Solar energy may still make up a relatively small percentage of the energy used in this country, but federal, state and local governments are offering significant incentives to promote the expansion of this industry. Today, solar photovoltaic installation has become a rapidly growing field, but lack of training has made it difficult for some companies to find qualified professionals to handle the workload. Some community colleges around the company are now answering the call, providing solar technician training to prepare students for rewarding jobs in this field.
What is a Photovoltaic Installer?
According to an article on the Bureau of Labor Statistic's website, the American Solar Energy Society estimates that there were about 7,600 jobs in the solar energy industry in 2006. The majority of this number was photovoltaic installers, professionals who place solar panels on roofs to allow homeowners to capitalize on the sun's energy to heat and cool their homes.
There are many different types of solar panels today to accommodate for a wide range of shapes and sizes of buildings. Photovoltaic installers determine the best panel for the individual building and then install the panel, as well as the additional components, to get solar energy up and running for that structure.
Qualifications for photovoltaic installer positions begin with a high school diploma and usually continue with some sort of vocational training. People who begin their careers in the construction industry are often well suited for photovoltaic training because they are accustomed to the tools and processes involved with working on roofs and installing construction pieces. Some applicants are also hired as photovoltaic installers because they have associates degrees in electrical engineering or another related field. Thanks to the addition of solar power training at many community colleges, students interested in this field can now train directly for a position in their chosen industry as well.
The rewards of working as a photovoltaic installer are great. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, entry level workers can expect to earn anywhere from $12 to $15 an hour installing solar panels. Those who move into crew leadership positions may earn as much as $20 to $25 per hour.
In addition to the wages, those who work with solar energy have the satisfaction of knowing they are contributing to a greener environment for generations to come. Check out some of these community colleges around the country that have added solar energy training to their curriculum.
Solar Certification in Arizona
Chandler-Gilbert Community College in Arizona is one of the first in the country to provide solar energy training to students, according to Arizona Central. The four-week solar course prepares students for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners exam, as well as externships with a variety of solar energy companies in the area. The course was offered in response to the high unemployment rate for construction workers in the state, as well as a need to staff solar companies with qualified individuals.
Rocky Mountain Solar Training Program
In Utah, Salt Lake Community College, Solar Energy International and the Utah Solar Energy Association are all teaming up to create the Rocky Mountain Solar Training Program for students interested in entering the field. The organization seeks to provide funds to community colleges in 15 states to assist them in bringing solar training to their area. According to the organization's website, RMSTP will offer money and design plans to the award winners to help them build a solar lab right on their campus.
Oklahoma City Solar Training
At Oklahoma City Community College, a program to train solar photovoltaic installers kicked into gear this spring. The program includes a variety of courses in photovoltaic theory and systems, system design and installation and maintenance. The certified program prepares students for an entry-level position within the renewable energy industry, according to the college website.
OCCC corporate learning consultant John Claybon said on the college website, "The Solar PV Technician program is a certificate program designed to give students a fundamental understanding of how solar energy systems operate, and how they are designed, installed and maintained. Students enrolled in these courses will receive hands-on training that will prepare them for a career in the renewable energy industry."
Nevada Colleges Offering Training
In Nevada, a number of schools are opening their doors to solar energy training, according to a report at News Review. Truckee Meadows Community College and the University of Nevada-Reno are both including degree programs in renewable energy, which includes an overview of solar power. Training in these programs can help students land an entry level job in the solar power industry, where they can quickly advance into a rewarding career in the field. Students currently working as electricians can use this additional training to step right into a comparable career in solar energy, in some cases.
Solar energy is one of the waves of renewable energy of the future, and both federal and state government officials are tuning into that reality. As solar energy becomes a more viable option for providing the necessary fuel to run this country, the demand for qualified professionals in the solar industry is expected to grow exponentially. Now is the perfect time to prepare for a lucrative, rewarding career in an industry that is showing great promise as one of the best opportunities for employment in the future.