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Solar panel installer

A solar photovoltaic installer could...

Fit a set of photovoltaic panels to the contours of a building's roof. House with solar panels Help power a military base by installing photovoltaic panels in a desert nearby. Solar panels in desert
Reinforce a carport roof to make sure it can withstand the weight of multiple photovoltaic panels. Solar panel parking lot Identify and replace damaged photovoltaic panels at a solar energy farm. Solar farm
Find out more...

Key Facts & Information

Overview 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 High school diploma or equivalent
Subjects to Study in High School Physics, algebra, geometry; if available, applied technology
Median Salary
Solar Photovoltaic Installer
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Much Faster than Average (21% or more) In Demand!
  • In this interview, Jason Edens, rural solar advocate, answers questions about solar heating systems and how he got started.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

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.

Other Qualifications

Individuals interested in this career must enjoy working outdoors, be able to lift 60 to 80 pounds, and be comfortable working at heights.

In this video, Faisal El-Azzouzi, a construction manager who oversees crews of solar photovoltaic installers, talks about the need for skilled labor in this booming career.

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.

Work Environment

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...

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Do you want to build a solar-powered car? How about enter it in a competition and race it against other people's designs? If so, this is the project for you! These instructions will show you how to get started building a solar-powered car that you can enter in a science or engineering fair. No experience needed. If you want, you can even compete in the Junior Solar Sprint, a regional competition for solar-powered cars. Get more information about your regional competition. Are you a… Read more
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Solar cells provide a clean way of making electricity directly from sunlight. In this project you will build a simple circuit and experimental setup to investigate whether the power output of a solar cell changes with ambient temperature. Read more
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Solar cells are an alternative method for generating electricity directly from sunlight. With this project, you can get down to the atomic level and learn about the world of solid-state electronics as you investigate how solar cells work. Your experiment will measure the effect of changing light intensity on power output from the solar cell. A possible variation would be to investigate the effect of changing the color of the light. Read more
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Do you like getting something for nothing? Everybody likes getting things for free. How about getting energy and power for free? The Sun sends us free energy every second and all we have to do is collect it. Taking advantage of free energy can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, which are harmful to our environment. In this science fair project, you will work with a solar panel, which is a collector of free energy, and investigate how varying the angle of the solar panel, and thus the amount… Read more
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The amount of energy produced by most photovoltaic (solar) panels is limited, due to their immobility. However, when photovoltaic panels track the movement of the Sun, their efficiency increases significantly. This can be done with computers and sophisticated electronics, but for rural or wilderness settings, a "low-tech" sun tracker would be beneficial. A solution exists in nature: the sunflower. The challenge in this science fair project is to design and build a device that imitates the… Read more
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Solar power is hot these days. Gleaming, black solar panels soak up rays on more and more rooftops of homes and businesses providing a clean, alternative source of heat and electricity. You might guess that different times of the day yield different levels of solar power. But just how much does the sun's position in the sky affect the power that solar cells and panels can generate? That's the question this project is all about. Read more
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Has your house (or one of your friend's houses) been remodeled recently? Were any improvements made for energy efficiency (solar systems, better insulation, passive solar heating, better lighting)? Compare your family's energy costs for a similar time period before and after the remodeling (remember that energy usage often varies seasonally). Monthly bills often have a bar graph showing energy usage for the previous 12 months. You may also be able to get information on past energy usage… Read more

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