Solar Installer Certifications: What You Need To Know
Because the solar energy industry is growing so rapidly, so too is the demand for qualified solar PV installers. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment for solar electric installers will grow by 52% between 2020 and 2030.
As the market expands, it will be essential to train installers and ensure they have the required licenses to perform solar installations. 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. But, these requirements vary widely by state and localities and are critical to understand and follow to operate legally. Also, some rebate programs may have additional requirements for PV contractors.
Let’s examine the various solar certifications available in the industry.
What Certifications Are Available To Solar PV Installers?
The leading certifications specific to solar installers are through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). The organization offers a variety of certifications that are designed for solar system installation and sales professionals.
Some states require NABCEP certification for solar installers. In other areas, NABCEP certification is optional but an excellent way to build a resume, earn trust from potential customers, and validate knowledge. This guide will provide an overview of the different programs available; we recommend you explore your specific state and local requirements.
PV Installation Professional (PVIP) Board Certification
PV Installation Professional Board Certification is considered the gold standard for PV installers, and this well-known professional certification has been available since 2003. Therefore, it is widely recognized in the renewable energy industry. This 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.
As of this writing, the requirements for obtaining a PVIP certification were 10 hours of OSHA Outreach Training Program for the Construction Industry, 58 hours of solar training courses, passing a written exam, and fulfilling the installation experience requirement.
PV Installer Specialist (PVIS) Board Certification
The Installer Specialist Board Certification requires knowledge of solar installation but isn’t as focused on other aspects of the project, such as commissioning and maintenance knowledge as the PVIP. It is ideal for someone that wants to be an installer but not necessarily work on other aspects of solar power projects.
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.
PV Technical Sales (PVTS) Board Certification
This is an excellent option for solar professionals that 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 energy systems. However, unlike some of the other NABCEP certifications, it does not require expertise in solar installation.
The PVTS certification requires 10 hours of OSHA construction industry training, solar training, passing a written exam, and experience selling solar systems.
OSHA Construction Safety
These courses and certification programs are designed to prevent injury on the job. For example, 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. In addition, many OSHA courses are available online, eliminating the need to travel.
Each state issues these licenses, and the requirements vary. Usually, there are different levels of licensed electricians, and becoming licensed requires passing a written exam and completing a certain number of hours of relevant experience.
Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Installer Certifications
In this section, we’ll cover some of the most frequently asked questions about solar certifications.
Why Are Certifications Important In The Solar Industry?
Unfortunately, not all solar installers are reputable or understand solar installation basics and the National Electrical Code. NABCEP certification allows installers a way to distinguish their knowledge to customers to earn trust.
In addition, motivated individuals can advance their careers and differentiate themselves from other applicants by obtaining certification. For example, it’s ideal for lead solar installers to have earned NABCEP certification.
What Are The Similarities And Differences Of Certifications Vs. Licenses?
In general, states require licensing to perform certain types of work, while 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. This makes it difficult for installers to move because their license may not be valid in a different state. One benefit of NABCEP certification is that it is nationally recognized and is not limited to a specific state or locality.
What Is The Difference Between The NABCEP PV Installation Professional And PV Installer Specialist 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 end of things and has a lower training requirement.
However, there are also many similarities. For example, 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 certification are available through the NABCEP.
How Often Do Installers Need To Renew Their Certifications?
NABCEP certifications are valid for several years and then require recertification. The PVTS, PVIS, and PVIP certifications must be renewed after 3 years and have additional continuing education training requirements.
What Other Certifications And Courses Exist That Could Benefit Solar Installers?
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 certain 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 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 certifications can help solar companies stand out in the market by going above and beyond what is required. Unfortunately, NABCEP-certified professionals are in high demand and are often difficult to find. Often companies pay for their employees to seek certification.
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. Such experience may make it easier to train new hires and turn entry-level installers into experts more quickly.
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 that are NABCEP-certified is an excellent way to earn trust from potential customers and build a name as a reputable solar company. Now, there are more online training options than ever before.