How To Become A Solar Panel Installer
As companies become increasingly aware of their carbon footprint and look towards incorporating sustainability into their business practice and operations, it opens many doors into various sustainability careers. Vera Marie Reed discusses the career of a solar panel technician in her blog below.
With the perceived vulnerability of the traditional power grid and the increasing cost of heating and cooling homes, alternative power sources are becoming more and more popular.
The Solar Investment Tax Credit has, since it came in force in 2006, given the sector stability as well as growth. In fact, the industry, over the last 10 years, has achieved a compound yearly growth rate of just south of 60%. Also, consider that close to 209,000 Americans are employed in the solar sector, which more than doubles the number reported in 2010. That figure, meanwhile, is projected to double to north of 420,000 workers by 2020.
One of the jobs in the sector that is experiencing plenty of growth is that of solar panel installer. Read on for a look at the industry, the job duties, and the education and skill requirements.
What all of this means is that there are opportunities in the solar panels market as well as in other eco-friendly niches that offer greener options.
Day to Day Responsibilities
Occupations In Manufacturing For Solar Power
Manufacturing in the solar industry focuses on three technologies: concentrating solar power , photovoltaic solar power, and solar water heating. However, the vast majority of solar manufacturing firms focus mainly on photovoltaic solar power and producing photovoltaic panels. The production process for photovoltaic panels is more complex than for CSP components, and it involves complicated electronics. Making photovoltaic panels requires the work of many skilled workers, including semiconductor processors, computer-controlled machine tool operators, glaziers, and coating and painting workers. The manufacture of CSP mirrors includes many of the same occupations.
Semiconductor processors are workers who oversee the manufacturing process of solar cells. Semiconductors are unique substances, which act as either conductors or insulators of electricity, depending on the conditions. Semiconductor processors turn semiconductors into photovoltaic cells. The process begins with the production of cylinders of silicon or other semiconducting materials, which are called ingots. The ingots are sliced into thin wafers using automated equipment, and are sometimes polished. The wafers are then connected to metal strips and placed into the cells. These cells are then arranged into larger solar panels.
Industrial production managers are typically required to have college degrees in business administration, management, industrial technology, or engineering.
International Solar Energy Society
Solar Energy Society is a nonprofit UN-accredited membership NGO based in Germany. The organization was founded in 1954. Their primary goal is to become the most trusted global advisor on renewable energy sources.
ISES updates and connects its diverse membership of academics, researchers, practitioners, professionals, decision-makers, businesses, and advocacies in more than a hundred countries to fulfill that objective.
Moreover, they also promote solar research studies and development and offer authoritative advice on issues concerning the solar industry worldwide. They bring awareness to the public regarding clean energy resources and advocate for a sustainable future.
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Companies Use The Oldest Technique In The Book Churn And Burn
Solar Companies Salespeople Are Free Help because they dont care if you come in or go. What I have described in this article shines a spotlight on one thing more than any other. Solar sales is a very stressful way to make a living but not for the solar companies. The system they use is known in the car industry as Churn and Burn. They know when they make you think you have a job you will push very hard in the beginning. They also know after somebody does get a good commission check, they might not show up for a while. But the thing they know better than anything is you will burnout!
In the beginning, they are looking for salespeople who are homeowners with a line of friends and family. Even if you dont own a house your friends and family want to support you in your new job, so they are easy appointments to land. They send in their best to close the deal and give you half of the commission. These companies take advantage of every single situation you have from the beginning.
After they wash out you, your friends, and family they let you fade away like a sunset. So you know what it costs them to replace you, nothing, Next! At the end of the day, Solar Companies Salespeople Are Free Help!
Network With Other Professionals
Seek opportunities to network with others in the industry. You can do this by attending networking events, reading and commenting on industry blogs written by professionals, going to industry conferences and attending seminars. Those you meet may be able to serve as your mentor, inspire you on your own career path or connect you with hiring managers for entry-level positions.
Read more:10 Tips to Help You Network Like a Pro
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What Barriers Might Stop Someone From Succeeding
Certain physical abilities are a requirement for outside solar sales, as salespeople need to travel long distances and enter many types of homes that might not meet accessible design standards. Evening hours and weekend work can also be expected in some solar sales roles.
But when it comes to education, solar sales can be more accessible than some other positions in the cleantech industry. Salespeople learn about the product they sell on the job, and a college degree typically isnt required, although salespeople come from a variety of educational backgrounds.
The first few days, we had in-house training and learned everything about the company and the benefits of solar, so education isnt much of a barrier, said Vorobyova.
The role is also flexible and potentially lucrative, Vorobyova said. It can take up as much time as you put into it. It can be a little difficult sometimes on very busy days, working so many hours, but if thats something youre willing to do, then you can succeed. If you want time off, theyll approve it. And theres no cap on how much you can get paid, or on your satisfaction.
Every solar company is different. Often, new salespeople can succeed and move up quickly based on strong performance. Vorobyova canvassed for three months before being promoted.
Occupations Supporting The Solar Power Industry
The advancement of the solar power industry has led to job creation in a number of other occupations as well. Many of these jobs do not concentrate on solar power, but they provide support to solar energy production and contribute to the industry as a whole. For instance, the solar power supply chain consists of many different manufacturers of varying sizes. Foundry workers are an important part of this supply chain they cast metal, plastics, and composites out of raw materials into individual components for solar energy production.
Solar manufacturers need trained salespeople to sell their products to customers. Sales representatives, sales engineers, and sales managers are instrumental in matching a company’s products to consumers’ needs. They are responsible for making their products known and generating interest in the products. Sales professionals may work directly for manufacturers, distributers, installers, or consulting services. A salesperson must stay abreast of new products and the changing needs of customers. They attend trade shows at which new products and technologies are showcased.
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Smart Electric Power Alliance
Another nonprofit organization invested in the solar industry is the Smart Electric Power Alliance . It was founded successfully in 1992 when research on solar energy was still new and limited. Their mission is to make the world carbon-free by 2050. SEPA believes that this is entirely possible with the right steps to action. Prioritizing education, research, and collaboration, SEPA aims to facilitate the electric power industrys transition to a future of renewable energy.
Currently, SEPA has over 1,000 members and more than 700 utilities, all of which always help them make smart and energy-efficient choices.
There Is A Huge Potential For Job Growth
Clean energy is building a new workforce in the United States. Renewable energy sectors arent backing down anytime soon. The industry has a wide range of well-paying jobs for workers of all backgrounds. According to the 2018 National Solar Jobs Census released by The Solar Foundation the United States has 242,353 solar workers. In the past 10 years, the solar workforce has grown by 159 percent adding around 150,0000 jobs.
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Growth Of Solar Power In The United States
Because of a growing interest in renewable energy and the increasingly competitive prices of alternative energy sources, solar power has received a lot of attention over the past several years. However, solar power generation itself is not new it has been used for more than half a century, mostly on a small scale or for specialized purposes, such as generating electricity for spacecraft and satellites or for use in remote areas. Large scale solar generation was mostly developed in the 1970s and 1980s, and is considered a clean energy because of its lack of emissions. Continued growth is expected because solar power has many environmental benefits and is decreasing in price, which will allow it to become increasingly competitive with fossil fuels.
The relatively steep cost of solar power compared with traditional sources of electricity generation is caused by the high cost of manufacturing and installing solar panels. However, the cost of solar power has been trending downward as technology has improved and manufacturers have learned how to improve production efficiency. In addition, as solar power generation becomes more widespread, the cost of installing solar-generation capacity will continue to fall. And as the price of fossil fuels increases, solar power will become more cost effective relative to traditional sources of energy.
Map 1. Available solar power energy in the United States
Research In The Solar Industry
In the last decade, there has been an increase in the solar power industrys quantity and quality of research. Were now aware of the precise statistics of power consumption globally and the estimated positive impact of shifting to solar energy.
In 2018, the global solar power industry was worth a total of 52.5 billion dollars. According to predictions, it will reach about $223 billion by the year 2026.
The rapid expansion of the solar power industry results from the increasing carbon footprint in our environment and the need to come up with alternative energy solutions. Governments worldwide have started to offer incentives and tax rebates to convince people to install solar panels.
If we were to classify solar projects according to technology, there would be two types: photovoltaic and concentrated solar power systems. Then, based on the application, we can classify solar uses into residential, commercial, and industrial. Finally, we can organize solar power into electricity generation, lighting, heating, and charging considering the purpose.
First-generation cells like monocrystalline and polycrystalline are increasingly used in photovoltaic applications. Due to high residential applications, these silicon cells have a high demand. But cadmium telluride and amorphous silicon cells have also led to significant growth potential because of their low cost.
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Occupations Relevant To The Manufacturing Phase
Research and development is a key aspect of any industry, but because wind power is a relatively new industry in the United States, it is vital for manufacturers to invest in new technologies and processes. There are hundreds of companies involved in manufacturing turbines and turbine components, and because of the competition in the industry, each firm must find innovative ways to make turbines more powerful, efficient, and reliableâwithout significantly increasing costs.
Key careers in wind turbine research and development are those of scientists, engineers, and engineering technicians. Scientists involved in R& D include atmospheric scientists and materials scientists, who must design components that can efficiently generate the most power and withstand environmental stresses.
The three major pieces of a wind turbineâthe blades, the tower and the nacelleâare all difficult to produce. Contained within the nacelle are the turbine’s drive train and generator, and other mechanical and electrical components. All of these pieces must be manufactured to meet design specifications. Workers in many different occupations, including machinists, computer-controlled machine tool operators, assemblers, welders, quality-control inspectors, and industrial production managers, are involved in manufacturing the turbine components.
Research and Development Jobs
Education and training
|Type of engineers|
Engineering technicians, except drafters
Occupations Supporting Wind Power
The growth of the wind power industry in the United States presents many opportunities for job creation. Jobs in this industry are located in every State in the country and cover a wide variety of occupations. This report has highlighted occupations in manufacturing, project development, and operation and maintenance, but the wind industry employs people in many other occupations as well. As with any complex project, support staff is necessary to ensure success.
The wind turbine supply chain consists of many different manufacturers of varying sizes. Although many of the companies in the supply chain do not concentrate on wind power, wind-power-related jobs in these companies do contribute to the industry. The process starts with the raw materials that are made into individual turbine components. Foundry workers are the first part of the wind turbine supply chain, casting metal, plastics, and composites out of raw materials.
Professional and administrative positions are vital to supporting wind power. Jobs in these fields include secretaries and receptionists, human resources specialists, accountants and auditors, lawyers, and managers of many different types. People in these jobs ensure that companies involved in the wind energy industry run smoothly by taking care of personnel, budget, and legal issues.
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Solar Power Industry In China
China has managed to drop solar prices by 80 percent in a few years! In a market as competitive as that involved in power production, this is a significant achievement. China has pretty much gone from creating a small, rural solar program in the 1990s to becoming the global leader of solar power by 2020. As mentioned before, the country recently injected the largest investment ever recorded, a whopping 83.4 billion dollars, into the solar industry.
Moreover, according to reports, in the first quarter of 2020 alone, China added 3.95 GW of new solar generation capacity . So, we know that the country is serious about transitioning to sustainable energy solutions. Moreover, China has been the worlds leading installer of solar photovoltaics since 2013.
In 2015, China turned into the worlds biggest producer of photovoltaic force, barely outperforming Germany. Then, in 2017, China was the first country to surpass 100 GW of cumulative installed PV capacity. Before 2018 had ended, the country had 174 GW of solar capacity!
As from May 2018, China holds the record for the most large-scale operational solar project: its 1,547-MW venture at Tengger.
China has fundamentally changed the economics of solar globally. While the U.S. seems to be right behind, China still holds most of the worlds solar patents and has been leading the industry for almost three decades now.
Occupations In Solar Power Plant Construction
Once a site has been selected, civil engineers are responsible for the design of the power plant and related structures. When construction begins, workers are needed to build the actual plant. For a concentrating solar power plant, large mirrors are arranged to catch and focus sunlight for power generation, therefore storage tanks, pipes, and generators must be installed before the plant is connected to the electrical grid. Photovoltaic plants are less complex, requiring installation of arrays of photovoltaic panels before they are connected to transformers and the grid. Construction managers have the responsibility of managing the entire construction process.
Construction managers oversee the construction of solar power plants, from site selection to the final construction of the plant. They supervise a team of diverse occupations, including engineers, scientists, construction workers, and heavy-equipment operators. Construction managers are employed by large construction companies, energy companies, or utilities companies and work under contract or as salaried employees. Because of the size of a power plant and the complexity of the construction, a project manager will typically oversee several construction managers, who then supervise individual aspects of the construction.
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How Young Professionals Can Get Into The Solar Industry
17 Aug 2020
A special thank you to Miles Braxton, Sam Ditesheim, Erin Hickok,, Adil Javat, and Sandhya Mahadevan for their input and advice!
The solar energy industry is continuously growing and has been on the rise for the last several years. As young professionals graduate from college, they find themselves trying to navigate a career path that suits their passions and interests. For those interested in the business of renewable energy and fighting climate change, solar energy offers many budding career opportunities and paths.
But how does one find their calling within the solar energy industry? Sol employees provided us with their favorite tips and tricks for young professionals as they explore their futures in solar.
Stay up to date on all things solar.
Once you have a grasp on solar basics, dont be afraid to Google and research terms that youre not familiar with. The best way to learn is by research and example, so if you are confused about a solar term or acronym, there are plenty of resources and explainers that breakdown concepts wonderfully. Learning the technical aspects of how solar generates energy and revenue are also helpful to further understand how a specific solar company functions. This can be especially helpful when you begin to interview with solar companies.
Do your research what field interests you?
Network LinkedIn is your best friend!
Get experience and apply!
Dont be discouraged.
Looking For A Job In Solar Energy
Solar Job Board
Manage your career online. Create an account to save jobs, store resumes and cover letters, search for jobs, set up job alerts and so much more. If you’re a hiring professional with solar industry positions, you can post jobs today! Find candidates and search the resume bank.
Solar Training Resources
The Solar Training Network, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative and implemented by the Solar Foundation, is a new resource for solar job seekers, training providers and employers to connect and grow the solar workforce. Create a profile and get connected today!
Solar Energy International – Founded in 1991, this non-profit organization’s mission is to empower people around the world through the education of sustainable practices. Through their Renewable Energy Education Program , they offer hands-on workshops and online courses in solar PV, wind, micro-hydro, solar hot water and natural home building.
Where Can Solar Take You?
Our friends at A& R Solar developed a handy flowchart that can help steer you in the right direction to find the career in solar that is right for you!
SEIA’s Installer Safety & Workforce Development Working Group
Training Sessions & Workshops at SEIA Events
Solar Professionals on LinkedIn
National Solar Jobs Census
DOE’s Solar Career Map
Jobs at SEIA
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