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How to Become a Solar Technician

Updated: May 2

how to become a solar installer

Solar energy is the most popular form of new electricity generation worldwide. As solar power skyrockets in popularity across the U.S. and the globe, it creates many career opportunities. Solar energy installations are relatively time-intensive and require knowledgeable solar technicians, and becoming a solar panel installer could be an excellent way to advance your career and benefit the environment. 

Many people are interested in learning how to become a solar installer so they can enter the renewable energy industry. Read on to learn what is needed based on our 10 years of experience, how much solar photovoltaic (PV) installers earn, and how to get started in this dynamic sector.

What is a solar installer or technician?

A solar installer is a trained professional responsible for assembling, installing, and maintaining solar energy systems. Their role involves working with solar equipment, including PV panels, solar inverters, and mounting structures to create functional solar arrays. 

In addition to installing solar equipment, solar installers also conduct site surveys to determine the optimal placement of solar panels for maximum solar energy output. They also handle electrical wiring, ensuring seamless integration with existing power systems. Solar installers also troubleshoot issues, perform routine maintenance, and educate clients on system operation.

What is the salary for a solar panel installer?

Solar installer salaries vary based on experience, location, and employer. Median hourly pay for a solar panel installer in 2022 was $21.75, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, those with more experience or specialized skills can earn higher wages as a solar installer, ranging from $25 to $40 per hour. 

Some solar panel installers choose to work independently or start their own businesses, which can increase their earnings but also increase their overhead. Overall, the demand for skilled solar installers and the growing emphasis on renewable energy make it a promising career path with the potential for competitive compensation.

Career Outlook for Solar Installer Jobs

The job outlook for solar contractors who install solar panels is highly favorable, with a projected growth of 22% from 2022 to 2032, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth rate is significantly higher than the average for all occupations, emphasizing the increasing demand for renewable energy and the pivotal role of solar installers in meeting that demand.

As the solar industry expands, job opportunities for skilled installers are expected to remain robust, making it an attractive and sustainable career choice. At GreenLancer, we've noticed that many of our clients are almost continuously hiring solar installers because many solar companies are experiencing rapid and sustained business growth.

Solar Installer Job Skills

Many solar companies will train inexperienced solar contractors, but having certain skills makes job candidates more likely to be hired. If you want to become a solar installer, gaining relevant skills and abilities is helpful to make yourself an attractive candidate.

Ability to Use Tools & Dexterity

Prospective solar installers should be able to use various tools and equipment essential for installations. Solar PV installers often use various hand tools, requiring strong hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity. Practical experience in construction, roofing, carpentry, or a related field is often beneficial, as it provides a foundation for the hands-on work involved in being a solar installer. 

Safety Awareness

Whether on rooftops or elevated structures, solar installers often work at heights, posing a risk of falls. Also, solar panel system installations involve working with electricity, which can be hazardous if not handled properly. By prioritizing safety, solar installers minimize the risk of accidents, electrical shocks, and injuries, ensuring a secure working environment for themselves and their fellow coworkers. Following safety protocols, using proper safety gear, and staying vigilant help promote safety.

In addition, many solar installers have taken the OSHA Outreach Training Program for the Construction Industry to learn to work safely as a solar installer.

Comfortable on Roofs

Because a critical aspect of many residential and commercial solar panel installations involves working on rooftops, it is critical to not be overly afraid of heights as a solar installer. However, it is essential to use proper safety gear and follow protocols. Working on ground-mounted systems such as solar farms might be a better option if you want to become a solar installer and prefer working closer to the ground.

Knowledge of Electrical & Building Codes

Senior solar installers must be well-versed in electrical and building codes for numerous reasons. Complying with relevant codes is paramount for ensuring the safety and reliability of solar systems. 

A thorough understanding of electrical codes is essential to prevent potential electrical hazards and guarantee the proper functioning of the system. Similarly, familiarity with building codes addresses structural considerations, ensuring the secure integration of solar panels into the building structure. This knowledge is vital to avoid code violations, makes solar permitting easier, and contributes to the overall success and safety of solar installations.

Physical Abilities for Solar Installers

Solar photovoltaic installers engage in physically demanding tasks, including lifting and carrying solar panels, climbing ladders, and working on rooftops. Good overall physical fitness is crucial for these activities. 

Solar installation projects may involve long hours outdoors, and installers should have the endurance to handle the physical demands of the job throughout the day. Depending on the climate, this may involve working outdoors during the dog days of summer or in frigid temperatures.

Technical Aptitude and Problem-solving Skills

While not strictly a physical ability, having a technical aptitude is important. Installers need to understand and implement technical aspects of solar systems, including wiring and equipment installation. The ability to troubleshoot and solve problems is valuable. Installers may encounter unforeseen challenges during solar panel installations that require problem-solving abilities.

Passion for Renewable Energy

Solar companies often value candidates with a genuine passion for renewable energy. Passionate individuals are naturally driven to stay informed about solar industry advancements, boosting their skills and fostering innovation. Also, hiring individuals who exude passion creates a positive work culture, inspiring teamwork and dedication, ultimately contributing to the company's success. Solar installer jobs often require being outdoors during a variety of weather conditions, so passion for clean energy helps boost motivation and overall job performance.

Types of Solar Technicians

Because solar panel systems vary in size and application, so does the role of solar installers. Identifying what types of projects you want to work on can help hone in on needed job skills for becoming a solar installer.

Residential Solar Installer Jobs

These solar technicians play a crucial role in bringing solar power to homes. Their responsibilities include assessing the solar energy resource of a property, installing solar panels, and connecting them to the electrical system. They ensure proper wiring, mounting, and system configuration for optimal energy production. Additionally, installers may educate homeowners on system maintenance and functionality.

Completing home solar installations involves both inside and outside work. Often, the person working with the electrical panel is a certified electrician, working under a master electrician. 

Commercial Solar Installer Jobs

Commercial solar installers specialize in designing and installing solar systems for businesses and organizations, including medical facilities, schools, office buildings, retail centers, governmental buildings, and farms. 

Their responsibilities include conducting solar site assessments, collaborating with clients to understand energy needs, designing efficient solar solutions, installing PV panels, and ensuring compliance with electrical and building codes. Additionally, commercial solar installers often provide ongoing maintenance and monitoring services to optimize system performance and address any issues promptly, ensuring the long-term reliability of the solar energy infrastructure.

Becoming a Utility-scale Solar Installer

Utility-scale solar farms are large ground-mounted arrays that provide power for hundreds, if not thousands, of homes and businesses. Utility-scale solar installers work on large-scale solar projects, involving the installation and maintenance of solar panels to generate electricity for the grid. Their responsibilities include site preparation, mounting the solar panels, connecting electrical components, and ensuring system functionality. 

How to Become a Solar Installer

There are numerous career paths you could choose to gain the skills needed to be a successful solar panel technician. Some of these can lead to solar installer certifications to demonstrate knowledge of the PV industry.

Solar Installer Training Programs

Becoming a solar installer typically involves completing specialized training programs designed to provide the necessary skills and knowledge for the job. Several institutions and organizations offer solar installer training programs, covering topics such as solar panel installation, electrical systems, safety procedures, and relevant regulations. 

These programs often combine classroom instruction with hands-on practical experience to ensure that aspiring solar installers are well-prepared for their roles. Training programs can vary in duration and structure, providing individuals with a pathway to enter the growing field of solar installation and contribute to the renewable energy sector.

  • Solar Energy International (SEI): SEI offers comprehensive solar panel installer training programs, covering various aspects of solar design and installation. Many of these programs are available online.

  • North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP): NABCEP provides solar certification programs for renewable energy professionals, ensuring they meet rigorous solar industry standards. NABCEP solar certifications are well respected throughout the solar industry.

  • Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC): IREC offers training and accreditation programs, including the IREC ISPQ credential, recognizing skilled solar PV installers.

  • Grid Alternatives: This organization offers comprehensive solar installer training programs that involve hands-on solar energy installation experience, and has locations in California, Colorado, Washington D.C., and Nicaragua. 

  • Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC): HVCC in New York offers a Solar Energy Technology program providing training in solar installation for people interested in becoming a solar panel installer.

Become a Certified Electrician

To become a certified electrician and excel as a solar installer, start by enrolling in an accredited electrical program through a technical school or community college. Plus, gain hands-on experience under the guidance of licensed electricians to understand wiring, circuits, and safety protocols. This electrical certification enhances your skills, making you a valuable asset in the solar installation field, with comprehensive electrical expertise, increased job prospects, and earning potential.

On-the-job Solar Installer Training

Becoming a solar technician through on-the-job training is possible for those who prefer hands-on learning. To become a solar installer without formal education, individuals can start by securing an entry-level position with a solar installation company. 

On-the-job training typically involves working alongside experienced installers to learn the ropes, such as handling tools, understanding safety protocols, and mastering installation techniques. This practical experience allows individuals to gradually acquire the skills needed for solar installations. 

Other Jobs in the Solar Industry

In addition to solar installers, the solar energy industry offers diverse career paths. Solar sales professionals play a crucial role in promoting solar solutions to residential or commercial clients. Solar engineers design and optimize solar systems, ensuring efficiency. Energy analysts evaluate solar project feasibility and performance. Sustainability consultants guide businesses in adopting solar solutions for environmental benefits. 

FAQs On How to Become a Solar Installer

Let’s examine common questions related to solar installer jobs, salary, prior experience, and more.

How much do solar installers make?

Your earning potential as a solar installer depends on your experience, location, and the solar company. Entry-level installers often earn between $20 and $25 an hour, but lead solar installers can earn a higher solar installer salary. Likewise, becoming a licensed electrician or a NABCEP-certified solar installer can increase your earning potential.

What skills are essential for becoming a solar installer?

Becoming a successful solar power installer requires a blend of technical, physical, and interpersonal skills. Proficiency in using tools and understanding construction principles is crucial. Physical fitness and comfort working at heights contribute to job performance. Also, effective communication and teamwork skills are essential for collaborating with colleagues and communicating effectively with clients. Attention to detail and following safety procedures round out the skill set needed for a successful career in solar installation.

Is experience required for solar installer jobs?

Although some solar companies strongly prefer hiring experienced solar technicians, many companies will hire attractive candidates without solar installation experience. However, having complementary skills can be helpful, such as the ability to use hand tools and roofing or electrical knowledge. 

Is being a solar installer a dangerous job?

While being a solar panel installer involves some risks, safety measures and training significantly reduce hazards. Installers work with heights and electricity, requiring caution, proper gear, and adherence to safety protocols. With adequate training, emphasis on safety, and compliance with guidelines, the job becomes manageable, and the industry prioritizes minimizing risks to create a secure work environment for installers.

The Career Path to Become a Solar Installer

Because there are many ways to approach it, determining how to become a solar energy installer can help advance your career. Researching the job qualifications for local solar companies can help you determine if you are already qualified. If not, taking classes or gaining hands-on solar installation experience are great ways to get started.

Another great way to advance your career in the solar industry is to read solar energy blogs. GreenLancer ranks on the list of the best solar energy blogs and websites!

Once you’ve launched your solar energy installation career, you will likely encounter solar permitting and engineering challenges. GreenLancer helps solar professionals overcome these challenges with our solar permit design and engineering services. Sign up today for free or complete the submission form below to learn more. 


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