Solar energy technicians install and maintain systems that collect solar energy. They prepare the necessary fixtures, often on roofs, install solar panels, and plug them into an electronic system including an inverter to connect the solar energy systems to the electricity lines.
The duties of a solar energy technician include, but are not limited to:
- Installing solar panels and other equipment on roofs or in other outdoor locations
- Performing routine maintenance and troubleshooting on solar panels
- Helping to design and plan new solar panel systems
- Consulting with clients about the costs and benefits of different solar panel systems
- Installing inverters, batteries, pumps, and other equipment used in conjunction with solar panels
- Performing regular inspections of solar panels for damage, wear, or other issues
- Conducting site surveys to determine the best location for solar panels and other equipment
- Installing, repairing, and maintaining solar energy systems in homes and businesses
- Repairing electrical panels, wiring, and other components of a solar energy system
The following job titles also refer to solar energy technician:
solar operations and maintenance technician
photovoltaic energy installer
solar energy installation technician
solar energy system technician
solar energy panel installer
photovoltaic cell technician
solar energy array technician
solar energy harvesting technician
solar energy system maker
solar energy panel technician
PV field technician
solar energy system builder
solar farm technician
solar energy system installer
solar energy system constructor
solar O and M technician
solar energy plant technician
photovoltaic field technician
solar energy generation technician
photo-voltaic cell technician
photovoltaic energy panel installer
solar energy system designer
solar energy farm technician
photovoltaic system technician
Because photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity, most PV installation is done outdoors. Solar energy technicians work on rooftops but also sometimes work in attics and crawl spaces to connect panels to the electrical grid. PV installers who build solar farms work at ground level.
Injuries and Illnesses
Solar energy technicians risk falls from ladders and roofs, shocks from electricity, and burns from hot equipment and materials while installing and maintaining PV systems. To reduce the risk of injury, PV installers must wear safety equipment, such as harnesses, gloves, and hard hats.
Solar energy technicians typically need a minimum of a high school diploma. Some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree in solar energy technology or a related field. Courses in physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering are helpful for those pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
Most solar energy technicians will receive on-the-job training from their new employer after they are hired. This training will help the technician learn the specific procedures and methods the company uses to install and maintain solar panels. The solar energy technician may also receive additional training to learn how to use the specific software and equipment the company uses.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Solar energy technician is a Skill level 2 occupation.
Solar energy technician career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to solar energy technician.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of solar energy technician. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of solar energy technician with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of solar energy technician.
- Solar energy: The energy which originates from light and heat from the sun, and which can be harnessed and used as a renewable source of energy using different technologies, such as photovoltaics (PV) for electricity production and solar thermal energy (STE) for thermal energy generation.
- Electricity: Understand the principles of electricity and electrical power circuits, as well as the associated risks.
- Electrical wiring plans: Pictorial representation of an electrical circuit. It shows the components of the circuit as simplified shapes, and the power and signal connections between the devices. It gives information about the relative position and arrangement of devices and terminals on the devices, to help in building or servicing the device. A wiring diagram is often used to troubleshoot problems and to make sure that all the connections have been made and that everything is present.
- Mechanics: Theoretical and practical applications of the science studying the action of displacements and forces on physical bodies to the development of machinery and mechanical devices.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of solar energy technician.
- Mount photovoltaic panels: Securely install photovoltaic panels using a specified mounting system and on the defined position and inclination.
- Test procedures in electricity transmission: Perform tests on powerlines and cables, as well as other equipment used for the transmission of electrical power, in order to ensure the cables are well insulated, the voltage can be controlled well, and the equipment is compliant with regulations.
- Work ergonomically: Apply ergonomy principles in the organisation of the workplace while manually handling equipment and materials.
- Inspect electrical supplies: Check electrical supplies for damage, moisture, loss or other problems.
- Check compatibility of materials: Make sure the materials are fit to be used together, and if there are any foreseeable interferences.
- Comply with legal regulations: Ensure you are properly informed of the legal regulations that govern a specific activity and adhere to its rules, policies and laws.
- Transport construction supplies: Bring construction materials, tools and equipment to the construction site and store them properly taking various aspects into account such as the workers’ safety and protection from deterioration.
- Inspect construction supplies: Check construction supplies for damage, moisture, loss or other problems before using the material.
- Install electrical and electronic equipment: Install equipment which is dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to work, or equipment to generate, transfer or measure such currents and fields. This equipment includes switchboards, electric motors, generators or direct current systems.
- Install circuit breakers: Install electrical switches designed to switch off automatically in case of an overload or short-circuit. Organise circuit breakers in the panel logically. Make sure no foreign objects are introduced into the panel. Use only circuit breakers approved for the panel, usually the same manufacturer.
- Follow health and safety procedures in construction: Apply the relevant health and safety procedures in construction in order to prevent accidents, pollution and other risks.
- Interpret 3D plans: Interpret and understand plans and drawings in manufacturing processes which include representations in three dimensions.
- Use measurement instruments: Use different measurement instruments depending on the property to be measured. Utilise various instruments to measure length, area, volume, speed, energy, force, and others.
- Interpret 2D plans: Interpret and understand plans and drawings in manufacturing processes which include representations in two dimensions.
- Follow safety procedures when working at heights: Take necessary precautions and follow a set of measures that assess, prevent and tackle risks when working at a high distance from the ground. Prevent endangering people working under these structures and avoid falls from ladders, mobile scaffolding, fixed working bridges, single person lifts etc. since they may cause fatalities or major injuries.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of solar energy technician. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Zero-energy building design: The design and building principle whereby the net amount of energy used by the building equals the amount of renewable energy created by the building itself. The concept refers to self-sustaining constructions.
- Building codes: The set of guidelines that determine the minimum standards for buildings and other constructions in order to protect public health and safety.
- Types of photovoltaic panels: Different types of photovoltaic cells and panels, with different efficiencies in different types of weather, costs, durability and lifespan ratings, and mounting possibilities.
- Solar panel mounting systems: Different ways of setting up solar panels, such as pole mounting, where the panels are fixed to a surface, ballasted mounting, where weights are used to keep the panels in place, and solar tracking, where panels are mounted on a moving surface in order to follow the sun through the sky for optimal insolation.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of solar energy technician. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Install inverter: Install a power inverter, which converts direct current electricity to alternating current electricity to make the energy compatible with the grid.
- Answer requests for quotation: Make up prices and documents for the products that customers may purchase.
- Rig loads: Safely attach loads to different types of hooks and attachments, taking into account the weight of the load, the power available to move it, static and dynamic tolerances of all instruments and materials, and the mass distribution of the system. Communicate with the operator verbally or with gestures to ensure the safety and efficiency of the operation. Detach loads.
- Monitor stock level: Evaluate how much stock is used and determine what should be ordered.
- Work in a construction team: Work as part of a team in a construction project. Communicate efficiently, sharing information with team members and reporting to supervisors. Follow instructions and adapt to changes in a flexible manner.
- Maintain equipment: Regularly inspect and perform all required activities to maintain the equipment in functional order prior or after its use.
- Maintain work area cleanliness: Keep the working area and equipment clean and orderly.
- Estimate profitability: Take various factors into account to calculate the cost and potential revenues or savings gained from a product in order to evaluate the profit that could be generated by the new acquisition or by a new project.
- Calculate solar panel orientation: Calculate the optimal placement of solar panels. Take into account the longitude, seasonal insolation values, the direction of true south, and the placement of any shadow-casting structures in order to find the best location and inclination for the panels.
- Calculate needs for construction supplies: Take measurements on site and estimate the amount of materials required for the construction or restoration project.
- Provide information on solar panels: Provide organisations and individuals searching for alternative methods to provide facilities and residences with energy on the costs, benefits, and negative aspects of the installation and use of solar panels, and what one must take into account when considering the purchase and installation of solar systems.
- Maintain solar energy systems: Test the performance of the solar panels, read the measuring meters to check electricity indicators, identify and remedy malfunctions, and clean the panels if necessary.
- Keep personal administration: File and organise personal administration documents comprehensively.
- Order construction supplies: Order required materials for the construction project, taking care to purchase the most suitable material for a good price.
- Process incoming construction supplies: Receive incoming construction supplies, handle the transaction and enter the supplies into any internal administration system.
- Use safety equipment in construction: Use elements of protective clothing such as steel-tipped shoes, and gear such as protective goggles, in order to minimise risk of accidents in construction and to mitigate any injury if an accident does occur.
- Demonstrate products’ features: Demonstrate how to use a product in a correct and safe manner, provide customers with information on the product’s main features and benefits, explain operation, correct use and maintenance. Persuade potential customers to purchase items.
ISCO group and title
7411 – Building and related electricians
- Solar energy technician – ESCO
- Solar Photovoltaic Installers : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Department of Labor Statistics
- Solar Energy Technician Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
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