How Do I Become An Expert In Solar?

How do I become an expert in solar?

With solar energy growing rapidly as a renewable energy source worldwide, there is an increasing demand for solar experts. A solar expert is someone with specialized skills and knowledge in designing, installing, and maintaining photovoltaic solar panel systems. According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the solar market size in the U.S. has grown over 1300% in the past decade, so the need for qualified solar experts continues rising.

Becoming a solar expert requires gaining hands-on experience along with specific education and training. Solar experts take on various roles such as system designers, installers, salespeople, project managers, and more. With the right expertise, solar experts can have rewarding careers driving the adoption of renewable solar energy.

Education Paths

There are several degrees and certifications that can prepare you to enter the solar field. Some of the most common educational paths include:

Electrical engineering – Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, including solar panels and systems. Many schools offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering with a focus on power systems or renewable energy. Programs provide coursework in topics like power generation, transmission, and distribution (

Environmental science/engineering – These programs provide knowledge on topics like energy policy, climate change, renewable energy sources, sustainability, and environmental regulations. A background in environmental science can prepare you for solar jobs related to research, consulting, design, and advocacy (

Project management – Project managers are needed to oversee the large-scale installation of solar systems. Many schools offer certificate programs or master’s degrees in project management with a focus on renewable energy or sustainability.

PV design/installation certificates – Many community colleges and trade schools offer solar certificate programs that cover topics like photovoltaic system design, solar sales, installation methods, and safety regulations. Hands-on training prepares students for PV installer and other solar trade jobs.

Getting Experience

Gaining hands-on experience is crucial for starting a career in solar energy. Some ways to get practical experience include:

Internships at solar companies provide invaluable on-the-job training and networking opportunities. Many solar firms offer summer internships and you can search sites like EcoWatch and LinkedIn for listings.

Volunteering for solar installation projects in your community is a great way to learn. Organizations like LetsGoSolar connect volunteers with solar projects.

Specialized solar training programs offer multi-week hands-on learning. For example, Solar Energy International provides workshops at locations around the country.

Apprenticeships allow you to gain experience under the guidance of seasoned solar professionals. Unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have multi-year apprenticeships.

Getting hands-on experience through real-world solar projects and training is key to launching your solar career.

Focus Areas

There are a variety of focus areas within the solar industry that require different skills and expertise. Some of the main types of solar jobs include:

PV System Design – Engineers and architects who design solar PV systems, selecting the appropriate components and layouts for specific installations. They develop blueprints, permit documents, and other technical specifications (BLS).

Installation – Installers who assemble, connect, and attach solar panels and components on rooftops or other sites. They follow system designs and permit requirements (DOE).

Inspection – Inspectors who examine installed PV systems to ensure they meet applicable codes, standards, and regulatory requirements. They may specialize in structural, electrical, or fire inspections.

Sales – Sales professionals who assess customer needs and promote solar products and services. They provide quotes, address concerns, and close deals.

Policy – Policy analysts and renewable energy specialists who evaluate regulations and incentives for the solar industry. They research policy impacts and make recommendations.

Research – Researchers and scientists who study solar technologies and applications. They may focus on areas like photovoltaic materials, system performance, or integration with the grid.

Skills Needed

There are a variety of important skills needed to succeed as a solar expert including both technical skills and soft skills. Some key technical skills include strong math and construction abilities, as solar work involves complex calculations and building solar arrays and systems. According to Zipppia, important technical skills for solar panel installers include proficiency in PV systems, hand tools, safety codes, wire management, and electrical systems (source).

Soft skills like communication, problem-solving, and teamwork are also critical in solar fields, where technicians frequently collaborate and interact with clients and other professionals. As noted by Indeed, solar installation is rarely a one-person job, so being able to work well in a team is a vital skill (source). Understanding electrical systems, paying close attention to detail, and having a willingness to learn are other beneficial qualities in solar technicians, according to MIAT College of Technology (source).

Continuing Education

It’s crucial for solar experts to keep up with the latest technology and safety standards through continuing education. There are many options for ongoing solar training, including:

Conferences like Solar Power International offer multi-day events to learn about new solar innovations, case studies, business strategies, and networking opportunities. Attending solar conferences allows professionals to discover upcoming trends and connect with others in the industry.

Online courses from organizations like Solar Energy International provide on-demand classes on technical solar topics like PV system fundamentals, solar sales, and safety protocols. Online education is flexible and affordable.

Local workshops and site visits give hands-on solar training for specific skills like installation, maintenance, and safety procedures. These in-person classes allow for mentorship and practice to properly implement techniques.

By regularly participating in continuing education, solar professionals can refine their expertise and ensure they follow the latest best practices and regulations. Staying up-to-date helps provide safe, efficient, and high-quality solar services.

Getting Licensed/Certified

Licensing and certification requirements vary by state, but generally anyone installing or maintaining solar PV systems needs to obtain proper electrical and/or solar licenses and certifications. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), many states require solar contractors to hold an electrical contractor’s license, while some have specific solar contractor licenses

The most recognized national certification is from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). NABCEP offers certifications for solar installers, technical sales, and PV design through an exam-based process. Their certifications are voluntary but considered the “gold standard” for renewable energy professionals. According to NABCEP, certification can enhance your career prospects and demonstrate competency to potential clients

Other key licenses or certifications may be needed depending on your solar specialty, such as an electrical license for electrical work, a plumbing license for solar thermal systems, or a roofing license for roof work. It’s important to research the specific licensing requirements for your location and solar niche.

Joining Associations

There are several associations and organizations that support the solar industry and provide benefits to their members (Solar Energy Industries Association: SEIA). Some top solar associations include the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the American Solar Energy Society (Solar Organizations & Associations), and the Smart Electric Power Alliance (Solar Organizations & Associations). Joining one of these groups can provide networking, advocacy, discounts, access to research and publications, and education opportunities.

The key benefits of joining a solar industry association include connecting with other professionals in the field, learning about new developments and best practices, gaining credibility, and having a collective voice for advocacy. Associations like SEIA lobby on behalf of the solar industry and work to advance favorable policies. Most groups also host annual conferences and events that enable members to meet in person and share knowledge. Joining an association demonstrates a commitment to the industry and staying on the cutting edge.

For those looking to establish themselves as solar experts, becoming active in one or more industry associations is highly recommended. Volunteering for committees and advisory boards provides leadership experience. Attending association events and networking expands your connections. Overall, membership can help new and experienced solar professionals stay informed, advance their careers, and support the broader goals of their industry.

Staying Current

To stay up-to-date on the latest news and advancements in the solar industry, there are a number of great publications and resources to follow. Some top solar magazines and publications that experts recommend include:

Solar Power World – Solar Power World provides daily news updates and insights into the solar industry, making it a go-to source for staying current.

PV Magazine – With a focus on technology, markets, and installation, PV Magazine offers solar news from around the world.

Solar Magazine – Solar Magazine provides news on solar policy, research, and business developments.

In addition to publications, solar professionals recommend following influential solar blogs, podcasts, associations, and social media accounts to keep up with trends and innovations in the field.

Being a Thought Leader

To build your reputation as a solar expert, look for opportunities to share your knowledge through speaking engagements, writing, and networking. Consider these tips for establishing thought leadership:

  • Submit proposals to speak at solar industry conferences and events. This exposes you to new audiences and helps build name recognition.
  • Write guest articles for solar publications and blogs. Offer unique insights and advice based on your experience. See examples from Victoria Ma: Best Practices for Solar Thought Leadership Content.
  • Network with other solar professionals at industry events and through organizations like the Solar Energy Industries Association. Share ideas and build relationships.
  • Start your own solar blog or podcast. Consistently publish high-quality content to demonstrate your expertise.
  • Participate actively on solar forums and social media. Answer questions and offer advice to establish yourself as a trusted source.

By consistently creating and distributing valuable solar insights, you can become a recognized leader in the field.

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