There are several critical problem areas associated with any renewable energy project. Too many people seem to get excited about solving one problem that might interest them, and push the rest to the back of their minds as something to tackle later. I think this is the wrong approach because everything is related right from the start. There are a few different disciplines that come together in renewable technology, perhaps more than in most other pursuits, and the more you know about each of them the better.
Usually there is some physics, often a bit of chemistry, perhaps some electrical engineering or electronics, maybe some mechanical work or structures, and always, always costings and finance. Neglect any of the vital ingredients at your peril, you may end up with something that is very impressive but useless. None of this is a problem though because skills and knowledge can be learnt. I know I'm stating the obvious but there is no shame in that, and sometimes it's a good thing.
I'm fairly lucky, my background is nothing exceptional but, by chance, I do seem to have acquired some of the cross-discipline skills that turn out to be essential for renewable work.
I left school at sixteen and spent a year training in engineering and electronics at the EITB (Engineering Industries Training Board). Then, one day a week for five years at college gave me a full-Tech in electrical engineering. After that, I took a degree in physics. Surprisingly, I ended-up running a computer games company, which was, at least, a shock course in costs, finance and budgeting. Five years ago I enrolled in a course in refrigeration and air-conditioning. All in all, fairly lucky considering what I am doing now.
I live and work up on the Pennines in Yorkshire in a very windy place. If anywhere is ideal for windmills, it has to be here. The winters are hard and long, so my interest in renewables is, in part, driven by the practical necessities of where I live. There are many violent storms during the year and we frequently lose our electricity supply. Often we are cut-off due to heavy snow. This all leads to manic self-reliance, and back-up supplies of power, food and heat are just a normal routine. If the backup comes from renewables, so much the better. In fact, I am determined to be totally reliant on renewable energy within the next 3 years.