Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, also known as PV installers, assemble, install, and maintain solar panel systems on rooftops or other structures.

Duties

PV installers typically do the following:

  • Plan PV system configurations based on customer needs and site conditions
  • Measure, cut, and assemble the support structure for solar PV panels
  • Install solar modules, panels, and support structures in accordance with building codes and standards
  • Connect PV panels to the electrical system
  • Apply weather sealant to equipment being installed
  • Activate and test PV systems
  • Perform routine PV system maintenance

Solar PV panels convert sunlight to electricity, and PV installers put these systems in place. PV installers use a variety of hand and power tools to install PV panels. They often use drills, wrenches, saws, and screwdrivers to connect panels to frames, wires, and support structures.

Many new PV installers begin by performing basic tasks, such as installing support structures and placing PV panels or PV shingles on top of them. Once the panels are in place, more-experienced installers usually perform more-complex duties, such as connecting electrical components.

Depending on the job and state laws, PV installers may connect the solar panels to the electric grid, although electricians sometimes perform this duty. Once the panels are installed, workers check the electrical systems for proper wiring, polarity, and grounding, and they also perform maintenance as needed.

Work Environment

Solar photovoltaic installers held about 9,700 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of solar photovoltaic installers were as follows:

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 39%
Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors                   33
Self-employed workers 5
Utilities 4

Because photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity, most PV installation is done outdoors. Residential installers work on rooftops and in attics and crawl spaces to connect panels to the electric grid. PV installers who build solar farms work at ground level and need to build structures to hold the PV panel framework.

PV installers may work alone or as part of a team. Installation of solar panels may require the help of roofers and electricians, as well as solar photovoltaic installers.

Injuries and Illnesses

Solar photovoltaic installers risk falls from ladders and roofs, shocks from electricity, and burns from hot equipment and materials while installing and maintaining PV systems. Those working on roofs must use required fall protection equipment.

Education and Training

There are multiple paths to becoming a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer, often called a PV installer. Most workers need a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year. Other candidates take courses at a technical school or community college. Some PV installers learn to install panels as part of an apprenticeship.

Education

Most employers require PV installers to have a high school diploma. Some PV installers take courses at local community colleges or trade schools to learn about solar panel installation. Courses range from basic safety and PV knowledge to system design. Although course lengths vary by state and locality, most usually last a few days to several months.

Some candidates may enter the field by taking online training courses. This option is particularly useful for candidates with prior construction experience, such as former electricians.

Training

Some PV installers learn their trade on the job by working with experienced installers. On-the-job training usually lasts between 1 month and 1 year. During training, PV installers learn about safety, tools, and PV system installation techniques.

Electrician and roofing apprentices and journey workers may complete photovoltaic-specific training modules through apprenticeships.

Solar PV system manufacturers may also provide training on specific products. Such training usually includes a system overview and proper installation techniques for the manufacturer’s products.

Military veterans may benefit from the Solar Ready Vets program, which is a joint effort of the U.S Departments of Defense and Energy to connect veterans with training and jobs in the solar industry.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Experience in construction may shorten a new employee’s training time. For example, workers with experience as an electrician, roofer, carpenter, or laborer typically already understand and can perform basic construction duties.

In addition, those with knowledge of electrical work, such as electricians, are highly valued by contractors.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most employers require PV installers to have a driver’s license.

Certification is not a requirement but can demonstrate a PV installer’s competency in solar panel installation. The Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA); the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners; and Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE) Inc., all offer certification for PV installers.

Personality and Interests

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers typically have an interest in the Building and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Customer-service skills. Residential panel installers must work in customers’ homes. As a result, workers must maintain professionalism and perform the work in a timely manner.

Detail oriented. PV installers must carefully follow instructions during installation. If they fail to do so, the system may not work properly.

Mechanical skills. PV installers work with complex electrical and mechanical equipment. They must be able to build support structures that hold PV panels in place, and properly connect the panels to the electrical system.

Physical stamina. PV installers are often on their feet carrying panels and other heavy equipment. When installing rooftop panels, workers may need to climb ladders many times during the course of the day.

Physical strength. PV installers must often lift heavy equipment, parts, and tools. Workers should be strong enough to lift panels that weigh up to 40 pounds.

Pay

The median annual wage for solar photovoltaic installers was $44,890 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $63,880.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for solar photovoltaic installers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors                  $46,630
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 44,870
Utilities 42,280
Job Outlook

Employment of solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, often called PV installers, is projected to grow 63 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The continued expansion and adoption of solar panel installation is expected to create new jobs. As the cost of PV panels and shingles continues to fall, more residential households are expected to take advantage of these systems, resulting in greater demand for the workers who install them. The increasing popularity of solar leasing plans—in which homeowners lease rather than purchase systems—should create additional demand, as they no longer bear the upfront costs of installation.

The long-term outlook, however, is heavily dependent on government incentives, cost, and the continued improvement of PV panels. States and localities that provide incentives to reduce the cost of PV systems should experience greater demand for workers. Common incentives include tax rebates, direct subsidies, renewable energy purchase mandates, and net metering.

Job Prospects

PV installers who complete a course in photovoltaic systems at a community college or technical school will have the best job opportunities. Those with apprenticeships or journey electrician experience will also have very good job opportunities. Workers with experience in construction occupations, such as laborers, roofers, and carpenters, will have better job opportunities than those without construction experience.

For More Information

For more information about accredited training programs, visit

Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA)

Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc.

North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners

NCCER

For details about apprenticeships or other training opportunities in this trade, contact the offices of the state employment service, technical colleges, the state apprenticeship agency, local photovoltaic contractors, firms that employ PV installers, or local union–management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about apprenticeships for solar photovoltaic installers, visit

IBEW–NECA Electrical Training Alliance

CareerOneStop

For a career video on PV installers, visit

Solar photovoltaic installers

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