More Universities Offering Master’s Degree Programs in Renewable Energy

In an effort to help ease the pain of jobs losses throughout the state and bolster the work force that will be necessary if the U.S. is going to transition to a green economy, four universities in Ohio are collaborating to offer a Masters degree program in renewable energy.

“Ohio is in the midst of major job losses and is trying to reinvent itself as a tech-based economy. One of those ways is in the area of ‘green’ jobs,” said Kevin Hallinan, director of the University of Dayton’s master’s program in clean and renewable energy.

Renewable energy companies in Ohio were pleased to learn about the state’s first master’s program in clean and renewable energy.

“We consider this program to be good news for us, the U.S. solar industry and the state,” said Carol Campbell, First Solar vice president of human resources.

“We applaud this effort to develop talent that will support the state’s leading role in the fast-growing renewable energy industry.” Tempe, AZ-based First Solar operates customer support and manufacturing operations in Perrysburg, Ohio, near Toledo.

The University of Dayton, Wright State University, Central State University and the Air Force Institute of Technology are joining forces to start the two-year program, in which students can enroll a full-time or part-time basis.

Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor, Eric D. Fingerhut, believes that the program could serve as a model for other states.

“Students will graduate from this master’s program with the leadership, management, research and technical skills needed to help grow one of the most critical industries of the 21st century — clean and renewable energy and advanced energy systems. The program has the potential to be a regional academic center of excellence where new ideas are incubated, developed, tested and refined,” he said.

In addition to developing more engineers, the universities say the program is designed to help address the need for stable, clean and economical energy sources. The program also compliments the state of Ohio’s interest in research within Ohio’s Third Frontier Project and the University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio.

Furthermore, organizers hope graduates will start new businesses to create new Ohio jobs.

“It is important for Ohio companies working in fuel cells and other energy sources to have access to a qualified workforce,” said Scott Swartz, chief technology officer of NexTech Materials. “Having these students trained in Ohio makes it easier for these companies to recruit the best possible workforce.” NexTech is based north of Columbus in Lewis Center, Ohio.

The program will operate within the University of Dayton’s (UD’s) mechanical and aerospace engineering department and Wright State University’s mechanical and materials engineering department. Students will receive a UD or a Wright State degree, depending where they enroll.

The Air Force Institute of Technology and Central State University also will offer classes and instructors but will not grant degrees.

Classes will focus on development of energy-reducing design techniques, renewable energy and manufacturing systems and better forms of solar energy, fuel cells and biofuels.

Iceland and Beyond: Other Renewable Energy Degree Programs

As is the case with many aspects of the renewable energy industry, Europe is at the forefront.  And when it comes to degrees in renewable energy, both undergraduate and graduate, Ohio isn’t the only place to study renewable energy.

RES – the School for Renewable Energy Science, in Iceland, in cooperation with University of Iceland and University of Akureyri, as well as in partnership with a number of technical universities throughout the globe, offers a one-year masters degree program in renewable energy science and technology.

For the 2008 program, students choose to focus on one of three areas of study: geothermal, fuel cell systems and hydrogen or biofuels and bioenergy. In 2009 the school will be adding two additional choices: hydropower and energy systems / policies. If there is sufficient interest, the school will add wind and solar energy studies in the future.

The European Renewable Energy Research Centres (EUREC) Agency, which recognized the need for more renewable energy in higher education back in 2002, offers a European Master in Renewable Energy degree to interested students.

With a trimester structure similar to that of the RES program, in the first semester, the students study key renewable energy technologies; in the second semester, they specialize in a chosen technology at a different university and at the end of the course, students complete a practical or research project.

The five tracks offered through the European Master in Renewable Energy include bioenergy, hybrid systems, photovoltaics, energy conservation in buildings and wind energy.

Master’s degrees in renewable energy are also offered in the following European universities: University of Dundee in Scottland, The University of Nottingham in England, The University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, and The University of Jyväskylä in Finland.

With a global community focused on renewable energy, it’s likely that more universities both in the U.S. and abroad will start offering programs such as these.

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on Renewable Energy World and POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at

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