Solar energy is a fairly narrow discipline, and most major universities place their solar energy research programs in the faculty of engineering.
At the undergraduate level, we recommend aspiring solar engineers to pursue a mechanical engineering degree. The reason solar energy fits well with a mechanical engineering degree at the undergraduate level is because:
- Mechanical engineering typically encompasses material engineering, which lends itself well to understanding solar panels and how they produce electricity.
- Mechanical engineers typically learn more about heat transfer and thermodynamics than other disciplines. This allows for a proper understanding of how solar thermal collectors work.
- Much of the mounting hardware for solar panels and collectors requires structural analysis to ensure it will work for a particular site. Mechanical engineers are taught how to calculate and design for the weight of the system.
After the undergraduate degree, one can pursue dedicated certificates in solar energy or specializations at the masters level. Here are some reputable certificates and masters programs available.