A Career in Solar Energy

Today, with more investment, technical assistance and financial incentives being devoted to reducing energy costs and clean energy approaches to construction and renovations, the possibility of a career in renewable energy is being made both more attractive and more practical. These careers are not only receiving more of the resources and attention that they need, but they are directly involved in finding solutions to the energy problems currently facing our society and securing a stable energy future. Seth Maciejowski, currently an electrical engineer at AllEarth Renewables, based in Williston, VT, was inspired by renewable energy at an early age while watching the development of Vermont’s first commercial wind farm in Searsburg, in 1997. His passion remained with him and he later visited wind farms in Germany, Altamont Pass in California and the Gaspe Peninsula in Canada. He recalls that it was in 2003 that his interest in renewables began to turn into something much more significant. After watching a documentary called the “End of Suburbia” that focused on the societal and economic implications of peak oil, he was inspired to begin researching energy systems and our reliance on fossil fuels on his own. “I became absolutely convinced that it was imperative that we work to cut our reliance on fossil fuels both from an environmental and a resource depletion standpoint.” Since then, Seth says he has devoted himself to creating his own renewable energy systems and becoming less dependent on fossil fuels. He now lives in a super insulated house that is equipped with a solar photovoltaic system, he grows a lot of the food he eats and he has bicycle commuted more than 8,000 miles to work over the recent years. Seth’s story began in Brattleboro where he was born and nearby Springfield, where he grew up. It was through the Springfield High School Technical Center that he discovered his interest in engineering while taking classes in Drafting and Electronics. He went on to pursue this interest at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts where he completed his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering. He then chose to return to his home state to complete a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Vermont. Although Seth’s path and area of academic interest revolves around the technical sciences, he is quick to emphasize that the field is really quite vast and that there are a lot of options to get involved. “Renewable energy is a great field to be in with a lot of potential for growth. There are a lot of different career paths that can be taken in renewables, so it isn’t necessary to study strictly technical fields.” After graduating, Seth decided to stay in Chittenden County because of the recreational opportunities that the Vermont landscape has to offer, a few of his favorite activities being rock and ice climbing, cycling and hiking. Seth also enjoyed the more rural style of living that he grew up with. In 2008, Seth joined AllEarth Renewables, a Vermont company that is focused on designing and manufacturing technology for renewable energy solutions. He was hired as an Embedded Electrical Engineer, designing circuit boards and writing computer code to operate control systems. He plays an integral role in the fashioning on the company’s innovative AllSun Tracker, a solar tracking system that uses GPS technology to keep solar panels facing the sun throughout the day, allowing them to produce up to 45% more electricity than a fixed roof-top system. Seth points to the importance of good political leadership and the strong support of Vermonters in defining our state as a strong advocate of renewable energy and efficiency and continuing on this path in the future. He thinks that the state’s energy plan is a good blueprint, but that we need to continue to push to keep these programs funded. “It’s always good to remember that these programs and incentives are an important investment in the future as well as today. The benefits we get are a certainty of reasonably priced energy in the future and great local jobs in the present.” In the future Seth hopes to see both an increase in production of our renewable energies of all sizes, incorporating wind, solar, hydro and biomass, while also cutting our usage of energy through efficiency programs. “Our state and our country are fueled primarily by fossil fuels which are getting more and more expensive and scarce. If we continue to place emphasis on our current status quo of intense fossil fuel consumption for energy, we are setting up our environment and our economy for a steep decline. Renewables can help to lessen the shock of high energy prices and conserve some of the fossil fuels for future generations.” By Neel Tandan