The demand for solar energy in the U.S. is at an all-time high, according to Energy.gov. At the current rate of growth our country is on track to be one of the largest solar markets in the world. A greater demand for solar energy would mean more job openings in the industry. Solar technicians help to construct, install and repair active systems.
They’re also hired to consult and improve passive solar systems, which rely on a combination of windows, insulation and natural solar radiation to keep an indoor environment temperature-controlled. An array of plumbers, engineers, architects and carpenters are needed to plan, fabricate and install solar panels, but the industry would not be able to thrive without solar technicians.
There are job openings for solar technicians all across the country. A rise in the numbers of factories, businesses and single family homes being run by the sun means there are more opportunities to work with local companies no matter where you live. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics1, areas where the construction industry is strong hold the most potential for employment.
What you need to become a solar technician
- Education – Enrolling in a vocational program to become an electrical technician is an essential step towards becoming a solar technician. For instance, RSI’s Electro-Mechanical Technologies program can be completed in only 9 months, preparing students to become a Solar Thermal Repair Technician, Solar Panel Installer or Solar Systems Troubleshooter. Coursework typically covers installation, service, and maintenance.
- On-the-Job Training – For those who seek out more specific expertise, on-the-job training for certain positions is sometimes available through larger companies. Individual solar-product manufacturers may require training specific to their products once a qualified candidate has been hired.
- Physical Skills – Working as a solar technician is a physically demanding job. Workers can expect to be on their feet much of the day carrying heavy equipment and climbing ladders. The ability to lift solar panels, which can weigh at least 40 lbs., and fit into small, uncomfortable spaces, is a necessity.
- Mental Skills – Solar techs need to have an eye for detail and be able to follow instructions exactly as they’re given. Failing to follow protocol can mean the failure of the solar system. Technicians spend most of their workday installing, repairing or maintaining complex equipment. The ability to think clearly, trouble shoot and work independently as well as with others is needed. Solar equipment is complex. Technicians need mental dexterity to be successful as much as they need physical strength.
- People Skills – Yes, solar technicians do need people skills. Techs will be required to communicate with other professionals and customers. Good customer-service skills are necessary when technicians work on residential jobs. A technician may need to enter a customer’s home, discuss the source of a malfunction and schedule follow-up appointments. Professionalism and punctuality are important.
Solar technicians can expect their opportunities to fluctuate as the construction industry ebbs and flows, but overall, the industry is expected to grow much faster than average as compared to other occupations according to the BLS. Technicians with a strong background in the field of electricity and those with experience working in construction will have the best job opportunities overall.
1 – http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/solar-photovoltaic-installers.htm#tab-6