Solar Energy Installation Managers
Education and Training Requirements
Technical skills as well as business and communication skills are required for solar energy installation management work. Be sure to take classes in mathematics, physics, earth science, environmental science, computer science, business, and English. Shop classes are also essential for honing skills with machinery and tools.
Solar energy installation managers have a variety of backgrounds. Some have a background in electrics, construction, or other trades. Many receive training at vocational schools or have an associate's degree and have received on-the-job training through a three- to four-year apprenticeship. College courses in math, environmental science, business, management, computers, communications, and English are helpful for this field.
Professional associations, trade schools, apprenticeship programs, and solar energy equipment and module manufacturers offer courses and certification programs in solar energy systems installation and management. The Solar Living Institute, a nonprofit organization, offers solar training via online and traditional courses. Visit its Web site, https://www.solarliving.org, for more information.
Some two- and four-year colleges and universities offer certificates in renewable energy technologies.
Other Education or Training
The American Solar Energy Society, Smart Electric Power Alliance, Solar Energy Industries Association, and The Solar Foundation offer webinars, classes, and conference workshops. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council also provides professional development opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Many solar energy installation managers are licensed as general contractors. They may also receive voluntary certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). The National Roofing Contractors’ Association’s Roof Integrated Solar Energy program certifies photovoltaic installers. The Electronics Technicians Association offers three career-track certification pathways in renewable energy technology: installer, integrator, and maintainer. The NABCEP offers certification to photovoltaic technical sales professionals.
Installation managers may also be certified by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies. To become certified, candidates must meet work experience requirements and pass an examination.
The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that some states require specific licenses to perform solar work. A solar certification typically is a specialty area for a general plumbing or electrical license. Some atmospheric and environmental scientists may need to be licensed. Those who are employed in positions that may affect the power grid must be certified by the North American Energy Reliability Corporation.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Most solar energy installation managers have four or more years of prior installation experience and participated in an apprenticeship that lasted three to four years. The job requires strong coordination, organization, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. Managers must be able to juggle a variety of tasks, from assessing and determining potential solar projects and drafting proposals, to communicating with installation workers and monitoring their work to ensure it's in compliance with codes and regulations. Managers must be able to organize, plan, and prioritize work in order to meet customers' needs. They are knowledgeable about building and construction, engineering and technology, math, design, and customer service. Good managers are able to motivate their teams, manage their time, and give employees their full attention, particularly when discussing installation problems and solutions. People who do best in this type of work are analytical thinkers who are detail oriented, dependable, cooperative, and ethical.