What Does a Renewable Energy Engineer Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about renewable energy engineers and the work you will do in this role to find energy solutions for combating climate change.

[Featured Image] A renewable energy engineer talks to a technician at a wind turbine.

Renewable energy engineers develop and design systems to use energy from renewable resources, such as the sun, wind, and water. Renewable resources are energy sources that are naturally and continually replaced. They are alternatives to nonrenewable resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas that do not replenish themselves. 

Throughout the past 200 years, nonrenewable resources such as fossil fuels have revolutionized human technological progress through their convenience and the amount of energy they produce per kilogram. Even though fossil fuels account for 79 percent of all energy resources used as of 2022 [1], they are harmful to the environment, pumping carbon dioxide into the air and contributing to global climate change. This is why renewable energy use is on the rise, especially with decreasing costs for the technology, creating opportunities for renewable energy engineers to help build the energy future. 

This article examines what a renewable energy engineer does, the importance of the role, the skills needed, renewable energy engineer jobs, and how to start on this career path.

What is a renewable energy engineer?

Renewable energy engineers design, implement, and maintain renewable energy infrastructure. In this role, you might design renewable energy solutions in new places using current technology, optimize technology to be more efficient and economical, or search for new renewable energy technologies entirely. Your main goal will be figuring out how to harness energy from renewable resources in a way that reduces cost and maximizes the energy generated. 

What kind of engineers work in renewable energy?

While some engineers may have the specific job title of renewable energy engineer, many kinds of engineers work in the renewable energy field. Let’s take a look at the various engineers who work in renewable energy:

  • Chemical engineers

  • Mechanical engineers

  • Industrial engineers

Chemical engineers

Chemical engineers use their understanding of chemistry, physics, and math to solve environmental problems. Two problems in the product of renewable energy that chemical engineers face are finding alternatives for fossil fuels and creating new methods for making this change possible. In this role, you will analyze the cost of alternatives, how to recycle or dispose of chemical waste, and how to scale up production processes. 

Mechanical engineers

Mechanical engineers work in every process during the production of renewable energy, from the production of effective wind turbines to solar power. In this role, you will develop and improve energy systems' mechanical, thermodynamic, fluid dynamic, and material aspects. You'll make systems cost-effective and research new technologies and infrastructure for energy storage. 

Industrial engineers

The production of renewable energy requires many interconnecting disciplines and a systematic production process that requires the skills of industrial engineers to create. You'll find processes to convert, distribute, and consume renewable energy sources by interconnecting all disciplines involved in the process. 

Where do renewable energy engineers work?

In a similar way that renewable energy engineers work in various energy disciplines, they also work in different industries. They work for local and federal governments as well as for manufacturing and consulting companies. Some companies they work for are:

  • US Department of Energy

  • Exxon Mobil

  • General Electric

  • Amergy Solar

  • FutureNet Group

  • TPI Composites

Renewable energy engineers work in the automotive, environmental, hazardous material, wastewater, or urban planning industries. 

What does a renewable energy engineer do?

While all renewable energy engineers look to optimize energy solutions, you can specialize in a specific energy source like solar or wind power, working within the unique aspects of each energy source. You’ll likely work in an office but may often travel to job sites for installation and maintenance of equipment. 

Let’s take a closer look at the tasks and responsibilities of renewable energy engineers. 

Renewable energy engineer tasks and responsibilities

The overarching task of renewable energy engineers is to research and design renewable energy systems either from the start or revamp an old engineering system to work with renewable energy. Once a project begins, you will oversee its development to ensure it meets federal, state, and local environmental regulations. You’ll also maintain equipment so that it keeps up its function and works as intended. 

The day-to-day tasks of a renewable energy engineer may consist of:

  • Creating cost estimates for projects

  • Identifying new energy projects and ways to improve infrastructure

  • Implementing safety protocols and ensuring compliance

  • Managing projects to completion by coordinating with contractors

  • Creating and presenting project blueprints to clients and other engineers

  • Working on-site, overseeing construction operations

  • Collaborating with engineering teams to look for solutions

  • Carrying out final inspections after project completion

Renewable energy engineer skills

As a renewable energy engineer, you need a variety of skills to be successful in your job. Like many other engineering roles, this role requires math and science competencies, data analysis skills, skills in computer-aided design (CAD), and the ability to manage teams to ensure projects meet deadlines. Below is a list of technical and workplace skills essential for renewable energy engineers. 

Technical skills

The range of technical skills for renewable energy engineers includes:

  • Renewable energy market knowledge

  • Renewable energy regulations

  • Project management

  • Energy engineering

  • CAD

  • Solar power

  • Photovoltaics (PV)

Workplace skills

Workplace skills for renewable energy engineers are as follows:

  • Problem-solving

  • Planning

  • Organization 

  • Verbal communication

  • Written communication 

Renewable energy engineer salary and job outlook

The salary for renewable energy engineers varies depending on the job type. Let’s take a closer look at a variety of renewable energy engineer average salaries:

  • Renewable energy engineer: $86,146 per year [2]

  • Solar engineer: $78,724 per year [3

  • Wind engineer: $111,718 per year [4

  • Energy engineer: $97,284 per year [5

  • Energy efficiency engineer: $98,659 per year [6]

One of the biggest factors that affect the average annual salary of a renewable energy engineer is years of experience in the field [2]:

0–1 years1–3 years4–6 years7–9 years10–14 years15+ years

With renewable energy expected to replace more and more fossil fuels, growth opportunities will likely open up. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a job growth rate of 6 percent for environmental engineers from 2022 to 2032 [7].

Renewable energy engineer career path

As a renewable energy engineer, you may start your career as a junior engineer before gaining experience and taking on more of the leadership responsibilities of a senior renewable energy engineer. 

Education and training

Employers often require renewable energy engineers to have at least a bachelor’s degree for an entry-level position. Some may require a master’s degree for higher-level positions. If you pursue an undergraduate degree in environmental, electrical, chemical, or mechanical engineering, you should gain sufficient knowledge in your studies to work in the field instead of needing a specified renewable energy engineering degree. 


Most employers also require renewable energy engineers to attain certification. The kind of certification needed for engineers varies from state to state. However, the Certified Renewable Energy Professional (REP) certification is a good fit for renewable energy engineers. This certification requires a related degree or qualification plus two to five years of work experience; alternatively, you may be eligible with a Certified Energy Manager credential or 10 years of work experience. You must also complete 27 hours of training and pass an exam on renewable energy topics. 

A range of other basic engineering certifications may be useful, such as the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) professional engineer certification. This certification first requires the passing of the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which recent graduates can take. Once you have gained four years of work experience, you can take the Principles and Practice of Environmental (PE) exam to prove your competency in the field. Always check your state’s licensing board before registering for an examination to see if it has additional requirements. 

Getting started with Coursera

Are you looking to upskill in your current job or find an entry-level position as a renewable energy engineer? Try the Renewable Energy and Green Building Entrepreneurship course from Duke University or the Introduction to Environmental Science Specialization from Dartmouth, both on Coursera. They each provide you with a shareable certificate upon completion to prove your skills. 

Article sources


US Energy Information Administration. “Renewable energy explained, https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/renewable-sources/.” Accessed March 18, 2024. 

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