Renewable energy courses guide

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With enrolment time for next year approaching, we’ve updated our renewable energy courses guide. Mischa Vickas investigates what’s on offer and the opportunities available.

“Things will keep happening, almost regardless of what happens on the political stage,” says Associate Professor Alistair Sproul from the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of NSW; a promising remark at a time of great uncertainty for the renewable energy industry in Australia.

Despite this uncertainty, there still remain many opportunities to become involved in renewable energy (RE) through study and training, whether you are a school-leaver or professional looking to diversify your career. TAFE, university and distance-education courses all provide avenues to entering an industry bound to flourish as Australia looks for sustainable, reliable and affordable energy.

TAFE qualifications

At the front line of the industry are those who directly handle RE technologies. According to the Clean Energy Council, 21,000 people were directly employed by the industry in Australia in construction, installation, operation and maintenance roles at the end of 20131. As a comparison, 27,600 people were employed in oil and gas extraction as of May 20142.

David Tolliday, Renewable Energy Training Coordinator at Holmesglen Institute in Victoria, says the greatest opportunities are for licensed electricians looking to be trained in the design and installation of photovoltaic (PV) systems (both grid-connected and stand-alone) and small wind systems. David says the motivation for undertaking such study is often the prospect of new employment or business development, but at the core of this can be a personal drive to see RE developed in Australia; “I’ve got a passion for it,” he says. David, who has also worked as an electrician for 35 years, undertook training in RE about 10 years ago, and has since benefitted from opportunities to work and teach in RE both in Australia and overseas.

Importantly, RE training is additional to a basic electricians qualification, meaning electricians can diversify into RE while continuing to offer standard products and services.

These courses are offered at over 15 training schools across Australia. If you are not a qualified electrician, a small handful of schools also offer courses in related areas, such as solar sales, carbon accounting and energy auditing, and wind energy site assessment, as well as generalist RE courses that are most suited to architects, engineers and project managers in the construction industry.


An engineering qualification at the undergraduate or postgraduate level can also enable a career in RE research and project management, particularly for emerging large-scale solar and wind technologies. “Renewable energy and energy efficiency is going to be very disruptive to what we are doing now and we need people who can figure it out,” says Alistair.

Whilst a mechanical or electrical engineering degree can provide you with the general skills relevant to RE, students can also undertake engineering degrees majoring in RE, PV and solar, sustainable systems, as well as environmental engineering.

Although the majority of students at university are school leavers, Alistair says that some students are already professionals in engineering or the physical sciences looking to update their qualifications, and some of these go on to start up their own businesses in RE and energy efficiency.

Read the full article in ReNew 129, or download our extensive renewable energy courses table.