Solar Panel Installers
Overview | Specific
Work Activities | Common Work Activities | Related
Occupations | Skills and Abilities | Working
Conditions | Physical Demands | Knowledge
| Interests | Wages | Current
Employment | Outlook |
Helpful High School Courses | Preparation
| Related Educational Programs | Hiring Practices
| Licensing/Certification/Designation/Registration |
Advancement Opportunities | Additional
Sources of Information
- Usually have experience in a related field, such as construction
- May have a certificate or an associate's degree
- Work outdoors
•Use a variety of tools when performing the job
- May need a license
- Need to understand electrical wiring
- Earn $37,900 per year (national median)
Solar panel installers place solar panels in sunny places to gather the sun's power.
The most common type of solar module is the 3' x 5' flat solar panel. It is usually mounted on top of a roof. Before adding the panels to a roof, installers make sure that there is enough room and that the roof can hold the extra weight. If the roof isn't strong enough, installers reinforce it.
Once the roof is ready, installers bolt structural framing, or racking, to the roof. They attach the solar panels to the rack and connect them with wires. They check the wiring on the panels and on the building itself to make sure the panels work correctly.
Installers hook the wires to an inverter. This device turns the energy captured by the solar cells into electricity used by homes and businesses. Installers program inverters to specific set points and modes. Some systems include a battery that stores power for later use. Inverters must be wired to buildings by licensed electricians. Because of this requirement, many installers are licensed electricians. When the system is activated, installers ensure the system responds to the controls and performs as designed.
Lead installers may take responsibility for getting work permits and inspections. Lead installers decide what materials and tools to bring to the work site. They evaluate work site conditions. They decide the layout of the system to ensure it is safe, gets enough sun, and is easy to maintain. Some people want their solar panels connected to the power grid or a backup generator. These may require special subpanels or other equipment. The lead installer ensures that all parts of the system work well together. They must label the parts correctly and document that the system meets all requirements.
Work schedules of solar panel installers are similar to those of construction workers. They may work long hours on some days followed by periods of no employment.
Workers must be comfortable working at heights. Many residential installations are on roofs with steep slopes and on loose or fragile materials, such as clay shingles. Installers often wear safety harnesses when working on houses with steep roofs. Most commercial installations are on flat roofs.
Solar panel installers use power tools and hand tools to construct equipment. They must read diagrams and instructions and follow them precisely. They may also keep records on system performance and maintenance.
As the use of solar power expands, the job tasks of solar panel installers change as well. Workers may install active solar systems, like solar collectors. Those at small companies may perform many duties such as maintenance, sales, planning, and wiring.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to solar panel installers.
- Install solar panels according to codes and standards, using drawings and instructions.
- Assemble modules, panels, and support structures.
- Apply weather sealing.
- Determine sizes, ratings, and locations for system devices and equipment.
- Lay out, orient, and mount modules to ensure efficiency.
- Identify various hazards before installation.
- Examine designs to determine current requirements for all parts of the electrical circuit.
- Check electrical installation for proper wiring and grounding.
- Test voltages to make sure operation is within acceptable limits.
- Identify and resolve problems in installation or materials.
- Program, adjust, and configure controls. Test and inspect modules and systems.
- Perform routine maintenance on modules, batteries, safety systems, and weather sealing.
Solar panel installers perform the following list
of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Handle and move objects.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Teach others.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Process information.
- Think creatively.
- Operate vehicles or mechanized equipment.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Coordinate the work and activities of others.
- Repair and maintain electronic equipment.
- Communicate with people outside the organization.
- Provide information or drawings about devices, equipment, or structures.
- Architecture and Construction
Hawaii Career Pathways:
- Industrial & Engineering Technology
Solar panel installers need
- Listen to others, understand, and ask questions.
- Express ideas clearly when speaking.
- Read and understand work-related materials.
Reason and Problem Solve
- Notice when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.
- Develop rules or follow guidelines when arranging items in a certain order.
- Analyze ideas and use logic to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
- Use reasoning to discover answers to problems.
- Combine several pieces of information and draw conclusions.
- Concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task.
- Judge the costs and benefits of a possible action.
- Understand new information or materials by studying and working with them.
Manage Oneself, People, Time, and Things
Work with People
- Check how well one is learning or doing something.
- Manage the time of self and others.
Work with Things
- Change behavior in relation to others’ actions.
- Install equipment, machines, wiring, or programs to meet specifications.
- Determine the causes of technical problems and find solutions for them.
- Test and inspect products, services, or processes. Evaluate quality or performance.
Perceive and Visualize
- Imagine how something will look if it is moved
around or its parts are rearranged.
- Quickly and accurately compare letters, numbers,
objects, pictures, or patterns.
In a typical work setting, solar panel installers:
- Have a medium level of social interaction. They spend time talking to customers but also spend time working alone during installation.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work outcomes and results of other workers.
- Are somewhat responsible for the health and safety of others.
- Sometimes work as part of a team.
- Communicate mostly via telephone and in-person discussions.
Physical Work Conditions
- Usually work outdoors.
- Are frequently exposed to high places.
- Often wear specialized protective or safety gear when working.
- Are often exposed to hazardous conditions, situations, and equipment that may produce minor cuts or scrapes.
- Are often exposed to hot or cold temperatures, especially during unpredictable weather.
- Must occasionally deal with loud or distracting sounds or noise levels.
- Occasionally must get into awkward positions to reach cramped work spaces.
- Sometimes must work in very bright or very dim lighting conditions.
- May work physically near others, within a few feet.
- Must be exact and accurate when performing the job. Errors could impact the performance of the solar panel.
- Sometimes must repeat the same physical or mental activities.
- Are usually able to make decisions on their own that affect their customers. Sometimes they consult with other installers or supervisors before taking a course of action.
- Must meet strict weekly deadlines.
Hours / Travel
- Usually work a set schedule.
- Usually work 40 hours per week.
- May work overtime.
Solar panel installers frequently:
- Use their hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Stand, walk or run for long periods of time.
- Climb ladders, scaffolds, or poles.
- Kneel, stoop, crouch, or crawl.
- Bend or twist their body.
- Repeat the same movements.
It is important for solar panel installers to
be able to:
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
It is not as important, but still necessary, for solar panel installers to be able to:
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Be physically active and use muscles for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Keep or regain the body's balance or stay upright when in an unstable position.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- See objects in very bright or glaring light.
- Determine from which direction a sound came.
- While looking forward, see objects or movements that are off to the side.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
Solar panel installers need
knowledge in the following areas:
- Mechanical: Knowledge of designing, using, and repairing machines and tools.
- Building and Construction: Knowledge of constructing buildings and other structures.
- English Language: Knowledge of the meaning, spelling, and use of the English language.
- Design: Knowledge of making and using plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.
- Customer and Personal Service: Knowledge of providing special services to customers based on their needs.
- Production and Processing: Knowledge of how products are made and supplied.
- Engineering and Technology: Knowledge of how to build machines, buildings, and other things. Also includes knowledge of how to use computers, machines, and tools to do work more usefully.
- Mathematics: Knowledge of the rules and uses of numbers. Areas of knowledge include arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statistics.
Solar panel installers are people who tend
- Consider achievement important. They like to see the results of their work and to use their strongest abilities. They like to get a feeling of accomplishment from their work.
- Consider support from their employer important. They like to be treated fairly and have supervisors who will back them up. They prefer jobs where they are trained well.
- Have realistic interests. They like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like to work with plants, animals, and physical materials such as wood, tools, and machinery. They often prefer to work outside.
- Have conventional interests. They like work activities that follow set procedures, routines, and standards. They like to work with data and detail. They prefer working where there is a clear line of authority to follow.
Pay varies with the area of the country, the employer, and the worker's experience. Workers who have an electrician's license typically earn more.
Full-time solar panel installers may receive benefits. Typical benefits include health insurance, sick leave, and paid vacation. Installers who work for small companies may have to provide their own insurance.
Solar Photovoltaic Installers
(1) Wage estimate is not available.
Growth is expected to continue in the solar-power industry. This is due to the trend in government incentives and increased consumer interest. These incentives make solar power more affordable for individuals and businesses.
In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from our state's graduation requirements. Click here for public school graduation requirements for the Class of 2014 and 2015. Click here for the graduation requirements for the Class of 2016 and beyond.
If you attend a private school, check with your school counselor for graduation
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this
- Computer Science
- Equipment Maintenance and Repair
- Introduction to Mechanics
- Physical Science
The courses listed above
are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already
done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering
You should also check with
a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available
in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing,
internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to
help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.
Join some groups, try some
hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating
in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself.
Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Click here for examples
and groups that may be available in your high school or community.
To work as a solar panel installer, you must:
- have a high school diploma or GED; and
- have work experience in a related occupation
or have a combination of education and experience.
A college degree is not required to become a solar panel installer. However, many installers have an associate degree in an electrical or solar field, or a certificate from a training program.
A small number of colleges and universities offer training or continuing education programs in solar energy. A list of training programs within the United States is available at: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/education/educational_professional.html
Be careful when enrolling in solar installation programs. This is an emerging industry, and there are no standard training requirements. As a result, the quality of information provided by programs varies widely. You should investigate the schools you are interested in.
It is helpful to have mechanical or electrical work experience. People with construction backgrounds are well suited for the work. Roofing experience is valuable.
If you have related work experience, you can become a solar panel installer through on-the-job training. The length of this training can vary. New workers often learn on the job, although training in solar installation or solar power is helpful.
Training usually lasts one month.
Employers look for solar panel installers who have related work experience in this field. Those who are certified may have a competitive edge over other applicants.
Employers look for applicants with excellent communication skills. Installers must communicate with homeowners and other installers, so the ability to write and speak well is important. Those who are organized and detail-oriented are desirable employees as well.
In addition, it is important to be in good physical condition, as installers often have to lift and carry large panels and other equipment. Good balance and no fear of heights is also important.
Licensing / Certification / Designation / Registration
Typically, workers who install, test, and maintain electrical systems are required to have an electrician's license. Check with your state for information about local licensing requirements.
Installers with a high degree of skill and good performance on the job may advance to supervisory positions. Those with good communication skills may advance to sales positions. Others may continue their education and training and become electricians.
Sources of Information
- "Encyclopedia of Careers and Vocational Guidance" ($249.95 ($224.95 for libraries); Vol. 3, p. 697)
Publication Date: Fifteenth Edition, 2010
J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company
- "Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future" ($19.95 paper cover; p. 368)
by Jim Cassio and Alice Rush
Publication Date: 2009
New Society Publishers
Career Information Available on the Internet
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LMI Innovation Grant, Research and Statistics Office, Department of Labor &
Industrial Relations, State of Hawaii. All Rights Reserved.