How to Become a Solar Photovoltaic Installer
Most photovoltaic installers learn on the job working with experienced installers.
There are multiple paths to becoming a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer, often called PV installers. Some workers need only a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year. Other candidates take a course at a technical school or community college. Some PV installers learn to install panels as part of an apprenticeship.
Some PV installers take courses at local community colleges or trade schools to learn about solar panel installation. Courses range from basic safety and PV knowledge to system design. Although course length varies by state and locality, most usually last a few days to several months.
Some candidates may enter the field by taking online training courses. This is particularly useful for candidates with prior construction experience, such as former electricians.
Some PV installers learn their trade on the job by working with experienced installers. On-the-job training usually lasts between 1 month and 1 year, during which workers learn about safety, tool use, and PV system installation techniques.
Solar PV system manufacturers may also provide specific training on a product. Such training usually includes a system overview and proper installation techniques of the manufacturer’s products.
Some large construction contractors provide training to new employees on their own. Workers learn basic PV safety and are given increasingly complex tasks as they prove their abilities.
The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Defense launched the Solar Ready Vets program in 2014 to connect veterans with jobs in the solar industry.
Although there are currently no apprenticeship programs for solar photovoltaic installers, some learn PV installation through other occupational apprenticeship programs. Electrician and roofing apprentices and journey workers may complete photovoltaic-specific training modules.
In most states, an electrician is fully qualified to connect PV systems to electric grids. They are also able to connect panels to inverters and batteries.
Customer-service skills. Residential panel installers must work in customers’ homes. As a result, workers must maintain professionalism and perform the work in a timely manner.
Detail oriented. PV installers must carefully follow instructions during installation. If they fail to do so, the system may not work properly.
Mechanical skills. PV installers work with complex electrical and mechanical equipment. They must be able to build support structures that hold PV panels in place and properly connect the panels to the electrical system.
Physical stamina. PV installers are often on their feet carrying panels and other heavy equipment. When installing rooftop panels, workers may need to climb ladders many times during the course of the day.
Physical strength. PV installers must often lift heavy equipment, parts, and tools. Workers should be strong enough to lift panels that weigh up to 50 pounds.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Experience in construction may shorten a new employee’s training time. For example, workers with experience as an electrician, roofer, carpenter, or laborer typically already understand and can perform basic construction duties.
In addition, those with knowledge of electrical work, such as electricians, are highly valued by contractors.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Although not mandatory, PV installers may obtain certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Certification can demonstrate professionalism and basic PV knowledge to employers. To qualify, workers must complete at least 58 hours of advanced PV training at an accredited school or organization, as well as a 10-hour construction safety course through Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). They also need to pass an exam and show documentation of having led three to five PV installation projects, depending on prior experience.
The Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA) also offers photovoltaic installer certification. Education and training must be taken from an ETA-approved school.
There is also the Certified Solar Roofing Professional (CSRP) credential offered by Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE) Inc. In order to qualify, workers need to prove they have 40 hours of education or training related to basic competencies. Additionally, candidates need to have 3 years of roofing or PV installation experience and have completed at least five PV installations. They must also pass a test.