advancing the technology for using geothermal resources cooler than 150°C. The GEA also provides more information on government incentives for geothermal development (Jennejohn, 2011). Geothermal electricity will continue to compete with fossil-fuel-generated electricity and will require government support similar to that provided to the solar and wind industries if it is to compete in the marketplace.
Access to federal land is also an important issue, since much of the unexplored resource is believed to be beneath federal lands. Leasing and acquiring development permits on federal land are time-consuming and limit access to the land. Recently, the U. S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) prepared the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Geothermal Leasing in the Western United States (BLM/USFS, 2008). This environmental impact statement, coupled with changes in BLM leasing and regulatory practices, has decreased the time for accessing federal land for exploration and development. It is important that the BLM and other federal and state agencies involved in leasing and regulating geothermal development have adequately trained staff.
Geothermal Workforce Occupational Categories
The GEA notes the following about the types of jobs created in the geothermal industry.
The development of geothermal resources provides long-term income for people with a diversity of job skills. This includes welders; mechanics; pipe fitters; plumbers; machinists; electricians; carpenters; construction and drilling equipment operators; surveyors; architects and designers; geologists; hydrologists; electrical, mechanical, and structural
engineers; HVAC technicians; food processing specialists; aquaculture and horticulture specialists; managers; attorneys; regulatory and environmental consultants; accountants; computer technicians; resort managers; spa developers; researchers; and government employees who all play an important role in bringing geothermal energy online. (Jennejohn, 2010, p. 8)
The information gathered by the GEA for the analysis used in the report cited immediately above indicates that, over its development cycle, a typical 50-MW geothermal power plant can involve up to 860 people with a range of skills. These jobs will include on-site personnel at the power plant, possibly employees in nearby cities, and possibly employees in manufacturing plants far from the geothermal resource (Jennejohn, 2010).
The federal government also employs workers who spend all or a portion of their time on geothermal energy. For example, a Federal Interagency Geothermal Working Group has 13 representatives from various offices within 6 government agencies (Jennejohn, 2010).
A list of the jobs involved in the development of a typical geothermal electrical generation project and a list of the job types employed during the phases of a geothermal project are provided in Tables 3.15 and 3.16 respectively. Note that the GEA data do not specifically break out hydrologists and petroleum engineers used in environmental studies, field operations, and reservoir management.
This GEA report on green jobs does not provide information on personnel required to operate geothermal plants. However, power plant managers, engineers, maintenance technicians, and site operators are employed at most geothermal sites. If hazardous gases such as hydrogen sulfide are emitted or hazardous solids are generated during production, chemical engineers and hazardous waste specialists, as well as pollution control device operations staff, are required.
Employer Needs and Challenges
As described above, the GEA estimates that geothermal power plants employ 1.7 full-time positions for power production and management, and 6.4 person-years for associated manufacturing and construction jobs per installed megawatt of geothermal power capacity. The GEA estimates that up to 660 MW of geothermal projects that are under development will enter stages of steamfield (production and injection drilling) and/or power plant construction. The GEA estimates that the total direct, indirect, and induced impact of these advanced projects would account for up to 2,805 full-time jobs (Jennejohn, 2010).
Other, older estimates also exist. The WGA (2006) estimates that new geothermal power capacity of 5,600 MW is considered to be developable, and this
TABLE 3.15 Jobs Involved in the Development of a 50-MWe Geothermal Electrical Plant.
Stage of Development
|No. of Jobs|
Plant design and construction (EPC)
Operation and maintenance
Power plant system manufacturing
NOTE: EPC = engineering, procurement, and construction. SOURCE: Jennejohn (2010, Table 2). With permission from the Geothermal Energy Association.
TABLE 3.16. Job Types Typically Employed During Exploration, Drilling, Power Plant Design and Construction, and Plant Operation.
|Educational Background||Number Employed|
A. Geothermal Exploration
Crew to gather data
|Undergraduate Level, Technical||2-5|
|Graduate Level, Technical||1|
|Undergraduate-Graduate Level, Technical||3-7|
B. Geothermal Drilling
|Support on-site well drilling||2-3|
Rig hands or “drill men”
|Operate geothermal drilling rig||15-20|
Rig site manager
|Manage drilling operations||1-2|
|Sample and analyze fluid and rock cuttings from the wellbore||2-4|
Drilling fluids personnel
|Ensure the continual flow of drilling fluids into and out of the well||2-4|
|Cement metal casings in place within the wellbore||6-10|
|Ensure the safe operation and management of both the drill rig and employees||1|
|Weld equipment at drill site||3|
C. Geothermal Drilling, Vendor Jobs Types
|Installs metal casing in the geothermal wellbore after drilling is complete||4-5|
Directional drilling personnel
|Operates and oversees the directional drilling of a geothermal well||5-7|
Well logging contractor
|Operates downhole well logging equipment||2|
|Utilizes geological techniques and expertise to help mitigate drilling risk||3-10|
|Operates transportation needed to move the drill rig from one job site to the next||25|
|Operates transportation needed to deliver fuel to the drill site||20|
D. EPC Phase (Plant Engineering and Design)
|Engineers of various backgrounds (electrical, civil, mechanical) prepare equipment specifications, schematics, drawings, and general plant design||10|
|Utilizes design software to prepare engineering designs for the geothermal power plant||30|
|Manages documents pertinent to the design of the geothermal power plant||1-3|
Design team supervisor
|Supervises and manages the overall geothermal power plant design process||1- 3|
|Assists the project team in document control, customer service, and other aspects as needed||1-3|
|EPC Team or Contractor|
E. EPC Phase (Plant Construction)
|EPC overhead staff|
|EPC overhead staff|
|EPC overhead staff|
|EPC overhead Staff|
|EPC overhead staff|
|EPC overhead staff|
|EPC overhead staff|
|Subcontractor or craftsperson|
|Subcontractor or craftsperson|
|Subcontractor or craftsperson|
Concrete construction operator
|Subcontractor or craftsperson|
|Subcontractor or craftsperson|
General construction personnel
|Subcontractor or craftsperson|
NOTE: EPC = engineering, procurement, and construction. SOURCE: Jennejohn (2010, Tables 3-7). Used with permission from the Geothermal Energy Association.
could add nearly 10,000 jobs, and additionally provide about 36,000 person-years of business in construction and manufacturing (WGA, 2006). The WGA report based its numbers on a report by Hance (2005). These reports are limited to employment in the electrical generation sector. Employment numbers for direct use, including GHPs, are not available.
Table 3.17 provides estimates of the impact on future employment of geothermal industry growth, based on an analysis used by Hance (2005) and updated information from the EIA, the installed geothermal power capacity as of March 2012 from the GEA, and the factors of 1.7 full-time positions (operations and maintenance, or O&M jobs) per MWe of installed capacity and 6.4 person-years per MWe of installed capacity for associated temporary manufacturing and construction jobs noted above (Hance, 2005; Jennejohn, 2010; EIA, 2012b; GEA, 2012). Using the EIA’s 2010-2035 annual growth rate of 4.0 percent (Table 3.15) for the net summer capacity and the GEA estimate of 3,187 MWe for installed capacity, the new geothermal electric capacity installed was projected for each year for 2012 through 2035. The GEA multipliers were then applied to obtain the number of permanent (O&M) jobs and the number of person-years of temporary manufacturing and construction employment provided.
Table 3.17 suggests that, if the predicted 4.0-percent annual growth is achieved, the geothermal industry could create an estimated 7,936 new permanent O&M jobs and 29,876 person-years of temporary manufacturing and construction work from 2012 through 2035.
These numbers will be much larger if EGS are developed to the extent envisioned by Tester et al. (2006). Many more scientists experienced in seismology induced by geothermal stimulation and operations as well as scientists and engineers with expertise in rock mechanics will be required. Experience in diverse geothermal geological settings, rock types, and stress regimes will be needed. Interdisciplinary training, as envisioned in Chapter 7 (Box 7.3), will be needed to meet this requirement.
Needs and Challenges
If estimates of geothermal power online in the future are accurate, a substantial number of professional, skilled technicians and support staff will be required by the geothermal industry. This is particularly true for the GHP and electrical generation segments of the industry.
Some professional earth scientists and engineers could be available from the mining and petroleum industries, if employment opportunities there return to past levels. However, as demonstrated in the sections on oil and gas and mining in Chapter 2, employment needs in these extractive industries are expected to increase in the foreseeable future. Therefore, the geothermal industry will need to provide incentives to professional geoscientists and engineers to entice them to join the geothermal industry. The positive side of this need is that geothermal exploration draws heavily on the same geological and geophysical
TABLE 3.17 Estimated employment impact of geothermal industry growth, based on the EIA’s 2012 Reference case.
|Year||Total Capacity (MWe)||New MWe Installed||Person-Years Manufacturing & Construction Jobs||New Permanent O&M jobs|
SOURCE: NRC staff.
techniques and skills used in the mining industry so that the geothermal industry can draw on trained mineral explorers. Traditionally trained petroleum engineers and hydrologists are not completely trained for the geothermal industry. Because neither environment is equivalent to a geothermal reservoir, some cross training is needed. Likewise, petroleum engineers and many hydrologists can easily transfer to geothermal drilling and reservoir engineering with only a minor amount of on-the-job training.
Geothermal resources are found in geological environments similar to many hydrothermal ore deposits. The principal difference between mineral and geothermal exploration is that, in the case of geothermal exploration, the “ore deposit” currently is being formed by the hydrothermal system. Hence, an appreciation of fluid flow in the subsurface is needed in addition to the usual tools of mineral exploration. Reservoir engineers, drilling engineers, and hydrologists also use the tools developed by the petroleum industry and hydrology sector, but differences in techniques and equipment are required because of the harder rocks and higher temperatures found in geothermal systems.
Power plant O&M professionals and skilled plant operators also will be needed as new geothermal power plants come online. As discussed below, curricula for power plant operators are under development and available through community and technical colleges.
Relatively slow growth is projected for direct-use development, aside from GHPs, with the major challenges tending to be the production and marketing of the agricultural, industrial, or recreational products supported by geothermal development. However, better-trained drillers and geoscientists would aid the expansion of the direct-use sector. These professionals could be provided by using consulting groups that otherwise would be active in electrical development projects.
The rapidly growing GHP segment has, as its greatest need, trained heat pump installers, as well as technically trained staff to determine the heat transfer capability of the earth for proper sizing of the subsurface heat exchange system. The following section lists several organizations that have developed training to meet these needs.
Hiring and retaining trained geoscientist and engineers is difficult for the geothermal industry during periods of high demand for these professionals in the mining and petroleum industries. This is because the geothermal industry cannot effectively compete with salaries and benefits provided by the mining and petroleum industries.
If the projections of future growth are realized, employment opportunities across the spectrum of skills needed for the geothermal industry will be available.
Education and Training
Holm (2011) provides a guide to geothermal education and training. Her report is the basis for the following discussion.
The U.S. educational system has had only limited coursework available that is related specifically to geothermal development until relatively recently. Most professionals and skilled workers received their academic training in allied fields, such as petroleum engineering, mineral or petroleum exploration, or power plant operation related to fossil-fuelled electrical generation.
Because geothermal electrical development should be handled as the combined production of geothermal fluid and electricity, the training of geothermal professionals in a systems approach to joint operation of the geothermal field and power production would be useful. Although little has been published on this aspect of geothermal operation, papers by Bloomfield and Mines (2000, 2002) suggest that combined operation of a resource and its geothermal power plant can mitigate resource decline and temperature breakthrough,20 while also increasing plant revenue. Interdisciplinary Centers of Excellence in Earth Resources Engineering (as envisioned in Chapter 7, Box 7.3) would be a logical environment for the interdisciplinary training required.
Long-standing geothermal educational opportunities have been available at Stanford University, providing master’s and doctorate degrees specializing in geothermal reservoir engineering, and at the Southern Methodist University Geothermal Laboratory, training geoscientists in geothermal exploration. More recently, the University of Nevada at Reno has offered opportunities for geosciences research related to geothermal resources.
Because of increased geothermal activity and spurred by the private-sector and federal funding, a number of colleges, universities, and training institutions across the country recently have begun providing undergraduate, graduate, and certification programs related to geothermal development and operation.
Holm (2011) provides an extensive listing of institutions that provide coursework, research opportunities, and degrees or certificates in technology needed by the geothermal industry. Two of the opportunities listed are briefly described below.
The National Geothermal Academy (NGA) at the University of Nevada, Reno, Redfield Campus offers an intensive 8-week summer program on all aspects of geothermal energy development and utilization. A consortium of geothermal schools administers the DOE-funded NGA, using teachers from academia and the geothermal industry.
Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada, offers a Geothermal Plant Operators Program for training geothermal technicians (Box 3.2). The
20 Temperature or thermal breakthrough means that cooler water is moving into the geothermal reservoir and cooling it.
Truckee Meadows Community College
The Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) in Reno, Nevada, was awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Energy in September 2010 to develop and implement a program to educate geothermal power plant operators. Industry was involved in all phases of the credit curriculum development and the results can be viewed at http://tmcc.edu/geothermal. The curriculum is very hands-on. TMCC has a geothermal lab, which is used for teaching and hands-on experiences. The geothermal industry has supplied TMCC with pumps, valves, turbines, and other materials for work in the lab. Industry advisor Ormat has a 100-MW geothermal plant approximately 1/4 mile from the TMCC lab. They conduct tours and are involved in the teaching. The plant is state of the art and well suited for training. The students receive classwork from the geothermal lab and also at the Advanced Industrial Technology Center, where they learn electricity, AC controls, instrumentation, electric motors and drives, and other topics. Graduates will receive a 34-unit Certificate of Achievement, preparing them for jobs in a rapidly growing field of geothermal power, both domestically and internationally. Articulation and transfer for the certificate and the proposed Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree program are being considered by the University of Nevada, Reno, as is program replication through National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education project at Imperial Valley College in California, with transfer to San Diego State University.
college offers a 2-year Associate of Applied Science degree or a 1-year certificate program. In addition, Imperial Valley College in Imperial, California, is working with Truckee Meadows Community College and San Diego State University to develop a geothermal program. They have more than 30 small geothermal plants being built at their location.
The GHP segment of the geothermal industry has led the way in developing technical training for design and installation of GHP systems. Holm (2011) lists nine groups that provide training related to GHP applications. Although the list is not comprehensive, equipment manufacturers, trade associations, 4-year colleges, and technical or community colleges are amongst those offering the training.
Improved technology for geophysical measurements that can indicate zones of fluid circulation in the subsurface are needed to improve the success of geothermal exploration. In addition, reduction in the cost of geothermal development and operation, and improvements in the efficiency of generating electricity from geothermal resources will provide incremental changes in the development of geothermal energy in the United States.
However, the game changer for geothermal energy will be the development of technology for EGS. As noted by Tester at al. (2006), this technology would allow geothermal production from a much larger resource base than the currently utilized hydrothermal systems. To develop EGS in lower-thermal gradient areas, technology improvements are required to generate increased productivity from wells; create artificial reservoirs (i.e., well interconnectivity and adequate heat transfer); dramatically decrease drilling costs; and increase the efficiency of energy conversion while decreasing its cost.
Conclusions and Recommendations
3.21 The geothermal industry supports about 5,200 direct jobs related to power production and management, and the total direct, indirect, and induced impact of geothermal energy accounts for about 13,100 full-time jobs.
3.22 Both geothermal electrical generation and the number of residential geothermal heat pumps are expected to continue to grow at a healthy pace through 2035.
3.23 Federal government incentives and funding are important factors in geothermal energy development.
3.24 Geothermal electrical generation could substantially exceed the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates if enhanced geothermal systems technology is developed and is economic. To be economic throughout large portions of the United States, significant advances in creating underground fracture systems at depths below 3 km will be necessary, along with dramatic decreases in the cost of drilling to such depths.
3.25 Geothermal electrical development requires exploration, well drilling, reservoir engineering, and plant construction and operation. The skills required for exploration, well drilling, and reservoir engineering are similar to those employed in the mining, petroleum, and hydrology industries. This alignment across industries allows in large measure for common educational and training pathways, and for easy workforce mobility between the industries.
3.26 Geothermal reservoir engineering and petroleum reservoir engineering have successfully relied on very similar techniques, and many engineers have worked in both technical areas with little need for additional training. Hence, reservoir engineering needs for geothermal can be met through traditional reservoir engineering education, coupled with on-the-job training. Hydrologists can also transfer their skills to the geothermal industry, particularly as related to direct-use applications.
To be fully functional in the geothermal industry, many petroleum engineers and hydrologists will require additional training in nonisothermal systems, heat transfer, and multiphase fluid flow.
3.27 The geothermal industry has significant difficulty in competing with the petroleum and mining industries for geoscience and engineering professionals due to the relatively attractive salaries and benefits offered by these other industries. This competition will increase if the manpower projections for these industries are accurate.
3.28 Geothermal heat pumps are mechanically similar to air source heat pumps and require skills already available through the conventional HVAC industry, except for the design and installation of the geothermal heat exchanger. Additional trained installers with expertise in sizing and installing the ground heat exchanger will be needed to sustain the projected growth in geothermal heat pump installations.
3.29 Plant operators will be needed to operate and maintain geothermal power plants. Many of these skills are transferrable from gas- and coal-fired electrical generators, but the geothermal industry competes with these other plants for operators. Geothermal binary power plants require additional training. Geothermal plant operators also need a better understanding of the interaction between the geothermal reservoir and operation of the power plant.
3.30 To achieve the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected growth, it will be essential that earth scientists trained in exploration methods enter geothermal exploration.
3.31 The aging of the geothermal workforce, particularly experienced explorationists, is a crucial issue, as is slowing the attrition of professionals to related industries.
The recommendations are ordered and labelled in terms of when they would be expected to be operational. The recommended actions should be started as quickly as possible. They will become operational in the long term and will continue for the long term. However, the need for better exploration technology for hydrothermal resources is critical and needed immediately. If the industry cannot find the resource, then the other job categories will not need to be filled for hydrothermal systems. EGS have longer lead times. There will be a relatively small EGS need for the next several years which will rapidly increase if the technology can be proven.
Community colleges are the most likely source of training for power plant operators. There is some current need for operators as new plants come online; the need will build if exploration and EGS are successful. Next, in terms of need, will be drilling crews.
3.9 Community college instructors and guidance counselors should inform students that the skills delivered by the community college span across the oil and gas, geothermal, and mining industries. Such information could potentially provide greater opportunities and options to the graduates from these programs. (Long Term)
3.10 The staffing of geothermal exploration, drilling, and reservoir engineering includes the recommendations made by the committee for the oil and gas, and mining sectors, with some additional recommendations as follows:
A. Geothermal exploration primarily relies on the same exploration skill set as that needed for mineral exploration. However, the geothermal industry is increasingly relying on seismic techniques to identif drilling locations so associated skills should be acquired. (Long Term)
B. Geothermal drilling is quite similar to that for oil and gas (many geothermal wells are drilled using oil and gas rigs and drilling crews). However, geothermal drilling generally requires more experience with control of lost circulation and handling higher temperatures than is usual in oil and gas drilling, and this experience should be acquired. (Long Term)
In addition to these recommendations, the Shared Recommendations (at the end of the chapter) also apply for the geothermal industry.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS), sometimes referred to as carbon capture, use, and storage (CCUS), began in earnest nearly two decades ago, with the pioneering Sleipner Saline Aquifer Storage (SACS) project in the North Sea. The primary purpose of the SACS project was to eliminate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere in order to avoid paying a tax of about $50/tonne imposed by the Norwegian government on offshore CO2 emissions. Starting in the 1970s and motivated primarily by the desire to increase U.S. domestic oil production, the petroleum industry developed the process of CO2-enhanced oil recovery (EOR) as a way of increasing production from mature oil fields. As the world leader in this technology, over 50 million tonnes of CO2 are currently injected into U.S. oil reservoirs each year, leading to the incremental recovery of 281,000 barrels of domestic oil per day (bbl/day), or 6 percent of U.S. crude oil production (Kuuskraa, et al., 2011). The high cost of CO2 capture and the desire to increase domestic oil production, combined with a lack of binding national
CO2 emission reduction goals, have motivated a renewed emphasis on combining the emission reduction potential of CCS with CO2-EOR, into CCUS.
CCUS Technology Overview and Market Trends
CCUS is a suite of technologies designed to reduce CO2 emissions and simultaneously increase oil recovery. CCUS is typically a four-stage process: CO2 is first separated from a mixed-gas stream (emitted from an ethanol plant, coal- or gas-fired power plant, cement plant, refinery, or other industrial source); compressed into a liquid; transported through a pipeline; and then pumped deep underground for permanent sequestration, or in the case of CO2-EOR, to increase oil production (see Figure 3.17). When pumped underground for CO2-EOR, some fraction of the injected CO2 returns to the surface with the produced oil. For CO2-EOR to be considered as sequestration, the CO2 pumped out of the oil reservoir with the produced oil must be recaptured and pumped back underground. The actual amount of CO2 sequestered must be verified with monitoring. Except for the potential for increasing CO2-EOR, the sole purpose of CCUS is to combat climate change caused by anthropogenic emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide capture and sequestration is unlikely to become a significant industry absent government policies, incentives, and regulations for large reductions in CO2 emissions.
The production of oil and projects using CO2-EOR have grown steadily since the 1970s and can be expected to continue to grow (Figure 3.18), particularly if abundant and moderately priced CO2 from anthropogenic sources becomes available. Moderate-cost supplies of captured anthropogenic CO2, with appropriate policy incentives, have led the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute ro suggest that CCUS has the potential for
“…production of an additional 9 billion barrels of American oil over 40 years, qua¬drupling CO2-EOR production and displacing U.S. oil imports… At the same time, the proposed incentive would save the United States roughly $610 billion in expenditures on imported oil, while storing ap¬proximately 4 billion tons of CO2 captured from indus¬trial and power plant sources, thereby reducing total U.S. CO2 emissions in the process.” (NEORI, 2012, p. 2)
Worldwide, eight projects are sequestering CO2 in deep underground formations (see Table 3.18). Over the past decade, industry and governments worldwide have committed or invested $26 billion in pilot-scale and first-of-a-kind demonstration projects (GCCSI, 2011). The DOE, in partnership with industry and universities, has carried out over 20 small- to mid-scale pilot tests (< 1 Mt/ year) demonstrating the feasibility of pumping CO2 underground, monitoring
FIGURE 3.17 Schematic of the carbon dioxide capture and sequestration process. SOURCE: Reprinted with permission from CO2CRC.
FIGURE 3.18 Number of projects using CO2-EOR: worldwide, United States and the Permian Basin, West Texas. SOURCE: Melzer (2012, p. 4).
FIGURE 3.19 Location and sequestration formation type for small-scale pilot injection tests supported by the U.S. DOE Regional Sequestration Partnerships. MRCSP = Midwest Reginoal Carbon Sequestration Partnership. MGSC = Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium. SECARB = Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership. SWP = Southwest Partnership on Carbon Sequestration. PCOR = Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership. WESTCARB = West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partership. BSCSP = Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership. SOURCE: DOE (2010a, p. 9).
where it goes, and demonstrating that it can be effectively trapped underground in appropriate geological settings (see Figure 3.19).
Eight development-scale projects are pumping from 0.7 to 5 million tonnes underground annually. In addition, the United States is the world leader in CO2-EOR, with more than 70 projects using more than 50 Mt per year of CO2, although most of this is from natural underground reservoirs. An extensive network of pipelines between CO2 sources and sinks exists today.
Regulations motivated primarily for protecting drinking water resources have been developed for siting, monitoring, and closing geological storage projects (EPA, 2011). For projects that are purely for sequestration, one unresolved issue is how to deal with postclosure liability in the event that leakage occurs. Several legislative attempts to address this issue have been undertaken. With the exception of CO2-EOR where project developers routinely hold liability for projects, large-scale CCUS is unlikely until post closure liability issues are resolved.
Sequestration Technology Description
For this study, the focus is only on the utilization and sequestration components of CCUS technology, as the remainder of the workforce is not engaged in the geosciences.
TABLE 3.18 Global Carbon Capture, Use, and Storage Projects in 2012.
|Name||Location||Capture Type||Volume of CO2 (MTPA)||Storage Type||Date of Operation|
|Shute Creek Gas Processing Facility||United States||Precombustion (gas processing)||7||EOR||1986|
|Sleipner CO2 Injection||Norway||Precombustion (gas processing)||1||Deep saline formation||1996|
|Val Verde Natural Gas Plants||United States||Precombustion (gas processing)||1.3||EOR||1972|
|Great Plains Synfuels Plant and WeyburnMidale Project||United States/Canada||Precombustion (synfuels)||3||EOR with MMV||2000|
|Enid Fertilizer Plant||United States||Precombustion (fertilizer)||0.7||EOR||1982|
|In Salah CO2 Storage||Algeria||Precombustion (gas processing)||1||Deep saline formation||2004|
|Snøhvit CO2 Injection||Norway||Precombustion (gas processing)||0.7||Deep saline formation||2008|
|Century Plant||United States||Precombustion (gas processing)||5 (and 3.5 from construction)||EOR||2010|
NOTE: Four of these projects are located in the United States. All of the CCUS projects are associated with gas processing or precombustion separation of CO2, namely synfuel or fertilizer production. EOR = enhanced oil recovery; MMV = monitoring, mitigation, and verification; MTPA = million tons per annum. SOURCE: Modified from GCCSI (2011, Table 1, p.11). Used with permission from the Global CCS Institute.
Carbon dioxide can be sequestered in oil and gas reservoirs, coal beds, or saltwater-filled sedimentary rocks (see Figure. 3.20). Both sandstone and carbonate formations are suitable. In the future, it is also possible that other rock types, including basalt, could be used to sequester CO2. Suitable formations are typically greater than 1 km deep and most importantly, are overlain by thick, low-permeability seals composed of shale, anhydrite, or low-permeability dolomite (IPCC, 2005). Selecting a suitable sequestration site requires extensive geologi-
FIGURE 3.20 Current options for sequestering CO2 in subsurface geological formations. SOURCE: Reprinted with permission from CO2CRC.
cal characterization and model development, typically by teams of sedimentary geologists, geophysicists, and modelers.
The technology for pumping CO2 underground is well developed, based on over four decades of experience in the CO2-EOR industry. Well drilling and completion technology, pumps, and surface equipment are all available. Rigs and rig crews used for oil and gas exploration and production are appropriate for drilling injection and monitoring wells for geological storage projects. The requirements for cementing injection wells for geological sequestration differ from a typical oil and gas well and special provisions must be made to meet the regulatory requirements to fully cement the well throughout its entire length.
CO2-EOR, the largest utilization option, involves injecting supercritical CO2 into an oil field. When mixed with oil, CO2 lowers the viscosity and reduces the density of the oil, leading to improved recovery. For certain types of oil, at elevated pressures and temperatures, oil and water can become miscible, meaning they become a single fluid. Under these conditions, oil recovery can be improved dramatically. The bank of mobile oil is swept to the extraction well, sometimes involving the injection of water to further increase recovery through the so-called WAG (water-alternating-gas) process (Figure 3.21). Successful CO2-EOR operations require sophisticated reservoir engineering calculations, advanced geological modeling, and well completion technologies.
However, unlike oil and gas production, where monitoring tends to focus on injection and extraction rates and wellhead pressures, CO2 sequestration requires tracking the location of the CO2 plume, ensuring that it is not leaking back to the surface, and quantifying the amount of CO2 sequestered. Monitoring techniques include seismic imaging, wellhead and formation pressure testing, well logging,
FIGURE 3.21 Schematic showing the processes of CO2-EOR. SOURCE: ARI/Melzer (2010, Fig. 1, p. 3).
groundwater monitoring, as well as a number of techniques for directly detecting and measuring leakage into the atmosphere (Benson, 2007). Seismic imaging and pressure monitoring are well-developed tools, but application for the purposes of a sequestration project requires specialized interpretation to comply with regulatory requirements.
Numerical simulations are routinely used to predict the performance of sequestration sites and CO2-EOR projects, determine how many wells are needed for injection, assess the magnitude of the pressure buildup and determine how far it extends from the injection well, and maximize trapping of CO2 in the sequestration formation. These are sophisticated mathematical tools that require specialized education, training, and experience to use them competently. Again, experience from the oil and gas industry is transferable, but numerical simulation for geological sequestration requires greater emphasis on thermodynamics, geochemical interactions, and geomechanical phenomena than is typically used for CO2-EOR.
Protection of drinking water is the primary driver for existing CCUS regulations. Although geological sequestration formations will be much deeper than drinking water resources, protecting them will require developing a complete model of the geology, hydrogeology, geochemistry, and geomechanics, from the depth of the sequestration formation to the surface. Traditionally, subsurface scientists have focused on either shallow systems (e.g., vadose zone, drinking water aquifers), hydrocarbon resources (oil, gas, coal), or mineral resources. Successful sequestration will facilitate the development of a more holistic view of earth resources, which requires knowledge of a number of potentially interacting systems and processes.
FIGURE 3.22. Location of existing sources of CO2 and prospective sites for CO2-EOR and geological sequestration. NOTE: Dots show the location of existing CO2 emissions from large stationary sources and the shading shows the locations of favorable geological formations. SOURCE: DOE (2010b, p. 13).
The DOE has created seven CCS training centers to address workforce issues. The training centers (in Texas, Wyoming, Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Washington, and Georgia) provide sequestration-specific coursework for training and retraining workers for this industry. Training center activities include developing self-sustaining technology development programs, providing short-courses on CCS technologies, developing networks for outreach and community engagement, and coordinating regional training efforts.
Regional Distribution of Prospective CCUS Sites
Although it is difficult to forecast where and how quickly the CCUS industry will develop, prospective locations for CCUS can be determined by identifying regions where CO2 sources and geological formations suitable for sequestration are colocated. Particularly promising areas for large-scale implementation of CCUS include the Gulf Coast states, portions of the Midwest, the Great Plains, and oil and gas fields throughout the United States (see Figure 3.22).
CCUS Occupational Work Categories and Workforce Estimates
The CCUS occupational work categories can be divided into groups corresponding to the stages of a project, including: site screening, selection, and characterization; site design and approval; construction; operations; postinjection
A rough estimate of the size of the workforce is in the range of 70-180 workers per million tonnes of CO2 injected. Thus, for example, if the amount of CO2 injected for CO2-EOR quadruples from today’s 50 Mt/yr to 200 Mt/yr by 2030, a workforce of 14,000 to 36,000 workers would be needed. This would correspond to about 3 to 8 percent of today’s oil and gas workforce of about 434,600. More accelerated estimates for the rate of increase suggest that the industry could scale up by a factor of 10 between now and 2030 (Kuuskraa et al., 2011). In this case, a workforce ranging from 35,000 to 90,000 (about 8 to 20 percent of the existing oil and gas workforce) would be needed. Another approach to estimating the 2030 workforce is based on the fraction of CO2-EOR today.
The size of the needed workforce relative to the size of the existing industry suggests that the CCUS geosciences workforce will represent a modest fraction of the overall oil and gas workforce for the forseeable future. On the other hand, if a U.S. climate policy restricting CO2 emissions is enacted, workforce requirements could be greater than those offered here as example scenarios.
Workforce Issues: Opportunities and Challenges
The geological sequestration workforce straddles two well-developed industry workforces—the environmental consulting industry and the oil and gas industry. Consequently, with some retraining as discussed above, there is a well-developed and highly competent workforce able to support this industry. Therefore, there is likely to be a sufficiently large workforce with the right skills, provided that some additional training specific to sequestration can be provided.
Over the long term, however, unless a reversal in the decades-long decline in student recruitment into the geosciences is acheived, the lack of a strong geosciences workforce could limit implementation of CCUS. Deployed at a scale where about 20 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions reductions are provided by CCUS, the scale of the CCUS industry is expected to be about the same size as today’s natural gas industry. Providing a workforce that can meet these needs, on top of an already stressed workforce for the oil and gas industry will be a formidable challenge unless more students enter the geosciences workforce.
One positive trend seen in universities across the United States is that students who normally would not be interested in working in the oil and gas industry are choosing to do their graduate studies in CCUS. Motivated by contributing to solving the global warming problem, they enter a scientific discipline heretofore populated primarily by petroleum engineers. However, unless employment opportunities in this field can be provided, students may become discouraged and take other paths. A clear governmental commitment is crucial to help develop for having a workforce prepared to deal with these global challenges.
FIGURE 3.23 Stages of a CCUS project. The line is a conceptual representation of the cumulative level of effort for the work at each phase of the project. SOURCE: Courtesy of John Tombari, Schlumberger.
TABLE 3.19 Specific Workforce Needs During Each Stage of a CCUS Project.
CCUS Project Stage
|Site screening||Geologists; geophysicists; drillers; field crews for data acquisition; health, safety, and environmental professionals; project managers|
|Site selection and characterization||Geologists and petrophysicists; geomechanics; reservoir engineers/ petroleum engineers; geochemists and chemical engineers; geophysicists and seismologists; hydrogeologists; geochemists; drillers and drill crews; field crews for data acquisition; economists; health, safety, and environmental professionals; project managers|
|Site design and approval||Well completion engineers; drilling engineers; reservoir engineers/ petroleum engineers; geochemists and chemical engineers; geologists and petrophysicists; hydrogeologists; production/injection engineers; geophysicists and seismologists; health, safety, and environmental professionals; economists; project managers|
|Construction||Project managers; well drillers and rig crews; geologists and petrophysicists; pipeline construction crews; health, safety, and environmental professionals; well completion engineers; drilling engineers; reservoir engineers/petroleum engineers|
|Operations||Well-field operators and maintenance; reservoir/petroleum engineers; geochemists and chemical engineers; geophysicists; hydrogeologists; health, safety, and environmental professionals; project managers|
|Postinjection monitoring||Geophysicists; hydrogeologists; geochemists; reservoir/petroleum engineers; health, safety, and environmental professionals; project managers|
|Site closure||Completion engineers; workover crews; geophysicists; health, safety, and environmental professionals; project managers|
SOURCE: Sally Benson.
Concrete actions that are under way to address workforce issues in the short term include:
- More than a dozen universities are now providing sequestration classes as part of the upper division and graduate school curriculum;
- Universities are now matriculating dozens of master of science and doctoral students whose research focuses on geological sequestration of CO2;
- Major geosciences societies (e.g., Society of Petroleum Engineers, American Geophysical Union, American Chemical Society, American Association of Petroleum Geologists) have workshops or technical sessions at major international meetings focused on geological sequestration of CO2;
- Joint-industry projects (JIPs) are sponsoring research and development, which provide training and retraining opportunities for reservoir engineers and geophysicists;
- Several CCUS training programs (Research Experience in Carbon Sequestration [RECS], International Energy Agency Greenhouse Gas Programme, Australia) have been established to augment traditional graduate student geosciences curricula; and
- DOE has established CCUS Regional Training Centers.
3.33 Carbon capture, use, and storage is unlikely to become a significant industry absent government policies, incentives, and regulations for large reductions in CO2 emissions.
3.34 The production of oil and projects using CO2-EOR can be expected to continue to grow.
3.35 Employment statistics for a prospective CCUS industry are not available. However, speculative estimates indicate that, if large-scale implementation of CO2-EOR is realized and the amount of CCUS quadruples from today’s levels by 2030, a workforce of 14,000 to 36,000 would be needed. More accelerated estimates suggest that 35,000 to 90,000 workers might be needed. A reasonable assumption is that the CCUS workforce in 2030 will be a small fraction of today’s oil and gas workforce.
3.36 The geological sequestration workforce straddles the environmental consulting industry and the oil and gas industry. With some retraining, there is an existing workforce that can support initial growth of this industry. Therefore, for the foreseeable future and absent a U.S. climate change policy, a sufficient workforce with the right skills exists.
3.37 Unless student recruitment into the geosciences can be sus-
tained, the lack of a strong geosciences workforce could limit CCUS implementation.
3.38 It is very important to sustain support for graduate school research i CCUS.
The following recommendations should be initiated as quickly as possible and some will take longer than others to become fully operational. The recommendations are ordered and labeled in terms of when they would be expected to be operational. All of the recommended actions are expected to continue for the long term.
3.11 The committee recommends that DOE, industry, institutions of higher education, and other involved organizations consider continuing support for DOE-initiated training programs for CCUS. (Short Term)
3.12 Industry, government, industrial and professional organizations, and educators should consider ways to encourage students to enter the geosciences, which provide a breadth of opportunities to not only provide the energy we need from fossil fuels, but to reduce their emissions through CCUS. (Medium Term)
3.13 The committee recommends that industry, government, industrial and professional organizations, and educational institutions consider providing research and educational support for the next generation of “earth resources engineers” who have a more holistic and integrated understanding of the interactions between the anthrosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and near-surface and deep geological systems—and who are prepared to develop and manage the next generation of energy and mineral resources to support human well-being, while restoring and protecting the natural environment. (Medium Term)
In addition to these recommendations, the Shared Recommendations (below) also apply for CCUS.
As described in Chapter 2, the following Shared Recommendations 1-5 apply across the mature industries in that chapter, and they address a range of actions that are complementary. They also apply across the emerging industries in this chapter. Other industry-specific recommendations that are important for each of the emerging industries can be found in their respective sections of this chapter.
Shared Recommendations 1-5 should be initiated as soon as possible, and they are ordered and labeled in terms of when they would be expected to become fully operational. All are expected to continue for the long term. Short term is defined as 2 years or less, medium term as 2-5 years, and long term as more than 5 years.
Shared Recommendation 1: To address the growing demand for trained workers, industry, potentially with government support, should take an active part in developing the workforce of the future by working closely with educational institutions at all levels. Active involvement could include, but would not be limited to, developing a curriculum that trains individuals to be “job ready” upon completion of their certification or degree. This effort would benefit from being a national initiative and having a local/community focus. In pursuing this initiative, it would be important to consider, encourage, and emulate existing educational success stories, such as the programs supported by the National Science Foundation at community colleges and the Truckee Meadows Community College program. The other educational success stories noted in Chapter 2 that are focusing on minority outreach also would be instructive for this broader initiative. (Short Term)
Shared Recommendation 2: To ensure that there are enough faculty now and in the future who are qualified to work and teach at the cutting edge of technology, the committee recommends that the government and industry consider entering into partnership to provide joint support for research programs at U.S. universities, with the goal of attracting and better preparing students and faculty, promoting innovation, and helping to ensure the relevance of university programs. (Short Term)
Shared Recommendation 3: The committee recommends that the industrial parties who are working with educational institutions on workforce education and training, along with the Department of Education, urge educators to encourage students to seek STEM disciplines, and to consider realigning education in the K-12 curriculum to emphasize STEM education, with existing and future educators being better trained in STEM disciplines. (Short Term)
Shared Recommendation 4: To provide a needed enhancement of the workforce, the committee recommends that industry and educators pursue efforts to attract nontraditional workers (for example. minorities and women) into the energy and mining fields. This initiative would benefit from being a broad, national initiative and having a local/community focus. In pursuing this initiative, it would be important to consider, encourage, and emulate
existing educational success stories, such as those with a focus on minority outreach (noted in Chapter 2). (Medium Term)
Shared Recommendation 5: Industry and educators should also pursue efforts to attract more of the traditional workforce into the energy and mining fields. This initiative would also benefit from being a national initiative and having a local/community focus. Educational success stories, such as those highlighted in this report, could also offer insights for this initiative. (Medium Term)
Additional Shared Recommendation for Chapter 3
In addition, to Shared Recommendations 1-5 (above), the following Shared Recommendation 6 also applies across the emerging industries in this chapter. Shared Recommendation 6 also should be initiated as soon as possible. It is expected to become fully operational in the long term and to continue for the longer term.
Shared Recommendation 6: The Bureau of Labor Statistics should consider partnering with the renewable industries to effectively develop more granular and up-to-date data on their occupations. (Long Term)