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 a PV installer. Most workers need a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year. Other candidates take courses at a technical school or community college. Some PV installers learn to install panels as part of an apprenticeship.
Most employers require PV installers to have a high school diploma. 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 lengths vary 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 option 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 training, PV installers learn about safety, tools, and PV system installation techniques.
Electrician and roofing apprentices and journey workers may complete photovoltaic-specific training modules through apprenticeships.
Solar PV system manufacturers may also provide training on specific products. Such training usually includes a system overview and proper installation techniques for the manufacturer’s products.
Military veterans may benefit from the Solar Ready Vets program, which is a joint effort of the U.S Departments of Defense and Energy to connect veterans with training and jobs in the solar industry.
Communication skills. PV installers often need to communicate effectively with clients to ensure customer satisfaction and with other workers to ensure that proper safety and installation procedures are followed.
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 in order to build support structures for solar panels and to 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 throughout the day.
Physical strength. PV installers often lift heavy equipment and materials weighing 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
Most employers require PV installers to have a driver’s license.
Certification is not a requirement but can demonstrate a PV installer’s competency in solar panel installation. The Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA); the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners; and Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE) Inc., all offer certification for PV installers.