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Guide to Solar Installer Certifications

Updated: Jan 22


solar installer certifications

The demand for qualified solar PV installers is high because the solar energy industry is booming. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment for solar PV installers will grow by 22% between 2022 and 2032. As the market expands, training people to ensure they have the required licenses and solar installer certifications is essential.


So, the first order of business is determining what licenses are required to install solar PV systems in your state. Often, an electrical license is mandatory. However, solar licensing requirements vary widely by state and localities and are critical to understand and follow to operate legally. Also, some rebate programs may have additional eligibility requirements for PV contractors.


Let’s examine the various solar energy certifications available in the PV industry.


Which Solar Installer Certifications Are Best?

The leading certifications for solar installers are through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This organization offers a variety of certifications for solar system installation and sales professionals.


Some states require NABCEP solar installer certification for PV professionals. In other areas, being a NABCEP-certified solar installer is optional but an excellent way to build a resume, earn trust from potential customers, and demonstrate renewable energy knowledge.


This guide provides an overview of the different solar installer certification programs available, and we also recommend you explore your specific state and local requirements.


PV Installation Professional (PVIP) Board Certification

NABCEP’s PVIP Board Certification is considered the gold standard for solar installer certifications, and it has been available since 2003. Therefore, it is widely recognized in the renewable energy industry.


This solar panel installation certification shows knowledge of PV design, installation, operations, commissioning, and maintenance and requires experience in the field and passing an exam. It is ideal for installers who want to take a leadership role or own a solar installation business.


The requirements for the PVIP certification are OSHA Outreach Training Program for the Construction Industry, 58 hours of solar training courses, passing a written exam, and fulfilling the installation experience requirement.


The PVIP solar installer certification is helpful for:

  • Solar system designers

  • Structural engineers

  • PV installers

  • Master electricians

  • PV construction supervisors

  • Solar project developers

  • PV service technicians

  • Solar field technicians


PV Installer Specialist (PVIS) Board Certification

The PVIS Certification requires knowledge of solar panel installation but isn’t as focused on other aspects of the project, such as commissioning and maintenance knowledge, as the PVIP. Therefore, it is a good solar installer certification for someone who wants to be a PV installer but does not necessarily work on other aspects of solar power projects, such as project management or solar design services.


Obtaining a PVIS certification requires 10 hours of OSHA Outreach Training Program for the Construction Industry, 24 hours of solar training, passing a certification exam focused on installation, and fulfilling the installation experience requirement.


The PVIS solar installer certification is useful for:

  • PV installers

  • Solar electricians

  • Solar crew chief

  • PV construction supervisors


PV Technical Sales (PVTS) Board Certification

This is an excellent solar certification for professionals who want to work on the sales side of the industry or as an application engineer, site assessor, performance analyst, or financial analyst. The Technical Sales Certification requires the ability to qualify leads, conduct a solar site and performance analysis, and understand the incentives available for solar power systems. However, unlike some of the other NABCEP certifications, it does not require expertise in solar installation.


Earning the PVTS certification requires 10 hours of OSHA construction industry training, solar training, passing a written exam, and experience selling solar systems.


The PVTS certification is useful for:

  • Solar salespeople

  • PV sales managers

  • Solar marketing professionals

  • PV account managers

  • Solar energy sales consultant


NABCEP Solar Company Accreditation

The residential solar company accreditation program requires following industry-recognized best practices related to high-quality solar installations, hiring trained staff, adhering to safe working practices, and providing excellent customer service. Currently, there are only ten NABCEP-accredited solar companies, and they are located in California, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Texas.


For a solar installation company to earn NABCEP company accreditation, it must follow the Code of Ethics for NABCEP Accredited Companies and pass three random inspections of solar PV projects. Also, there must be some NABCEP-certified staff within the PV company.

OSHA Construction Safety

OSHA safety courses and certification programs are designed to prevent injuries and promote safety on job sites. In particular, the OSHA 10-Hour for the Construction Industry course is popular with solar panel installers and covers hazard identification, avoidance, control, and prevention at construction sites. It examines personal protective equipment and the safe use of tools. Also, many OSHA safety courses are available online, eliminating the need to travel.


Solar Contractor Licenses

Each state issues these licenses, and the requirements vary. Solar PV installations must adhere to the National Electrical Code requirements, so some electrical knowledge is required. Usually, there are different levels of licensed electricians, such as master electricians, journeymen electricians, and helper electricians. Becoming a licensed electrician typically requires passing a written exam and completing a certain number of hours of relevant experience.


Licensing requirements for solar PV installations vary by state. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) has a solar national licensing database with information on the requirements in each state.


Solar Panel Installation Training

There are numerous in-person and online solar installer programs, some including hands-on solar installation experience. These classes and training sessions can increase your earning potential as a solar installer and help jumpstart your career. These programs vary in length from several weeks to a couple years.


Solar Installer Training Programs with Non-Profit Organizations

Trade Schools & Community College Solar Installer Training Programs

  • Los Angeles Trade-Technical College (LATTC): This California trade school offers a comprehensive program for aspiring solar installers, providing a blend of knowledge and practical renewable energy skills. With a focus on solar panel installation, electrical systems, safety protocols, and industry regulations, LATTC's program in PV installation and maintenance offers both an associates degree and a certificate program.

  • 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.

  • Suffolk County Community College (SCCC): This New York community college offers a certificate program for solar energy technicians that equips students with essential skills and knowledge for a career in solar technology. Covering areas such as solar panel installation, electrical systems, safety measures, and industry regulations, the program ensures a well-rounded education with a blend of classroom learning and hands-on solar installation experience.

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Installer Certifications

In this section, we’ll cover some of the most frequently asked questions about solar energy certifications.


Should I Hire a Certified Solar Installer?

Yes, hiring a certified solar installer is a good idea for homeowners and solar companies alike. Certified solar technicians have the expertise to design, install, and maintain solar systems safely and efficiently. They understand local regulations and solar permitting requirements, ensuring compliance. A certified installer understands the proper functioning of solar power systems, maximizing energy production and return on investment.


Why Are Solar Installer Certifications Important?

Unfortunately, not all solar energy technicians are reputable or understand solar installation basics and the National Electrical Code. NABCEP certification allows PV installers to distinguish their knowledge to customers to earn trust. Solar companies will often display the NABCEP-certified PV installation Professional logo on solar proposals, the company website, on solar RFP responses


In addition, motivated individuals can advance their careers and differentiate themselves from other job applicants by obtaining solar installer certifications. For example, it’s ideal for lead solar installers to have earned NABCEP certification.


What Are The Similarities And Differences Of Solar Certifications Vs. Licenses?

States require licensing to perform certain types of work, whereas solar certifications are voluntary. State and local governments created contractor licenses to impose specific standards and protect consumer safety.


Unfortunately, many licenses are limited to a particular state. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for solar installers to move or perform work out of state because their license may not be valid elsewhere. One benefit of NABCEP certification is that it is nationally recognized and is not limited to a specific state or locality.


How Do I Become a Certified Solar Installer?

NABCEP offers several solar installer certifications that are widely recognized throughout the solar industry, including the PV Installer Specialist and the PV Installation Professional Board Certifications. Each solar certification requires 10 hours of OSHA construction industry safety training, taking a solar energy training, passing a written exam, and meeting the solar installation experience requirements.


How much does NABCEP certification cost?

There are various fees associated with becoming a NABCEP-certified solar professional.


Fee Schedule for NABCEP Board Solar Certifications:

NABCEP Certification

Application

Exam

Recertification

PVIP

$125

$375

$390

PVIS

$125

$375

$390

PVTS

$125

$375

$390


What Is The Difference Between NABCEP’s PVIP & PVIS Certification?

The PVIP certification has been around much longer and requires a broader range of knowledge, including maintenance and commissioning. It also has a greater training requirement and is a good idea for a lead installer or the owner of a PV company. By contrast, the PVIS certification focuses just on the installation phase of solar power projects and has a lower training requirement.


However, there are also many similarities. The exam covers similar information related to solar installation, and they both require an OSHA 10 card and solar industry experience. Also, both PVIP and PVIS certifications are available through NABCEP.


Is the NABCEP Exam Difficult to Pass?

Historically, pass rates for NABCEP exams have generally been lower than some other professional exams, reflecting the rigor of the certification process. To increase their chances of success, you can take NABCEP-approved training courses, review relevant study materials, take a practice exam, and participate in practical, hands-on experience.


Which NABCEP Certification is Best?

The best certification depends on your specific role and career objectives within the renewable energy sector. For example, if you are primarily involved in installing solar panels, the PV Installation Professional certification may be most relevant. If you focus on designing solar PV systems, the PV Design Specialist certification may be a better fit.


How Often Do Installers Need To Renew Their Solar Energy Certifications?

NABCEP certifications are valid for several years and then require recertification. The PVTS, PVIS, and PVIP certifications must be renewed after three years and have additional continuing education training requirements.


Are There Solar Installer Training Courses I Can Take?

A variety of community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities offer accredited classes and degree programs for solar installers and renewable energy professionals. Some of these programs are very specialized and designed for a specific aspect of the industry, such as solar farm development or management.


If you want to build your knowledge in a particular aspect of the solar industry, examine college programs. Often, there are online courses, which can eliminate the need to travel. In addition, some solar organizations offer hands-on training opportunities.


How Can Solar Installer Certifications Shape Hiring New Employees?

Owners of solar companies may struggle to find qualified solar installers and often need to train new hires. Applicants with related certifications distinguish themselves from other candidates by showing a certain amount of knowledge and experience.


Also, having employees with solar installer certifications can help PV companies stand out from competitors by going above and beyond what is required. Unfortunately, NABCEP-certified solar installers are in high demand but are often difficult to find. Often, companies pay for their employees to become NABCEP-certified solar installers or salespeople.


Another helpful strategy when hiring new employees is to look for trades professionals with related experience. For example, roofers often have transferable skills and are likely comfortable working at higher heights. Certified electricians already have electrical knowledge, credentials, and expertise. This experience may make it easier to train new hires and turn entry-level installers into experts more quickly.


Solar Installer Certifications Can Advance Careers And PV Companies

Many of the most recognized solar installation companies have solar technicians with NABCEP certifications and meet the licensing requirements set by their states. Obtaining this credential or hiring employees who are NABCEP-certified is an excellent way to earn the trust of potential customers and build a name as a reputable solar company. Now, there are more online training options than ever before.


Joining the GreenLancer platform is another way for solar companies to advance because we help streamline the solar permitting and engineering processes. Our solar services include solar engineering design services, PV plan sets, and interconnection applications. We offer a fast turnaround time and work with residential and commercial installers nationwide.


Fill out the submission form below to learn more about joining the GreenLancer marketplace.


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