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Old 11-01-2008, 11:13 AM   #1
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New "Green" Job Search

It's not lost on me that I'm generally in the wrong forum/audience for this.

I think I would like to work in the "green" industry, it would seem there would be more of a future (growth & industry longevity), whether in new technology (wind, solar, etc.) or conservation. I'm not looking to get rich but everything I find is extremely low paying and new tech has obvious risks. And until the economics reach break even with existing technology/alternatives (or legislation forces it), growth would seem problematic. For example, wind sounds promising long term, but it's highly reliant on tax breaks so I suspect it's going to be very tough short term (from what I've read, wind is hitting a wall right now).

Anyway, any advice/leads?
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Old 11-01-2008, 12:53 PM   #2
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Old 11-01-2008, 01:37 PM   #3
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Anyway, any advice/leads?
I think "green" is this millenium's version of last millenium's "online clicks, not mortar & bricks".

It seems that every big-box retailer in Hawaii is slathering PV panels on their roofs, installing solar water heaters, putting automatic cut-off valves on toilet & sink water, recycling, calculating carbon numbers, and bragging about it in press releases. Oh, yeah, and they're saving money too.

What's your background? If it's engineering then there's the usual need for a better windmill, a better PV panel, a better mounting system, and better tools to mount all the hardware. If you're a designer then it's integrating green into the product, not adding it later. I think there's a whole new wave of microprocessor or MEMS control of power-generation & recycling systems that used to be done manually or through RubeGoldberg analog circuits. If you're selling then it's consumer education and stripping/dumbing down the products to the point where people are willing to shell out now for a five-year payback.

And it's getting awful hard to finance all of this in a credit-frozen environment. Imagine if a homeowner didn't have to spend anything to have a solar-water system built on their roof-- just agree to have $50/month added to their electric bill (which would drop by at least that much when the system was added) for five years.

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For example, wind sounds promising long term, but it's highly reliant on tax breaks so I suspect it's going to be very tough short term (from what I've read, wind is hitting a wall right now).
I think it's all highly dependent on tax breaks, not just wind. People have to be encouraged to spend up-front money (that they probably don't have) to realize back-end savings. And if there's a utility or municipality involved then it's because subsidies are cheaper than the approval/construction costs of a new utility.

Wind seems to be going through a shift from the gargantuan megawatt industrial generators to home designs. One company claims to have nearly eliminated noise/vibration in favor of rooftop mounting while another has a helical windmill that's on just a 30-foot mast-- not too objectionable for most neighborhoods. Another company offers free three-month monitoring of your homeowner property to see if there's enough wind to make it worthwhile.

I think wind will gradually catch on over the next 10 years. If you're not overly concerned about job security then it probably has more fertile ground for progress & innovation...
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Old 11-02-2008, 01:02 AM   #4
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Midpack, seems we have a few things in common. I had a solar electrical (PV) system installed when I built my home a few years back (10kw, 80 x 150w BP panels, 2 Trace 5548 inverters, and a battery backup). I have been interested in PV/alternative energy since HS, 30 odd years ago. My home looks rather mainstream from the street but is pretty green, and I intend to install an Air X and 2 more panels in the next year or so for landscape lighting and backup water-well power. If the Air X produces well, and it should given our wind profile, I may install a Skystream in a couple years, for (hopefully) electric car power.

Why do I elaborate this? Its because I think the best way to advertise or sell is to believe in what you are selling. I am very likely to take a part-time role selling PV systems for the company that installed our system. I don't expect to make much, but believing in what I sell, and having a showroom to show it off, I think I will be more or less successful at it.

Now, if you have an engineering background as well as a management background, perhaps you can use that to come up with better tower systems for distributed generation wind, or perhaps if you were in aeronautic design you could come up with a better wind ginny blade...the blades on the GE engines on a 777 never cease to amaze me and cause me to wonder if some of the design/engineering that went into burning all that fuel to produce wind could not be employed to harness the wind to produce fuel...electricity.

However, as you are a sr mgr at megacorp, I do believe that you will find that remuneration in a green energy field will leave you unfulfilled if you try to compare it with what you make now. That's why I'm sticking it out a bit longer and considering a move to green energy more as a hobby cum volunteer cum "pay for healthcare/insurance" type of role that I can do in ER/ESR. It will be something to occupy my mind, and doing something in whin I have a keen interest, that promotes alt-energy in society. Since I'm not an engineer, this is where I think I can add the most value.

Just my 2 cents...
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Old 11-02-2008, 03:44 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
It's not lost on me that I'm generally in the wrong forum/audience for this.
Why do you think this?

Quote:
I think I would like to work in the "green" industry, it would seem there would be more of a future (growth & industry longevity), whether in new technology (wind, solar, etc.) or conservation. I'm not looking to get rich but everything I find is extremely low paying and new tech has obvious risks.

...Anyway, any advice/leads?
To me it seems that "green" is just a buzz word. Aren't you perhaps just pursuing attributes of a product and not the product/industry itself? Many of the innovations are likely to be absorbed into the existing strong companies. So it will be hard to isolate "green" without taking risks. Perhaps do a study of who is taking those risks now and see if your skill sets match their needs would be an approach. There are several Silicon Valley startups you might check out. Of course, people are often in startups to make lots of money and they work long hours and there are a lot of failed startups. And from what I've seen they tend to be young and kind of brash -- maybe just my bias. Glad I'm retired.
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Old 11-02-2008, 10:39 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
It's not lost on me that I'm generally in the wrong forum/audience for this.

I think I would like to work in the "green" industry, it would seem there would be more of a future (growth & industry longevity), whether in new technology (wind, solar, etc.) or conservation. I'm not looking to get rich but everything I find is extremely low paying and new tech has obvious risks. And until the economics reach break even with existing technology/alternatives (or legislation forces it), growth would seem problematic. For example, wind sounds promising long term, but it's highly reliant on tax breaks so I suspect it's going to be very tough short term (from what I've read, wind is hitting a wall right now).

Anyway, any advice/leads?
LOL! I looked at the same move just a few weeks ago. Are you in Chicago? Are you willing to move? I know that MA is pushing to form a big alternative energy cluster, but CA still has the edge.

Another company that may be interesting is Sun Edison, but they are in Maryland. They front all the initial investments for PV panels that they install for big retailers such as Whole Foods and Staples. These retailers in turn make monthly payments to Sun Edison for the next 20 years. Who knows, this model could work simply because companies not in the PV panel business don't need to go out and acquire the expertise.
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Old 11-03-2008, 12:04 AM   #7
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Another company that may be interesting is Sun Edison, but they are in Maryland. They front all the initial investments for PV panels that they install for big retailers such as Whole Foods and Staples. These retailers in turn make monthly payments to Sun Edison for the next 20 years. Who knows, this model could work simply because companies not in the PV panel business don't need to go out and acquire the expertise.
Actually Sun Edison is going national-- buying up local solar companies and scaling into the big projects. The installer that helped me with our array is now Sun Edison's manager of one of Hawaii's largest PV installers.

Another local company just arranged a power contract with the DOT. They're installing a total of 1 MW of PV panels on top of airport buildings (state property) on four islands, at a cost of ~$10M, and selling the power back to HECO for 20 years. Their fee starts at ~30 cents/KWHr and escalates a small percentage each year.

A smaller version of that business model is/was CitizenRe. I used to see their spam on Craigslist a lot but they haven't been so active lately.
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Old 11-03-2008, 09:23 PM   #8
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Cool! That's good to know, but I'm looking at the financial analyst role, and for that, I'd have to move to Beltsville. The other role I could be a fit is Biz Dev for China. For that job, I'll have to up root my entire life which is totally fine with me.
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Old 11-05-2008, 01:24 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
It's not lost on me that I'm generally in the wrong forum/audience for this.
I think I would like to work in the "green" industry, it would seem there would be more of a future (growth & industry longevity), whether in new technology (wind, solar, etc.) or conservation.
Anyway, any advice/leads?
Here's an interesting idea.

We got a phone call the other day from a shipmate. He and I served on a submarine for a month together and then, a decade later, he served with spouse in her Reserve unit. He knows what we're like, that I'm retired, and that she's retiring.

He actually called her first (she specializes in "bringing order out of chaos") to see if she was interested, but when she passed he wanted to talk to me (I like cool renewable energy projects that will get done). NREL (in Boulder) is seeking a "project manager" willing to work in Hawaii for 3-5 years. The job description is frustratingly generic (it doesn't even say "Hawaii") but shipmate's brother works at NREL and it's not being filled from inside. NREL brother was asked to move back to Hawaii to take the project. He passed but called his brother, who also passed but thought of us.

Here's a couple press releases that might be related to the job:
NREL: NREL Enters Wind Energy Research Partnership in Hawaii
NREL: Feature Story - Islands Initiative to Put Clean Energy in Paradise

PM me if you want the job description, but I wouldn't get bogged down in the requirements. If NREL is pressuring people to call their relatives and their long-retired shipmates, then they must be having a really hard time finding someone who wants to surf live here. And if they're calling me then they're truly fishing the bottom of the barrel...
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Old 11-05-2008, 06:17 PM   #10
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Midpack, I'm thinking along the same lines, but I think my ideal job (in many respects) might be here:

http://www.newbelgium.com

It's the first brewery in the US to be run 100% on wind power. But I like that they've taken a common-enough industry (microbrewery) and successfully made it green. Several of the wineries around here are following suit.
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Old 11-05-2008, 11:14 PM   #11
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Midpack, I'm thinking along the same lines, but I think my ideal job (in many respects) might be here:

http://www.newbelgium.com

It's the first brewery in the US to be run 100% on wind power. But I like that they've taken a common-enough industry (microbrewery) and successfully made it green. Several of the wineries around here are following suit.

Thanks for the link Urchina. I just went there, expecting the usual green 'fluff', but I was actually very impressed. They seem to be taking some good steps. A lot of it is just good business - saving energy saves $. Which just points out that the two are not mutually exclusive. Other things are being done simply because it seems like the right thing to do - good for them. And *that* can be good business, if people support companies that do the right thing. It's all good.

I still cringe a bit at your wording, "successfully made it green". Not trying to pick it apart, it might have just been phrased casually, but there are not many manufacturing industries that I would call "green". They may be relatively "greener" than their competitors, but to actually "be green", IMO, would mean reversing environmental damage, or at least a net zero of damage.

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Old 11-06-2008, 08:37 AM   #12
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I have friends who work at New Belgium. It really does seem like a model business and they really like it. My glimpse of reality on this is that the average worker age is probably something like 30 and there are few, if any, workers that I've seen in my visits to the brewery that are over maybe 45. Us older ERs might not feel quite at home there. Also, their main product is beer which isn't exactly like making wind power, building trails, or rehabilitating damaged habitat.

It's actually a great example of how an ordinary business can find ways to make a difference without being into some sort of feel good enterprise and there are sure a lot of environmental opportunities in many more everyday businesses.
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