An energy engineer is an individual who works with new types of renewable energy sources. This includes being on the forefront of developing new, alternative fuel options, including wind and solar power. These engineers work hand in hand with government agencies and companies all over the world in order to make sure that mankind's ever-increasing energy needs are met.
The typical energy engineer has a wide background of education on which to build, as there are a variety of concerns within the research and development of new energy sources. A background in mechanical engineering will help an individual in the development of the physical means by which new technologies are harnessed and turned into a usable form of energy. Some environmental training is also beneficial, as the ultimate goal of the energy engineer is to create a new source of energy with the minimum impact on the world's environment.
Originally, most of the world's energy came from expendable fossil fuels such as oil. Fuels like these are not renewable, and the energy engineer is tasked with finding an alternative fuel source before the world consumes the resources available to it. In addition, he or she can also be involved in creating technologies to make energy consumption more efficient.
Sources of renewable energy include solar, wind, and water power; the energy engineer designs methods for trapping and using this power without impacting the world around. There has also been research on harnessing the power contained in the Earth itself; buildings can be outfitted with nontraditional, geothermal systems that trap and use the naturally occurring heat of the Earth. The energy engineer works not just on developing strategies to replace the energy that powers our homes, but also those that heat homes, run cars, and keep the lights on.
In addition to finding new sources of energy, the energy engineer also finds new ways to make using that energy more efficient. Developing management strategies, finding better ways to transfer energy with minimal loss, and creating more efficient mechanisms for using the energy are all areas that individuals can work in. Systems that automatically regulate a building's heat and lighting to turn on and off when people are present in the building are the work of energy engineers, as is the development of solar cells, energy-efficient lighting, and construction of wind turbines.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is an internationally accepted system of measuring the energy efficiency and environmental friendless of a building. Some of the systems included in these buildings, such as lighting systems and solar heating panels, were designed by energy engineers. Products can range from simple insulated windows that lessen heat loss to high-tech solar panels designed to capture the heat of the sun and turn it into energy.