Renewable fuels: While most solar panel manufacturers are overseas, especially in China, demand for solar panel installers in the United States could skyrocket over the next decade as the technology improves and equipment prices drop. A 2011 census by the Solar Foundation documents rapid near-term hiring for installers, with 24,000 positions projected to have been added from August 2011 to August 2012. Nicholson also sees career prospects for engineers and architects to plan the next generation of wind turbines and wind farms. If the electric vehicle market takes off, IT specialists will be needed to design the circuitry and components.
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Smart grids/utilities: Although increased automation of energy grids is expected to result in a net loss of positions over the next decade, new ones are still being created, particularly in the area of information technology, Nicholson says. And there's always a need for technicians to install meters and engineers to design and maintain electrical systems, he adds. Nicholson anticipates stronger growth among the IT companies that develop smart-grid technology, such as the ABB Group, GE, IBM, Oracle, and Siemens. Tech-savvy college grads might want to consider Silicon Valley-inspired software startups like Arlington, Va.-based Opower and Boulder, Colo.'s Tendril and Simple Energy that specialize in new online tools to manage home-energy output and access energy-usage data.