Working as a Solar Technician
If you want to get in on a booming industry that is destined for explosive growth, consider the solar industry. Jobs in solar and wind 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.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
In active solar systems, 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 solar 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 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 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.
How are Solar Technicians Trained?
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.
How is a Solar 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 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.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in the electrical field and like being outdoors, training as a solar 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 installer, 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.