Solar Technician: ‘This Is All I Can Imagine Doing’

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Michael Crawford, solar technician for Sunrun
'I love the people I work with,' says Crawford, who worked for years as an electrician before becoming a solar tech. (Courtesy of Michael Crawford)

Michael Crawford didn’t know a lot about the solar industry but as an electrician, he saw the possibilities. He thought it might be “the next big thing,” and his hunch (and skills) landed him a job he loves.

His experience as a solar technician for Sunrun is a good reminder to do your homework and then follow your instincts when something seems like a good bet.  

Why did you become a solar technician?

I’ve been in the electrical field since I graduated from high school but the solar industry was new to me. I didn’t necessarily have any aspirations to be in solar but I had a feeling that it would be the next big thing and I wanted to capitalize on it. Now that I’m here, this is all I can imagine doing. 

What does a typical day as a solar tech look like?

I start off the morning with some job prep (loading material and double-checking the stock available in the truck) and then it’s off to the job site. Once there, the crew and I try to outline the job as best we can. That means mapping out the roof design and selecting the best placement for ground equipment, setting up safety barriers and ropes, then it’s all about the install.

What do you like most about your job? And least?

I love the people I work with. This job is very physically demanding. Knowing that I have good guys with great attitudes really helps to keep my spirits up during a long day. 

The thing I like least is working weekends! It’s not like it’s every weekend — and I tell myself all the time that it’s an important thing to do.

What’s the most common misconception about being a solar energy technician?

I would have to say that it’s probably the danger. Most people find out that I deal with electricity and heights and think that I’m in danger all the time. That’s not the case at all. We take precautions with every install to make it completely safe. I guarantee that we take more risks at home on days off than we do here at work. 

What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?

Summers are hot! I’ve always worked outside, so the heat wasn’t a surprise, but I never imagined how much hotter a rooftop is. 

What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

I would say that a person needs to be a mentally tough. You also need to be willing to work harder than the guys with you. If everyone on the crew keeps those things close to their heart then the project runs smoother for everyone. At the end of the day, it's about getting the job done right. The more efficient and precise you are, the more time you get at home. 

Can you describe one particular moment or day on the job that gave you real satisfaction? 

There are a lot of days that come to mind. I love being challenged. Not every day offers a challenge. For the most part it’s pretty basic stuff, but every now and then you get something out of the ordinary that makes you think of innovative ways to get something done. I love when other people say that something can’t be done or won’t work and I make it happen. That’s the reason I went into construction in the first place. I love having to figure things out that might stump someone else. Being that guy always gives me real satisfaction. 

What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your work?

That they would refer their loved ones to the company if my crew were to do the work. I feel like the best compliment is gaining someone’s trust. If they were disappointed in my work or my attitude then they wouldn’t want me to work for someone they cared about. 


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