It's not easy finding online degrees specifically in solar renewable energy, but there are schools that have certificate programs available online, as well as closely related degree programs. A number of four-year institutions offer continuing education courses and certificates in an online or hybrid format that focus on solar or green energy management. Students may also find associate's degrees in areas like construction management that include coursework in solar energy.
Students can find online master's degrees or certificates in renewable energy and sustainability or environmental planning. Although some graduate programs are designed to advance the skills of professionals, many online options do not require students to have experience or a background in this field. That said, students interested in taking graduate classes must have a bachelor's degree to be eligible for admission.
Some solar renewable energy degree programs teach students how to design and install energy efficient systems in commercial and residential buildings. Others focus on how these energy efficient systems can be engineered in a more environmentally-friendly manner. Courses cover practical and theoretical solutions in a variety of subsets of the field, including solar electric power, wind power, sustainable building techniques, solar thermal power and renewable energy for educators. Coursework in this area of study may also prepare students to receive certification by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
Specific online classes may include the following:
- Sustainable Home Design
- Introduction to Renewable Energy
- Solar Water Pumping
- Solar Sales, Marketing and Economics
- Solar Electricity for the Developing World
- Clean Power Finance
Online Learning Methods
Distance learners studying solar renewable energy online typically access their school's interactive Web system to download and complete course materials, lectures and assignments. Discussion boards, Web conferencing and chat rooms may be used for virtual class interaction. Some programs in this field use a hybrid format, which means portions of the coursework are completed on campus at scheduled times. In addition, some associate degree programs related to solar renewable energy and technology may also require students to complete a practical portion in person at a nearby laboratory or through a supervised internship at a construction site.
While solar renewable energy is a very specific field, it is one that can affect a variety of industries, including construction, engineering, designing and city planning. Some possible career choices for graduates of an online degree program in solar renewable energy include:
- Energy Management Technician
- Solar Thermal Installer
- Solar Engineer
- Photovoltaic Engineer and Installer
As concerns about climate change and environmental damage grow, more students may be interested in studying solar renewable energy at postsecondary institutions. Online courses in this subject are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, usually as part of broader degree or certificate programs, though they may also be taken as standalone courses to fulfill continuing education requirements.