As the solar energy industry continues to grow, there are more and more training programs available that specialize in the skills needed to be a solar energy professional. In the past, someone with a electrician background would sometimes make the transition to solar energy, as there are a lot of overlapping knowledge and skill sets. However, with the specialized training programs available today, obtaining a certification in solar energy is definitely the best option.
There are many different certifications available in the field of solar energy. While each certification has its strengths and weaknesses, it is always a good idea to further your education and get a solar certification of some kind. These certifications show potential employers that you have all of the skills necessary to become a solar techhnician.
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is by far the most well-known, recognized and highly regarded organization for solar energy professionals. This organization offers a variety of different certifications, all aimed at raising the industry standards for solar energy, increasing credibility and consumer confidence across North America. NABCEP certifications include Photovoltaic (PV) Entry Level, PV Installation Professional, PV Technical Sales Certification, and Solar Heating Entry Level and Installer Certification. These certifications are a blend of hands-on demonstration of abilities and coursework.
NABCEP PV Entry Level
This certification is for individuals looking to get started in solar energy. The certification does not require any hands on work. It is focused on learning the basic terms and aspects of solar energy installation and maintenance. It should be noted that obtaining this certification does not qualify you to install photovoltaic systems, but it does give you a good foundation to build on.
NABCEP PV Installation Professional
This certification is central to all of the certifications NABCEP has to offer, as it certifies that you are qualified to install PV systems with
the highest industry and safety standards. To obtain this certification, many hours of hands on experience is required. Any program designed to help you obtain this certification will require lab work in addition to traditional textbook coursework.
NABCEP PV Technical Sales
This certification is for anyone who is interested in doing all of the technical sales activities related to solar energy. This includes site
analysis and system design, followed by an accurate and ethical presentation of the electrical, environmental and financial impact of potential PV systems.
NABCEP Solar Heating Entry Level and Installer
This is a voluntary certification for solar heating installers that demonstrates they follow a national set of standards. While this certification is not necessary to be qualified to install solar heating systems, it can be used to distinguish installers from their competition. It can also give consumers a level of confidence when choosing an installer.
Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE)
The Roof Integrated Solar Energy organization offers a Certified Solar Roofing Professional (CSRP) certification that focuses on the specifics of solar energy installations as it pertains to rooftops and roof construction. In many ways, roof installations demand a higher standard of quality and safety than traditional installations, and also require special skills such as safely integrating the panels with the existing roof architecture. This certification shows consumers that you have that extra degree of qualification.
UL PV System Installer
UL is a highly regarded company in many different industries, including workplace health and safety. They offer a Photovoltaic System Installer Certification that is targeted towards electricians or other professionals with hundreds of hours of hand-on experience looking to get into the solar energy installation field.
Regardless of what certification you choose, it is important to understand the licensing requirements of the individual state you live in. Many states now require a certification in order to legally install and maintain PV systems, and acting without a license can have legal ramifications.
In addition, some states may require a consumer to hire a NABCEP certified installer in order to receive their rebates for installing energy efficient systems. Also, some municipalities have their own requirements for licensing and certifications, even if the state they reside in does not have any standards in place yet. Be sure to do your research and truly understand your local laws before pursuing any certification or license.