What Does a Solar Energy Technician Do?
The solar power industry is booming. It’s a smart time to take advantage of the job opportunities — and abundant sunshine — and become a solar energy technician.
These technicians — also called solar technicians, solar techs, solar panel installers, solar energy photovoltaic installers or solar photovoltaic installers — assemble, install and maintain solar panels on homes, businesses or open land.
Solar technicians install photovoltaic solar panels or PV panels, which convert sunshine into energy. They may also work with solar thermal panels, which capture the sun’s rays for usable heat. Depending on state laws, solar PV installers may connect the panels to the electrical grid.
Solar is a rare opportunity. It's a field that's growing, and solar technician is a career that requires a short preparation time yet pays a solid salary. If focused, on-the-job paid training sounds like a career plan that would work for your life, keep reading.
- Design a solar panel system based on customer needs and structural conditions
- Assemble and install the racking, panels and electrical equipment
- Connect the panels to the electrical system
- Activate and test the solar panel system
- Perform system maintenance
- Troubleshoot electrical problems
How To Become A Solar Energy Technician: FAQs
What are the requirements to become a solar energy technician?
Most employers require a high school diploma or equivalent. Experience in mechanical or electrical installation can be helpful. Those with experience in the trades or the military have an advantage and may need minimal additional training.
Many solar techs learn the trade on the job. Another path is to earn a certificate, diploma or degree at a local community college or trade school. In addition to hands-on training in solar panel installation, courses include photovoltaic applications, safety, electricity basics and system design.
Students who finish a program can take the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Photovoltaic Associate (PVA) Exam.
As solar technology changes, it's important to keep up through continuing education. There are several certifications available, including those offered by NABCEP and the Electronics Technicians Association.
What other qualifications do I need?
Solar technicians need a driver’s license to get to job sites. Some states require self-employed solar technicians to have an electrical contractor license. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) maintains a state-by-state list.
How long does it take to become a solar technician?
On-the-job training can take anywhere from a month to a year. Courses and certificates from community colleges and trade schools take one to two years.
Is there potential for job growth?
Yes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 52% employment growth, which is incredibly fast if you consider that growth for all jobs is about 8%. As the technology improves and more people and businesses install PV panels, growth is likely to continue. (Notably, employment growth just one of the reasons renewable energy jobs are trending.)
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Successful solar technicians tend to share these traits:
- Strong communication skills to effectively interact with clients
- Comfortable working outdoors, often high off the ground, on slanted surfaces and in other variable site conditions
- Enjoy working with complex electrical and mechanical equipment
- Know how to use a variety of hand and power tools
- Physically fit and able to carry panels and other heavy equipment