Alternative Energy Researcher  What They Do

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dot Alternative energy researchers are scientists who look for new ways to power our world.

Fossil fuels have been the most common way to create the energy we need to run our homes, cars and businesses. Alternative energy, also called renewable energy, offers more options and a greener outlook than fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources like oil and coal. They take millions of years to form. We can use them up much faster than replacements can form.

Natural resources are other sources of energy, which renew quickly once we use that energy. They include geothermal heat, wind, sunlight, waves and the tides.

dotIn 2004, only 13.1 percent of the world's energy supply was renewable energy, according to the International Energy Agency. Many governments are setting targets to start using more renewable energy to combat climate change and use less oil.

Alternative energy researchers are working to find a way to use more renewable energy. They work every day to make the world a cleaner, greener place.

Alternative energy researchers work as private consultants or scientists. Some have their own businesses. They also work in universities and government research laboratories.

dotOften, bringing change to the world comes with long hours. Although a 40-hour workweek is possible, many people in this field find their passion keeps them at work longer than that.

Jay Gill says the hardest thing about his job is the long hours. He is the national sales manager for Global Resource Corporation, an alternative energy company. He puts in up to 70 hours a week, including work on weekends. But he points out that the long hours are his choice. Not all workers in this field must work such long hours.

"My hours are probably not typical, but you can expect at least 50 hours a week," says Gill. His passion for his job keeps him at work longer. "I can't go home unless I've cleared my desk."

dotThose with special needs should be able to work in this field. "It's more mental work than it is physical," explains Gill.

dotCraig Dunn does geothermal research. He says most research positions are desk jobs that require a computer and a keen mind.

"Again, it is important to do your homework as to the actual job description and workload. As a geologist, I am required to do some field mapping and exploration in remote areas. Clearly, this requires a fit and able body; but the rest of my day would involve mapping and rock analysis with a desk, microscope and computer," says Dunn.

At a Glance

Investigate new ways of getting power

  • Many governments are setting targets to use more renewable energy
  • These researchers work as private consultants or scientists
  • An engineering degree is useful -- and postgraduate studies are even better