Through SEIA’s member-led Installer Safety & Workforce Development Working Group, SEIA provides guidance and information to members regarding training opportunities, certifications, and other information. Additionally, SEIA coordinates with training providers and certification organizations to provide information and guidance to members.
Our sister organization, The Solar Foundation, produces an annual Solar Jobs Census, which provides information on solar industry jobs in all 50 states, and a detailed analysis of how industry employment impacts the overall economy. The 2014 Solar Jobs Census contains additional information on the top twenty states for solar jobs, employer workforce challenges and needs, and recommendations for employers, policymakers and workforce training providers.
Currently, training courses (other than for licensures, see below) are not legally required. However, proper training of all your employees will increase the productivity of your business, help ensure the safety of your workers, and may help shield you from legal liability in the event of an accident. Training opportunities include:
The OSHA Outreach Training Program currently provides 10- and 30-hour training courses on the construction safety guidelines promulgated by OSHA. These courses are voluntary. Students receive a completion card that verifies successful completion of the course. The course is not specific to solar technologies, but instead is for overall construction safety and health guidelines.
In addition to OSHA training, there are many training courses that are specific to PV. Courses should be accredited (see info below) to ensure all the pertinent information is covered.
Solar Thermal Training
There are also many courses specific to solar thermal. Courses should be accredited (see info below) to ensure all pertinent information is covered.
Some states require licensure, which may or may not be a component of electrical or plumbing licensure (see info below). Electrical training through the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee currently includes solar topics, based on the task analysis created by NABCEP (see info below).
Some states require licensure, which may or may not be a component of electrical or plumbing licensure (see info below).
Currently, 12 states and Puerto Rico require solar-specific licenses in order to engage in solar work. Generally, a solar certification is a subset of a general electrical or plumbing license; therefore, a contractor with a general license may engage in solar work. Additionally, anyone who obtains the specialty solar license may complete solar work.
Currently, certifications are not generally required. Certifications show your customers that you have achieved a higher level of expertise in solar work, and serves to differentiate you from your competitors. However, there are certain exceptions. In some states, a NABCEP certification (see below) is required to participate in state incentive programs.
Currently, there are four organizations providing certifications. Some provide only PV certifications, while others also provide solar thermal certifications.
North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) creates voluntary national certification programs for many energy practices, including PV. Each certification begins with a job task analysis; the newest analysis for the PV Installer Certification (pdf) was recently released.
In some states, NABCEP certification is required to participate in state incentive programs.
The PV Installer Certification is also accredited by the American National Standards Institute as compliant with ISO/IEC 17024, a standard created by the International Organization for Standardization in coordination with the International Electrotechnical Commission that outlines the requirements for a body certifying persons.
The Solar Thermal Installer Certification by NABCEP also meets the standard.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) provides the UL University, which offers many courses and certifications, including a new PV Installer Certification. UL University also provides many other courses on photovoltaics, as well as courses on many other topics, including fire safety and electrical safety.
Roof Integrated Solar Energy
The Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE) program by the National Roofing Contractors’ Association certifies PV installers. The successful student receives a Certified Solar Roofing Professional Certification.
Electronics Technicians Association
The Electronics Technicians Association provides certification courses in alternative energy technologies, including PV and solar thermal. The courses offer three levels of certification: apprentice, specialist, and technician.
There are two ways to find an accredited course:
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) provides an accreditation program for Courses and Instructors of renewable energy courses and practitioner training. The Institute for Sustainable Power Quality (ISPQ) framework of standards and metrics provides accreditation for courses and certification for trainers. The courses and instructors must meet minimum standards and guidelines to be awarded the accreditation or certification.
- The U.S. Department of Energy sponsors the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN), administered by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. The SITN is a group of nine regional resource and training providers that support the professional development of instructors conducting solar and solar thermal courses. The training program teaches instructors how to align their courses with proper accreditation standards, such as the ISPQ standard utilized by IREC, and how to align their courses with the best certification standards (certification standards discussed below).