15 Things You Didn’t Know About Opportunities in the Energy Industry

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Energy is one of the most important drivers of households, industries, and opportunities.

Fuel and cooking gas are two energy products consumed daily in our homes. The fuel to power our cars, generating sets, and other engines, while cooking gas is used to prepare the meals you love so much. What about the petroleum jelly used to nourish a baby’s skin? It’s also a product of refined crude oil. And you’re right for saying that it is an energy product.

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Electricity powers our lights, cooling systems and all our gadgets. It is the reason why you are able to read this post on your device or computer. Banking, manufacturing, telecoms, and Ecommerce all need electricity to function. What about the opportunities for the players in the energy industry?

That’s what this post is all about – bringing you 15 of the best opportunities in the energy industry. Before we delve further into the main topic, let’s formally introduce you to the energy industry.

An Overview of the Energy Industry

The energy industry is a combination of the whole industries actively involved in the extraction, production and distribution of energy products. It is an industry that supports all facets of human existence.

The major industries involved in the energy value chain includes:

  • Petroleum
  • Gas Production and Sales
  • Coal Industries
  • Natural Gas
  • Electrical Power Industries
  • Renewable Energy Industry
  • Nuclear Power Industry

The use of energy dates back to ancient man, who discovered fire for cooking and keeping warm. Ever since then, energy has evolved to meet the changing needs of humans.

As at today, energy has become so important that humans cannot live without it. The EIA’s (Energy Information Administration) report Annual Energy Outlook 2018 projects an annual growth of 0.4% in energy demand till 2050. This growth indicates an increase in the amount and size of players in the industry.

It also predicts an increase in the opportunities for individuals, businesses, and other organizations.

Opportunities in the Energy Industry

As the energy sector develops, new opportunities are created, and new skills needed to drive its growth. Businesses are not left out, as they find new ways to deliver services to players in energy industry.

Want to know how you can key into the energy industry growth? By the time you’re through reading this post, you will find the right ideas.

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1. Opportunities in Renewable Energy

The limited availability of fossil fuel, and increasing demand for energy has lead to search for innovative energy sources. Globally, there has been the clamor for renewable energy to help meet the growing demand for energy.

Available opportunities in renewable energy sector include:

  • Production of Solar Panels

Solar panel, also referred to as photo voltaic (PV) module is a collection of cells used for generating direct current electricity from sunlight. The PV cells are mounted in a framework and installed on the rooftop.

The solar panels can be purchased along with other equipment like charge controller, inverter and batteries. While these equipment are produced by different manufacturers, our focus is in production of the solar panels.

Setting up a solar production plant isn’t a project for the feeble minded, even though the business has great prospects. Take for instance a continent like Africa, where stable electricity supply is still a future dream.

A lot of communities in black populated continent are yet to have access to electricity. That in itself a viable market, if you can produce cost effective solar panels.

There are recent technologies that reduce the cost of solar panels production, while increasing the efficiency of the panels. One of such technologies is used by DESERT Technology to produce 20 – 500 MW Turnkey Lines.

The average start up cost for a solar production plant can range from $500,000 (US) to millions of US dollars.

2. Installation and Maintenance of Solar Panels

People purchase solar panels for use at home, offices, event centers, or other locations where they are needed. To make this possible, skilled solar panel installers are required to set up the panels for use.

Unlike solar panel production, the start up cost for the business of installation is quite minimal. The major requirements for setting up a solar panel installations shop include:

  • Adequately trained personnel to carry out site survey, and installation on any rooftop kind.
  •  PV installation tools such as cordless drill, impact driver, sockets, drill bits, and caulking gun. You should be able to get all the required tools from a good hardware store.
  • Van or pick up to aid movement of PV, equipment, and or personnel. This may be optional if you work alone, or cannot afford it at the moment.
  • Office space, or virtual office where clients can locate you.

Proper training is a prerequisite to successful solar installation and maintenance business.

Some PV manufacturers offer training for their clients or interested persons. You may have to find out which ones to enroll with by researching the manufacturers online.

3. Sales and Distribution of Solar Panels

Once upon a time, sale and distribution of solar panels was dominated by the big firms. The entry barrier was quite high, only accessible to companies with large budgets.

The solar panel distribution business has evolved to accommodate smaller distributors and retailers.

I recently traveled to a village in West Africa and a distributor of one of the major PV brands there. The inhabitable of that village didn’t have to place online orders, or ship from Europe if they needed the products. It was right there in their community.

Just as this distributor positioned itself in a remote village, there are myriads of opportunities for interested distributors and retailers. Best of all, you don’t need to stock so much inventory.

Start up capital is much lower, and the basic knowledge needed is a good understanding of the market.

4. Installation of Wind Turbines

As much as opportunities exist for solar panel installers, there are also business opportunities for wind turbine installers.

Wind turbine is an apparatus used for the conversion of kinetic energy from the wind into electricity. The wind, or air flows are captured by the turbine’s in the form of kinetic energy, turning it into mechanical energy. By the operations of the turbine the generator is constantly spun to produce the electricity.

Wind turbines are used mainly in regions that have lots of winds, or large expanse of open space.

Proper installation of wind turbines required a multidisciplinary engineering approach that only a trained wind installation engineer can undertake. The use of heavy machinery like cranes or excavators, wind installation installation logistics, and project management.

The installation begins with the technical survey of the site and monitoring of local wind speeds. Other activities include digging of trenches, erection of tower and turbine, electrical wiring and connection to electricity grids. A typical installation could take anything from two weeks to a few months depending on the size of the project.

So what does it take to become a wind installation engineer?

Having a Bachelor degree in any of the engineering is a big leverage. Though there are a number of online and onsite courses offered for wind turbine installation and maintenance.

5. Biomass Energy Generation

Biomass is a renewable source of energy that entails the generation of electricity from organic materials. These organic materials are plants and animals which are burned to produce energy.

Biomass are either burned directly to generate electricity, or they are converted to liquid biofuels (also known as biogas) and burned as fuel. There are different kinds of biomass which include wood chips, agric crops, waste materials, animal manure, and food waste.

Biomass are generally known to store energy from the sun, which when burned releases chemical energy as heat. Biomass energy generation is an attractive opportunity because of readily available raw materials, and low cost technologies. Individuals or businesses can take play different roles in biomass energy generation from planting of crops for wood fuel to supply of the commodities.

Waste management organizations can also deploy their resources in gathering food wastes, wood chips, and animal waste for production.

6. Clean Room Technicians

With biomass energy, all players one basic driving force, and that is to preserve the environment. Reduce the impact of fossil fuels in our world, and strive to make it a better place for the generations unborn.

Interested in joining the industry at the entry level? Then this job is just what you need. There isn’t a basic requirement except to willingness to learn. Clean room technicians ensure that all equipment used for cleaning and maintaining the health standards of the organization are clean and ready to be used.

7. Solar Plant Manager

Solar panel installations may require a lot of time, resources and personnel if the project is a large one. While this may call for the engagement of a solar panel project manager, installation companies almost always need project managers. Since they are contracted to handle large solar installation projects from time to time. So what does it take to become a solar project manager?

First of all, you need to be familiar with the latest tools and techniques of Project Management. Your PMP knowledge base should be up to date.

A solar project manager is responsible for coordinating all the resources assigned for a solar installation project. These materials include human resources, equipment, and budget. Also, making sure that the project is delivered on time, while managing communicate between engineers, system designers and field installers.

A major responsibility of the solar project manager is to ensure efficient implementation of the project plans, progress tracking, scheduling and costs. He tries to save cost for the company without compromising on the quality of work done.

As a solar project manager, you should have great analytical and communication skills. Of course there is the need for some technical knowledge, that’s why a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical or Electrical engineering is an added advantage.

8. Wind Turbine Technicians

A wind turbine technician is a unique role saddled with the responsibility to ensure the smooth running of wind turbine installations. The responsibilities also include performing health and safety checks and procedures, replacement of faulty turbine components, and troubleshooting on mechanical and electrical systems.

The technician also assists in all site operations, including maintaining general safety from the system.

For qualification, some level of mechanical education up to HNC/HND is a minimal requirement. Having some formal knowledge, especially in an apprenticeship program of at least 3 years of hydraulic or mechanical experience.

Also, some basic knowledge of wind farms, industrial process plant, power stations.

9. Biomass Farming

Depending on your present location, access to farm lands and farming tools, biomass farming may just be that opportunity you need. While many may not consider farming as the most noble of professions, biomass farmers play an important role of helping to preserve our environment.

Wood crops, corn and soybeans are raw materials for biomass that can be used to generate energy.

If biomass farming appeals to you, contact local authorities to obtain land permits for farming. Biomass farming does not require much technical knowledge, as you could hire locals to take care of the labor aspects.

Opportunities in Decentralized Energy

Decentralized energy sources are micro grids designed for generating energy off the main grid and produced close to where they will be consumed. These energy sources are ‘decentralized’ around different locations, instead of a big plant for generating, storing, and distributing the energy.

Decentralized energy sources have the advantages of low transmission cost, greater efficiency, and autonomous operations.

This energy source combines with clean technologies like batteries and renewable energy to generate and store energy.

Decentralized energy is an emerging technology with lots of use cases in electricity, real estate, IT, and renewable energy. Opportunities abound for professionals and businesses to add value to the decentralized energy value chain.

10. Decentralized Energy Management Systems

Decentralized energy management systems are tools for the efficient management of decentralized energy consumers, businesses, communities and systems.

The combination of technologies used for decentralized energy production has transformed homes and buildings into power plants. While creating a new new market for energy consumers.

Businesses have to be at the forefront of driving this technology to ensure sustainability, and efficiency in power production and distribution. Equally important is the need develop business models for use in commercializing the energy produced.

A player in this niche is Blueprint Power which is involved with the creation of decentralized energy software.

11. Distributed Energy Generation

Distributed energy generation is fast changing the way electricity is generated and distributed to consumers. There is a growing number of new entrants into the distributed energy generation business. This is due to the low cost of setting up power plants in comparison to centralized power plants.

Distributed energy resource (DER) is a physical asset which can operate independently as a power generating plant. DERs are usually deployed close to the load such as buildings, factories, offices, and residential homes. An example of DER in use today is the micro grid.

Although micro grids by definition are small, inexpensive power plants. The cost outlay is largely dependent on the size of the project.

There are five important aspects that need to be clearly defined before starting the project.

  • Power Source – Solar panels, wind turbines, or biomass energy.
  • Power Management – Inverter or other device used for transforming electricity into the form used for household appliances.
  • Storage System – To balance and store electricity to ensure all round availability.
  • Electricity Consuming Devices – Determine the electrical load placed on the micro grid.
  • Utility Connection – Allows micro grid to exchange power with larger utility networks.

12. Energy Storage Solutions

The increasing demand for environmental friendly energy sources was the major driver for renewable and decentralized energy sources. Leading to sharp increases in the number of solution providers in this energy sector. One major topic that enjoy widespread attention among the key players is the storage capacity of micro grids.While fossil fuel can be stored for a long time in its produced form, energy produced by solar or wind cannot. The energy produced form this renewable energy sources have to be stored for later use.

Since solar and wind energy are increasingly used for micro grids, there needs to be effective storage solutions to address this concern. While power generating companies focus on their business of making electricity available, the demand for electricity storage is clearly increasing. Available storage technologies include compressed air, Li-ion battery, Lead-acid battery, and Molten salt (thermal).

Businesses can provide energy storage solutions using any combination of these technologies.

Opportunities in Smart Energy Management

The increasing role played by Internet of Things (IoT) and device digitization has expanded into the energy industry. Smart energy management system is a cost saving measure with almost instant results. It can lead to reduced energy consumption, more efficient use of energy, and efficiency in data management.

If you desire an investment that can start producing results for your clients, take advantage of any of the opportunities in smart energy management.

13. Energy Consumption Tracking

Energy consumption tracking is done with IoT tools through collection and analysis of real-time energy consumption. These tools can also be deployed over a network to provide important data for decision making.

For instance, smart energy management systems can be used to monitor humidity and air conditioning systems to help optimize energy consumption.

14. Provision of Automated Shutdown Devices

Automated shutdown devices are intelligent power devices that are self activated when certain conditions are met. These conditions could be particular temperature threshold, time limit, or within a defined current/voltage range.

Smart automated devices include smart switches, smart plugs and smart outlets. These devices come with features like voice activation, energy usage alerts and smart schedules.

Demand for these devices have grown with the demand for more efficient energy sources and consumption.

15. Smart Technicians

Smart technicians are those tech savvy individuals who handle site surveys, installation, maintenance and replacement of smart technology equipment. They are referred to as smart because it takes more than technical knowledge to get the job done.

Experience in IT infrastructure especially in WAN and LAN networking, basic understanding of Internet of Things (IoT), and technical knowledge of everyday appliances.

Energy is one of the most essential support of humanity, including the plants, animals and every life form on the earth. The sun is a major energy source of energy for lives, and a renewable energy source.

Humans have also made use of energy as far back as we look into history. Man discovered fire and used it for roasting games, for cooking meals, and for keeping warm. Ever since man discovered fire, his search for other forms kf energy has continued, and today we have electrical, mechanical, coal energy, solar and kinetic energy.

As man learned how to transform energy from one form to another, different marletplaces sprang up to allow sellers and buyers of energy products do business. Of course this also led to the creation of new career and business opportunities.

In this post, we highlighted three of those sectors where new opportunities have sprung up for businesses and professionals. These sectors include renewable energy, decentralized energy, and smart energy management.

Some of the opportunities in these energy sectors include production, distribution, sale, installation and maintenance of solar panels. Others include Biomass energy generation, distributed energy generation, energy consumption tracking, and solar plant managers.

The energy industry as a whole comprise of a lot of players such as electricity generation firms, oil exploration and production firms, petroleum products marketing firms, governments, and other agencies around the world. Most of the opportunities in the energy industry require large capital outlay to get started. However, through this post you have learnt what opportunities are available to you as an individual or as a business.