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Solar Installer Training Programs

solarinstallation-1The trend of environmental concern doesn’t seem to be faltering under the pressure of a declining economy and a new administration. On January 16th, Fastcompany.com published a list of the best green jobs of 2009, which placed solar installer as third (after farmer and forester), making it the highest rated tech-based green job. Especially as solar materials become more accessible and affordable, the tech world’s largest share of the environmentally based market will be in solar installation. The only question now is how to get involved.

A national organization dedicated to training individuals and providing customers with certified, trained installers is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), a group of volunteers that represent stakeholders in renewable energy.

The NABCEP does not issue government sponsored certificates or permits that allow people to install solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation systems and equipment or solar thermal (ST) systems independently, but they do grant three different certificates, including an entry level certificate that indicates a wide variety of skill training including hands-on installation of a unit. Specific outlines of the training courses can be found on the NABCEP website.

Once you have earned a Photovoltaic Entry Level Certificate of Knowledge and attained some experience, they have additional programs that award certification in either PV system or ST system installation, or both. NABCEP has trained installers in forty-three states, Canada and Puerto Rico and has a wide selection of programs across the country (click here for a link to current NABCEP certified providers with currently scheduled programs).

The Photovoltaic Entry Level Certificate of Knowledge is earned by completing a NABCEP sponsored course and passing an exam that certifies you have met the training requirements. This course is developed around the needs of newcomers to the solar installation field. The exam is updated by experts in the field several times a year in order to keep course material up to date with technology. Many Web sites emphasize that certification will not replace competency in general engineering, electrical, or tech skills but will complement an education in these areas and can aid when searching for a job.

A good place to start looking for an opportunity to get involved in a solar installation course for beginners is at a local two-year college. Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas, began the NABCEP approved entry level course on January 26th, which, according to the school, includes “a combination of interactive, hands-on training; lectures; on-the-job training; real world solar applications; solar installation contractor training; national electric code information; and much more.” Sid Bolfing, a TSTC instructor, says that the course is going great, even better than he expected and that enrollment is high, around twenty students. Bolfing also stated on behalf of the college that they have tentative plans to offer another class in the not too distant future.

Depending on where you live, what your prior education or job experience is, and what level of training or certification you complete, a solar installation provider can make anywhere from $11 to $35 an hour ($18,000 and $75,000 a year). California and Michigan have a higher concentration of training facilities. This is because there is a high demand for reputable organizations that offer training as well as community education programs in order to boost the demand for this kind of industrial development. Some of these organizations’ Web sites can be helpful not only in finding training programs but in finding a job once you’ve been trained. Check out the following Web sites for information on places that are looking to hire or have events for people who want to get involved in this field:

Simplyhired.com List of Solar Installer Jobs

Solarcity.com Careers

Solarenergy.com Job Resources

Solar Living Institute Employment Page

Great Lakes Renwable Energy Association Events

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