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Photovoltaic Training

Maintaining quality PV education

in a rapidly growing industry

Je Spies

NABCEP Secretary
SolarSpies Training & Consul=ng

Solar training - growing or shrinking

Number of students looking for PV training s=ll growing

Number of training schools growing faster than students

PV Training s=ll too one-dimensional

Market share for training organiza=ons is shrinking

Many new training organiza=ons oer poor training
Many courses claim to teach everyone everything they need to know
to design and install a system in only one week.

Many PV Training segments underserved

Je Spies Biography

NABCEP Secretary - North American Board of Cer=ed Energy Prac==oners

NABCEP is the Solar Industry Cer=ca=on Agency

AEE Solar Director of Training 2007-2010

Organized the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd annual AEE Solar Dealer Conferences
The largest supplier based solar training events in North America.

The AEE Solar training webpage #1 search result on Google for Solar
Training from 2007 to 2010
Featured speaker at major industry tradeshows and conferences
SPI, ASES, Intersolar, IREC, Northwest Solar Expo, NECA, MREF.

Pre-Solar Experience

Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan State University.

20 years experience working in sales & marke=ng of electrical and
mechanical mo=on control systems for industrial automa=on applica=ons.
Extensive technical product training experience throughout North America
and overseas.

Why take PV training?

Successful PV companies take training seriously

Technical knowledge: PV design, installa=on, roong, electrical code

PV system designs vary from job to job

Overwhelmingly retrot oriented

Pre-engineered kits not a viable business model over the long term
Systems designed AFTER site evalua=on

Quality PV training saves money - those that skip training pay more

Those that forgo training have high failure rate

Cost overruns, system redesign, failed inspec=ons, shortened system life, poor
system produc=vity

Incen=ve knowledge - cri=cal to solar dealer protability

Ongoing training - new products, code updates, evolving incen=ves
Safety training mandatory!

Safety considera=ons

Roong is 6th most fatal job in the US

Electrical power line installers 7th most fatal job

Why do we need quality standards?

PV training diers from most other professional training

Very hazardous work condi=ons

Employs skill sets of 2 of the most fatal professions

Roong is the #6 most fatal job
Electrical power line installers is the #7 most fatal job

Poten=al for danger to installer & owner

Expensive Roof leaks

Improperly designed/installed systems are serious electrocu=on or re

80% of construc=on li=ga=on stems from water intrusion

Failure to provide quality training could result in property

damage, injury, and even death!!!

What cons=tutes quality training?

High quality instructors

Excellent communica=on skills

Strong experience in the trades
Advise establishing sensible student to teacher ra=o

High quality curriculum

Best developed by those experienced in both training program

development and PV design & installa=on
Quality training tools
Solar Energy Interna=onals Photovoltaic Design & Installa=on Manual
American Technical Publishers (ATP) Photovoltaic Systems
ATP oers a very helpful Resource Guide for PV training program
curriculum development

What cons=tutes quality training? (con=nued)

Suitable training environment

Comfortable classroom
Safe lab-yard environment
Roof at ground level is helpful

Adequate up-to-date equipment

Modules, racking, inverters, combiners, disconnects, grounding hardware,
ashing, tools, meters, shade measurement, bakeries, charge controls,
connectors, gloves, faceshields, fall protec=on, etc

Bakery based training very helpful

Major undertaking
Dealers with bakery competency have compe==ve advantage

Proper safety focus is cri=cal

Job placement services

On the job appren=ce training programs are in demand

Challenges to maintaining quality training

Dicult to nd experienced instructors

Curriculum development requires both training program

development and PV system design and installa=on experience

This task can be collabora=ve eort if there is a close working

rela=onship between the PV pro and the training developer

Exis=ng market has more training than jobs

Instructor may be experienced PV professional, but not always a good

Instructor might be a good teacher, but lacks experience in the trades

Placement rate es=mated to be less than 10%

Licensing/cer=ca=on requirements rapidly evolving

Technology rapidly evolving
Incen=ves constantly changing

High quality instructors

High quality PV instructors are essen=al

High quality PV instructors are experienced with

Experienced in the trades - minimum 3-4 years

Experienced with classroom teaching
Train the trainer programs are now being developed thru DOE grants
A wide variety of solar products and applica=ons
Both residen=al and commercial installa=ons
Grid-=e and bakery based systems
Retropng PV systems to a variety of roof surfaces
Drilling thousands of holes in roofs that should never leak
Permipng and inspectors in a wide range of work environments

High Quality PV instructors are entertaining!

NABCEP cer=ca=on & entry level test

NABCEP oers the Cer=ed PV Installer Exam

Passing the exam earns the installer the =tle of NABCEP Cer=ed PV Installer
NABCEP Cer=ed PV Installers have earned an industry mark of dis=nc=on
NOTE: There is no such thing as NABCEP entry level cer=ca=on

NABCEP also oers an Entry Level Exam

Test providers help prepare students for the NABCEP Entry Level Exam
NABCEP registered test providers


The NABCEP Entry Level Exam

Aimed at students interested in gepng an entry level installer job the solar photovoltaic eld
Passing the NABCEP Entry Level Exam allows the student to demonstrate to a prospec=ve
employer that they possess the basic knowledge of design, installa=on, and applica=on of
photovoltaic systems
Achieving a passing score on the Entry Level Exam is a benchmark that poten=al employers use to
assess a candidates basic knowledge of the principles of solar electric systems
The NABCEP Entry Level Exam by itself does not qualify an individual to install PV systems but it
does prepare them for employment in the eld

Qualifying a solar training program

Is the program ISPQ accredited? hkp://irecusa.org/index.php?id=91

Does the training program meet your unique educa=onal

background and training needs?

Get referrals from previous students (preferably electrical

contractors) or experienced solar pros before booking training

Ques=ons students should ask before booking training

Who developed the training curriculum and what are their qualica=ons?
Who is the instructor and what are the instructors teaching
How many years did they work as a PV designer/installer
Recommend minimum of 3 years full =me experience

How many systems did the instructor design & install, what size where they?
Does the instructor have experience in bakery systems?
Is the instructor is NABCEP cer=ed?

What is the student to teacher ra=o?

What is the placement ra=o of students in the program?

NABCEP training
information brochure
Available at NABCEP

Training Matrix
NABCEP Entry Level





NEC code











Sales Reps

Admin staff


Solar Brokers










PV Training

Intro to Solar PV

1, 2, & 3 day training workshops (solar conferences)
These classes serve only as an introduc=on
Not suitable for formal design/installa=on training

NABCEP Entry Level training courses


Formal PV design and installa=on training

Strongly advise taking training from SEI, FSEC, or MREA

Recommend your training org is at least IREC ISPQ cer=ed accredited training
Complete list of cer=ed organiza=ons: hkp://irecusa.org/index.php?id=91

Beginner and Advanced PV training - tui=on $850 - $1300++

Classroom training (5-6 day course) or Online training (6 weeks @ 15 hrs/week)
Some training organiza=ons split Beginner and Advanced training into 3-4 classes.
ALL students must complete the Beginner PV training before taking the Advanced PV training.

Product specic training Inverter, racking, grounding, etc

Oered at workshops, trade shows, and dealer conferences

Best when taken AFTER formal PV training

PV Training (con=nued)

Hands-on system installa=on training

NEC code training (Bill Brooks or John Wiles)

Contact your workman's comp insurance carrier for recommended courses.

Business Training

Annual code refresher course advised for all dealers

Safety training OSHA cer=ed safety course

2 - 5 days training with SEI, FSEC, or MREA

Install system on your house.

1 - 3 day training workshops available from many solar training orgs.

Ongrid training with Andy Black is great way to learn PV economics. www.ongrid.net

Incen=ve training

40 - 50% of PV sta is dedicated to managing incen=ve programs and administra=on

aspects of business.
ASES and SEIA (CANSIA in Canada) chapter mee=ngs are the best place to get this
Local u=li=es and state energy oces oyen have useful training resources.
www.dsireusa.org is best online resource.

The ten solar training segments


Energy eciency
Entry level PV prep
Intro to PV - The 40 hour course (NABCEP Entry Level)
PV design & installa=on


Beginner grid =e, advanced grid Tie PV, advanced bakery systems

Appren=ceship - on the job training

Train the trainer

1) Homeowners

Home owner training in great demand

How to buy a PV system - general PV system knowledge

How to monitor and maintain a PV system

Do-it-yourself installs are NOT ADVISED!

DIY installs are legal and accepted in some areas, however

Major problems are common in most DIY installs

Poten=al for harm to life, limb, & property

Expensive roof leaks
Poor system produc=on
Poor system life
Those that promote DIY installs should could face liability problems

NOTE: lower voltage AC systems using micro inverters s=ll present

dangerous shock hazard

2) Energy eciency

Energy eciency training is major area of opportunity

The lowest of the low hanging fruit

Every dollar invested in energy eciency saves 3-4 dollars in the cost of a PV
system needed to generate that electricity
Training opportuni=es exist for 3 groups

Homeowners should implement energy eciency before purchasing PV system

Solar dealers
Energy eciency consul=ng is a fantas=c marke=ng tool for new and smaller solar
Dealers that provide energy eciency audits have higher condence ra=ng with
Allows greater savings & beker payback in PV system when =ed to sale

Energy eciency contractors

3) Entry level PV prep

Electrical training for entry level PV students is s=ll not common

Most PV training programs assume student possesses electrical knowledge

REALITY most PV students dont know a volt from an amp

Training should address these 4 topics:

1. Electrical principles

Basics of electricity - waks, volts, amps, AC & DC, math for electrical systems
Hardware - breakers, fuses, wire, wire connec=ons, conduit, meters, etc..
Safety equipment - gloves, eye protec=on, proper clothing, fall protec=on, etc
Tools - Power tools, hand tools, meters, testers, etc
2. Wiring of homes and commercial buildings - Hands-on training essen=al
3. Code - Entry level code for wiring of homes & commercial buildings
4. Construc=on knowledge

Learn roong design and installa=on techniques

Working on the roof in the sun, rain, cold, ice, wind, etc

4) Intro to PV The 40 hour course

NOTE: most NABCEP Entry Level test providers fall in this category

Targeted to entry level industry workers

The 40 hour course too short to address all needs

Many akempt to teach students everything that you need to know in one

Exis=ng 40 hour courses marketed to 2 audiences

This training (by itself) is not suitable for contractors that would like to design
and install systems

Teach a contractor PV system design/installa=on

Teach entry level worker basic knowledge to get entry level job
Recommend tailoring curriculum to address these 2 very dierent audiences

Market crowded with courses

PV training has expanded from 10 to 120 organiza=ons in 2 years

Market for PV slowed in 2009
Drama=c market expansion forecast for 2010 - 2015

5) PV design and installa=on training

PV Design & Installa=on

Beginner grid =e design/installa=on training

Advanced grid Tie PV
Advanced bakery systems

Intended for contractors and those that are going to design

and install systems
Higher level PV design and installa=on educa=on is best
suited to top industry training organiza=ons

Strongly recommend SEI, MREA, FSEC

Advise training with one of the IREC ISPQ accredited training orgs

6) Appren=ceship & on-the-job training

True PV appren=ceship programs are s=ll rare

Appren=ceship programs oyen produce the highest quality

On-the-job training programs common in large installa=on


Student learns day by day from supervisors that are experienced

In addi=on to educa=onal experience, installer companies prefer to hire

workers with construc=on trade experience
Many large installers need customized in-house training programs

Appren=ceship program development is challenging due to

compe==ve fears

Installers dont want to train future compe=tors

Long lead =me to produce experienced installers

7) Incen=ve training


How to qualify for the best incen=ves

How are incen=ve programs administered
Should solar dealer or homeowner should le for incen=ves?

How incen=ve programs inuence system design/payback

Solar dealer

How to qualify to par=cipate in program

Licensing & cer=ca=on
Preferred installer programs becoming more common

How to properly ll out paperwork

How to maximize incen=ves and customer payback

8) Sales training

Training topics

Energy eciency
Selec=ng the appropriate technology - Wind, micro-hydro, solar thermal,
or solar PV
Site survey - Shading, roong considera=ons, electrical service
System design
Grid interconnec=on
Incen=ve programs
Electrical rates
Contract review

PV sales training programs not common or highly evolved

NABCEP PV Technical Sales Cer=ca=on to debut in 2010

9) Inspector training

Inspectors - Authority Having Jurisdic=on (AHJ) need training

Electrical code compliance

Roong code compliance
Leaking roofs are the most expensive & common mistakes in solar
Flashing required by code, but ignored by many inspectors/installers
Failure to properly ash - voids roof warranty, opens liability concerns

Structural integrity
High wind speeds, truss integrity, roong strength, etc..

U=lity company inspectors

Need to verify if PV system is code compliant

Bill Brooks and John Wiles training is most helpful

10) Train the trainer

The DOE awarded grants to 9 regional train-the-trainer


Must integrate educa=on training into technical training

Educators without trade experience should get sucient
experience in PV system design/installa=on
Use breakout sessions for trainers to develop personal stories of
interes=ng install experiences (the good, the bad, and the ugly)

SEI, MREA, FSEC, and 6 others to debut TTT programs in late 2010

PV training is full of dry topics i.e. wire sizing & code compliance

Students learn best thru storytelling

Stories of inspectors debates, red tagged projects, brushes with death,

and poor system produc=vity, are the most eec=ve teaching techniques
Stories make the important lessons much more interes=ng and

In conclusion

The market for solar training will con=nue to grow

PV training opportuni=es abound, especially for those that

pursue training segments beyond the 40 hour course
Introducing a PV training course is easy, but making it a
quality program is hard work
Industry will not train the workers, educators do

Solar PV is now less than 1% of electrical power genera=on

Forecast to grow to 10% of electrical power genera=on by 2020

The future of our industry is in the hands of educators

Those with quality programs will be recognized for helping

to improve our society and the environment