How to Become a Solar Technician

If you want to get in on a booming industry that is destined for explosive growth, consider the solar industry. Solar energy technician jobs are some of the fastest-growing in the U.S., and with the recent report from the IPCC that the world must quickly decarbonize in the next 12 years you can rest assured that solar technicians will be in high demand for the foreseeable future. Around 12,000 people were employed as solar photovoltaic installers in 2019. Of these around 35%  worked for electrical contractors, around 33% were employed by plumbing or heating and air-conditioning (HVAC) contractors, and rest were either self-employed or working for utility companies.

Search Electrician Programs

Get information on Electrician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

Sponsored Ad

How Does Solar Energy Work?

A Solar Energy Technician installs panels on a rooftop.

In active solar power systems, solar energy from the sun is captured by photovoltaic cells located in solar panels, generally installed on rooftops in residential installations or, for business or utility-scale installations, in a solar array that is a large set of panels either on the ground, floating on water or in some instances as a solar roof in a parking lot. Depending on whether your home system is on-grid or off-grid, the solar energy is then added to the electricity in circulation generated by your local provider, which will be reflected in a lower electricity bill for you, or used to power your home, with excess stored on-site in a battery such as a Tesla Powerwall. Off-grid solar power systems are more useful in the case of local power outages but are more complex to install.

Passive solar involves designing structures or using equipment to absorb and release heat through design, without the use of electricity. Passive solar is frequently used to heat water for swimming pools or household use. It can also be used for heating and cooling your home.

What Do Solar Technicians Do?

Solar technicians install, maintain, troubleshoot and test photovoltaic systems, which include solar panels, fans pumps and other equipment. They can work on residential installations, private business or utility scale installations. Solar technicians should be comfortable working outdoors. Not all solar installations are on rooftops, but anyone interested in becoming a solar technician should be comfortable with heights. The installation of solar energy systems may require the help of roofers and electricians, and so the solar energy technician needs to be comfortable working alongside other professionals.

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) installers piece together, set up, and maintain rooftop or other systems that convert sunlight into energy. They will typically be responsible for planning the configuration of the PV system to meet the needs of the customer. This configuration will depend on the amount of energy required (for heating, cooling or charging battery systems), the size of the building and the normal hours of sunlight for the location. The configuration may be constrained by the architecture of the building. They will measure, cut and assemble the structure required to support the solar PV panels, then install the solar panels and support structures in compliance with local building codes and standards.

Solar panel installers may be responsible for connecting solar energy system to the electrical grid, depending on the job and state regulations, although this is sometimes a job for electricians. Once installed, the system will require testing for proper wiring, polarity, and grounding.

Solar energy technicians are also responsible for the maintenance of solar PV systems.

What education is required to become a solar energy technician?

Solar energy is growing in popularity all across the United States, and so are solar technician training programs. There are many programs specifically designed to retrain workers laid off from other waning industries, to aid veterans’ re-entry to the civilian world and to help members of native tribes attain renewable energy training. Some programs can be completed in as few as five weeks, but many will take several months.

The Department of Energy offers a lot of information about opportunities for training in the solar field. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) offers exams for newly-trained technicians in the field of renewable energy. Solar technicians can test to be certified as a NABCEP Photovoltaic Associate or a NABCEP Solar Heating Associate. NABCEP also offers more advanced certificates for designers and installers. Certification is not generally required for employment, but it does demonstrate competency in panel installation, may make you more attractive to employers and help you access the best solar technician jobs.

PV installers will typically need a high school diploma or GED. Some solar energy technicians take classes at local community colleges, technical or trade schools to learn about solar panel installation. Program content will include basic safety awareness, photovoltaic technical knowledge, building code and regulations and system design. The complete solar energy technician will be equipped with both the technical knowledge of photovoltaic systems and the practical skills required to make a secure and reliable installation.

Training programs you may want to check are the Sustainable Contruction program at Kennebec Valley Community College in Maine

How much do solar panel installers make?

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), solar photovoltaic installers made an average annual salary of $44,890 as of May 2019. While entry-level workers earned less than $31,600, the top 10% earned over $63,880. On average those PV installers employed by electrical contractors earned slightly more.

The future for this occupation is very promising as the BLS predicts the number of solar technician jobs to grow by 51% between 2019 and 2029. This compares with a predicted growth of only 3% for other construction trade workers during the same period.

How is a Solar Energy Technician Different from a Solar Electrician?

While most solar technicians are primarily responsible for installation and maintenance of solar systems, solar electricians handle more complex wiring work, maintaining commercial solar arrays, connecting systems to the grid or inverters and more, and have much more stringent professional requirements. Becoming a solar energy technician is a good start toward becoming an electrician, but to begin the process officially you will need to be taken on as an apprentice and follow a several-years-long process of working under supervision, culminating in testing for a Master Electrician’s license.

Featured School

Penn Foster College – Residential Electrician Career Diploma

Nationally Accredited and Licensed School. Support from Expert Faculty and Success Coaches. Up-to-date Material That Complies with the National Electric Code (NEC)®. Snap-On Tool Discount for Trades Students.Call 1-800-851-1819 today.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in the electrical field and like being outdoors, training as a solar energy technician is an excellent choice. In anticipation of high demand, there are a number of government-supported training programs. Many state governments have made renewable energy pledges that will require a great amount of solar installations for businesses, public buildings and private homes. There will be purchases made by local governments as well as incentives for local citizens to have rooftop solar installed on their homes.

As a solar energy technician, you will not only help your clients save money and possibly have a more reliable source of energy during power outages, but you will also be improving air quality through reduced fossil fuel emissions and helping to fight global warming.

Popular Colleges

Search Electrician Programs

Get information on Electrician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

Sponsored Ad

Solar Energy Technician College Programs

Arizona

Arizona State University Campus Immersion

University Drive and Mill Avenue, Tempe, Arizona 85287

Arizona Western College

2020 S. Avenue 8E, Yuma, Arizona 85365-8834

Central Arizona College

8470 N Overfield Rd, Coolidge, Arizona 85128-9030

Coconino Community College

2800 S. Lone Tree Rd., Flagstaff, Arizona 86005-2701

East Valley Institute of Technology

1601 W Main St, Mesa, Arizona 85201

Eastern Arizona College

615 N. Stadium Ave., Thatcher, Arizona 85552-0769

California

Skyline College

3300 College Dr, San Bruno, California 94066-1698

Colorado

Pueblo Community College

900 W Orman Ave, Pueblo, Colorado 81004-1499

Connecticut

Gateway Community College

20 Church Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06510

Delaware

Delaware Technical Community College-Terry

100 Campus Drive, Dover, Delaware 19901

Florida

Charlotte Technical College

18150 Murdock Circle, Port Charlotte, Florida 33948-3399

Erwin Technical College

2010 E. Hillsborough Avenue, Tampa, Florida 33610-8299

Indian River State College

3209 Virginia Ave, Fort Pierce, Florida 34981-5596

Okaloosa Technical College

1976 Lewis Turner Blvd, Fort Walton Beach, Florida 32547

Georgia

Albany Technical College

1704 South Slappey Boulevard, Albany, Georgia 31701

Athens Technical College

800 U.S. Hwy 29 North, Athens, Georgia 30601

Georgia Northwestern Technical College

One Maurice Culberson Drive, Rome, Georgia 30161

Gwinnett Technical College

5150 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville, Georgia 30043-5702

Lanier Technical College

2535 Lanier Tech Drive, Gainesville, Georgia 30507

Ogeechee Technical College

One Joseph E. Kennedy Blvd, Statesboro, Georgia 30458

Savannah Technical College

5717 White Bluff Rd, Savannah, Georgia 31405-5594

South Georgia Technical College

900 South GA Tech Parkway, Americus, Georgia 31709

Southern Crescent Technical College

501 Varsity Rd, Griffin, Georgia 30223-2042

West Georgia Technical College

176 Murphy Campus Blvd., Waco, Georgia 30182

Illinois

Lewis and Clark Community College

5800 Godfrey Rd, Godfrey, Illinois 62035

Sauk Valley Community College

173 Illinois Rt 2, Dixon, Illinois 61021-9112

Waubonsee Community College

Rte 47 at Waubonsee Drive, Sugar Grove, Illinois 60554-9454

Kansas

Cloud County Community College

2221 Campus Dr, Concordia, Kansas 66901-1002

Massachusetts

Bristol Community College

777 Elsbree St, Fall River, Massachusetts 02720-7395

Michigan

Lansing Community College

610 N Capitol Ave, Lansing, Michigan 48933

Monroe County Community College

1555 South Raisinville Road, Monroe, Michigan 48161-9746

Minnesota

Century College

3300 Century Ave N, White Bear Lake, Minnesota 55110

Hibbing Community College

1515 East 25th Street, Hibbing, Minnesota 55746

Northwest Technical College

905 Grant Avenue SE, Bemidji, Minnesota 56601-4907

Riverland Community College

1900 8th Ave NW, Austin, Minnesota 55912-1473

Missouri

Crowder College

601 Laclede Ave, Neosho, Missouri 64850

Nevada

Truckee Meadows Community College

7000 Dandini Blvd, Reno, Nevada 89512-3999

University of Nevada-Las Vegas

4505 S Maryland Pky, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154

New Jersey

Mercer County Community College

1200 Old Trenton Rd, West Windsor, New Jersey 08550-3407

Union County College

1033 Springfield Avenue, Cranford, New Jersey 07016-1528

New Mexico

Central New Mexico Community College

525 Buena Vista Dr SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106

Clovis Community College

417 Schepps Blvd, Clovis, New Mexico 88101-8381

Luna Community College

336 Luna Drive, Las Vegas, New Mexico 87701

Navajo Technical University

Lower Point Road, State Road 371, Crownpoint, New Mexico 87313-0849

New Mexico State University-Alamogordo

2400 North Scenic Drive, Alamogordo, New Mexico 88310

New Mexico State University-Carlsbad

1500 University Drive, Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220

New Mexico State University-Dona Ana

2800 N. Sonoma Ranch Blvd., Las Cruces, New Mexico 88011

Santa Fe Community College

6401 Richards Ave, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87508-4887

University of New Mexico-Los Alamos Campus

4000 University Dr, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544

New York

Hudson Valley Community College

80 Vandenburgh Ave, Troy, New York 12180

Monroe Community College

1000 E Henrietta Rd, Rochester, New York 14623

Ohio

Lorain County Community College

1005 North Abbe Rd, Elyria, Ohio 44035-1691

Owens Community College

30335 Oregon Rd, Perrysburg, Ohio 43551

Oregon

Treasure Valley Community College

650 College Blvd, Ontario, Oregon 97914

Pennsylvania

Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology

540 N Harrison Rd, Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania 16823

Harrisburg Area Community College

1 HACC Dr., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17110-2999

Pennsylvania College of Technology

One College Ave, Williamsport, Pennsylvania 17701-5799

Pennsylvania State University-World Campus

128 Outreach Building, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802-1503

South Carolina

Midlands Technical College

1260 Lexington Drive, West Columbia, South Carolina 29170-2176

Technical College of the Lowcountry

921 Ribaut Road, Beaufort, South Carolina 29901-1288

Tennessee

Cleveland State Community College

3535 Adkisson Drive, Cleveland, Tennessee 37312

Texas

Eastfield College

3737 Motley Dr, Mesquite, Texas 75150-2099

Texas State Technical College

3801 Campus Drive, Waco, Texas 76705

West Virginia

Blue Ridge Community and Technical College

13650 Apple Harvest Drive, Martinsburg, West Virginia 25403

Wisconsin

Western Technical College

400 Seventh St. North, La Crosse, Wisconsin 54601