Solar Photovoltaic Installer
A solar photovoltaic installer could...
|Fit a set of photovoltaic panels to the contours of a building's roof.||Help power a military base by installing photovoltaic panels in a desert nearby.|
|Reinforce a carport roof to make sure it can withstand the weight of multiple photovoltaic panels.||Identify and replace damaged photovoltaic panels at a solar energy farm.|
Key Facts & Information
Would you like knowing that what you do every day helps the environment and saves money? Well, that is what solar photovoltaic installers do. They outfit buildings and large solar energy farms with photovoltaic systems that convert free sunlight into clean and renewable energy. This is an exciting, emerging field that will enable you to combine a passion for the environment with mechanical and electrical skills.
|Key Requirements||Good mechanical skills, detail-oriented work habits, willingness to work outdoors, physically fit with no fear of heights, disciplined and self-motivated nature, ability to work well with others|
|Minimum Degree||Vocational or associate's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Physics, algebra, geometry; if available, applied technology|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||Much Faster than Average (21% or more) In Demand!|
Training, Other Qualifications
The minimum education recommended is a degree from a vocational school. However, applicants with a high school degree can pursue careers as solar photovoltaic installers with extensive on-the-job training. This is an emerging, in-demand career. Solar photovoltaic installers who get further training and acquire electrical licenses can become lead installers and eventually assume more responsibilities, such as applying for work permits, planning, and system design.
Some employers require that applicants be certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (or NABCEP).
Education and Training
The minimum degree required to enter this field is a vocational or associate's degree. Applicants should obtain math, construction, roofing, and mechanical skills along with electrical experience during schooling.
Individuals interested in this career must enjoy working outdoors, be able to lift 60 to 80 pounds, and be comfortable working at heights.
Nature of the Work
A solar photovoltaic system is made up of solar cells that are joined into modules and then further connected into large panels. Solar photovoltaic installers assemble, install, or maintain solar photovoltaic systems on roofs, sides of buildings, poles, and the ground according to plans made by solar energy systems engineers. They may measure, cut, assemble, and bolt structural framing and solar modules. Some solar photovoltaic installers may perform minor electrical work such as current checks.
Most solar photovoltaic systems are installed on the rooftops of buildings. In this case, solar photovoltaic installers must determine if the rooftop can bear the weight of the system. If not, then the solar photovoltaic installers must improve the structural integrity of the roof. They must also design the system to fit on the roof.
Once the system is fixed to the site, the solar photovoltaic installers wait for a licensed electrician to connect the system to the utility box and the main electrical grid. Solar photovoltaic installers can connect the system themselves if they are licensed electricians. Solar photovoltaic installers who are licensed are lead installers. After the system has been connected, the solar photovoltaic installers are responsible for activating the system and making sure that it is functioning properly.
As the use of solar power expands, the tasks of solar photovoltaic installers are evolving. Some workers concentrate primarily on installing the panels. Others, especially those at small companies, do everything from sales to planning to wiring. Experienced installers in any company could advance to lead installer, system designer, sales representative, or other positions.
Most solar photovoltaic installers spend their days outdoors. Like construction workers, installers' days often start early to beat the worst of the heat. Work ceases when it rains, as installing systems is dangerous in wet weather. Working in high places requires taking special precautions, such as wearing a harness, but safety equipment is often no match for hazardous outdoor conditions. Following all safety procedures and regulations on the job is required.
Work schedules of solar photovoltaic installers can be similar to those of construction workers, with long hours on some days followed by periods of no employment.
On the Job
- Assemble solar modules, panels, or support structures, as specified.
- Install active solar systems, including solar collectors, concentrators, pumps, or fans.
- Install photovoltaic systems in accordance with codes and standards using drawings, schematics, and instructions.
- Perform routine photovoltaic system maintenance on modules, arrays, batteries, power conditioning equipment, safety systems, structural systems, weather sealing, or balance-of-systems equipment.
- Activate photovoltaic systems to verify system functionality and conformity to performance expectations.
- Apply weather sealing to array, building, or support mechanisms.
- Check electrical installation for proper wiring, polarity, grounding, or integrity of terminations.
- Determine appropriate sizes, ratings, and locations for all system over-current devices, disconnect devices, grounding equipment, and surge suppression equipment.
- Determine connection interfaces for additional subpanels or for connecting photovoltaic systems with utility services or other power generation sources.
- Determine photovoltaic system designs or configurations based on factors such as customer needs, expectations, and site conditions.
- Diagram layouts and locations for photovoltaic arrays and equipment, including existing building or site features.
- Examine designs to determine current requirements for all parts of the photovoltaic system electrical circuit.
- Identify and resolve any deficiencies in photovoltaic system installation or materials.
- Identify electrical, environmental, and safety hazards associated with photovoltaic installations.
- Identify installation locations with proper orientation, area, solar access, or structural integrity for photovoltaic arrays.
- Identify methods for laying out, orienting, and mounting modules or arrays to ensure efficient installation, electrical configuration, or system maintenance.
- Install module array interconnect wiring, implementing measures to disable arrays during installation.
- Install required labels on solar system components and hardware.
- Measure and analyze system performance and operating parameters to assess operating condition of systems or equipment.
- Program, adjust, or configure inverters and controls for desired set points and operating modes.
- Select mechanical designs, installation equipment, or installation plans that conform to environmental, architectural, structural, site, and code requirements.
- Test operating voltages to ensure operation within acceptable limits for power conditioning equipment, such as inverters and controllers.
- Visually inspect and test photovoltaic modules or systems.
- Compile or maintain records of system operation, performance, and maintenance.
- Demonstrate system functionality and performance, including start-up, shut-down, normal operation, and emergency or bypass operations.
- Determine materials, equipment, and installation sequences necessary to maximize installation efficiency.
Companies That Hire Solar Photovoltaic Installers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Solar Photovoltaic Installer that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from https://www.onetonline.org/
- Grist Staff. (2016, March 28). Jason Edens, rural solar advocate, answers questions. Retrieved May 22, 2017, from http://grist.org/article/edens/full/
- Torpey, E.M. (2009, December 10). Solar photovoltaic installer. Occupational Outlook Quarterly. 53 (3). Retrieved February 10, 2011, from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2009/fall/yawhat.pdf
- Johnson, Anna. (2018, December 19). Careers in Solar Power Manufacturing and Installation. State of Oregon Employment Department. Retrieved May 24, 2019, from https://www.qualityinfo.org/-/careers-in-solar-power-manufacturing-and-installation
- The Phoenix Learning Group, Inc. (2008, September 30). Green Careers: Building Green. Retrieved February 18, 2011, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7oxudDxH68
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
Explore Our Science Videos
Lift Ice with Yarn STEM activity
Is the Egg Raw or Cooked? STEM activity
Make a Hygrometer to Measure Humidity - STEM activity