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If I want to work in renewable energy which branch of engineering should I study?

  1. Apr 27, 2010 #1
    From the little bit I've read online it seems like wind and solar have the most potential.

    Also, can you get student loans if you are unemployed? (I have a good credit rating and I'm in the US)
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2010 #2
    I think mechanical or chemical engineering are good choices for renewable energy. They both can focus a lot on heat transfer which is very important. If you are interested in wind energy mechanical is probably a good choice. Material science/engineering is really important for solar because of the need to develop more efficient panels. Then there is also bioengineering and biofuels.
  4. Apr 27, 2010 #3
    Regarding loans you need to fill out the FAFSA form online. From that they tell you how much you can receive in aid. For my case I am unemployed and still get federal student loans.
  5. Apr 27, 2010 #4
    Chemical engineers usually learn how to produce chemicals, so they won't be involved. Mechanical engineers design wind turbines, and materials scientists / physicists with PhDs in R&D labs design solar panels. Electrical engineers design the control systems, and all sorts of people are involved in manufacturing, installing, marketing, etc.
  6. Apr 27, 2010 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Chemicals like one uses to make solar cells? Or chemicals like biofuels?
  7. Apr 27, 2010 #6
    Biofuels, yes. I don't think there are many chemical engineers involved in semiconductor manufacturing though. Chemical engineers are typically involved in the manufacture of chemicals. You don't have chemical process plants dumping material into solar panels.

    Maybe there's some sub-branch of chemical engineering I don't know about, but all of the chemE's I know work in chemical plants or oil refineries. I haven't met any in solar.
  8. Apr 27, 2010 #7
    When I was at NREL, there were a lot of chemical engineering students working as interns. Several worked in Photoelectric Chemistry (trying to work out hydrogen production), and I think many or most worked in biofuels. I also know of at least one chemical physics student who worked on organic PV. I don't know exactly what Chemical engineers typically do, but I know that PV research involves a lot of chemicals :P

    There's really opportunities in renewable energy for a lot of disciplines, especially if you expand your horizons to things like working on developing the electric grid for distributed energy production (say, from rooftop solar panels or hybrid plug-in vehicles) which would be primarily electrical engineering.
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