How to Become a Solar Photovoltaic Installer
Most photovoltaic installers learn on the job working with experienced installers.
Although some photovoltaic (PV) installers need only a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year, most candidates receive training at a technical school or community college. These 2-year programs offer entry-level courses or may be part of an apprenticeship program.
Most PV installers take courses at local community colleges and 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, where 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.
Although there are currently no apprenticeship programs for solar photovoltaic installers, a few workers learn PV installation through other occupational apprenticeship programs, such as electrician apprenticeships.
In most states, an electrician is fully qualified to connect PV systems to electric grids. They are also able to connect panels to battery sources.
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 40 pounds.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Prior experience in construction may shorten a new employees training time. For example, workers with prior 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, candidates need at least 58 hours of advanced PV training by an accredited school or organization as well as complete a ten-hour construction safety course through OSHA.
The Electronics Technicians Association International also offers certification.