Solar technicians are professionals responsible for installing solar panel systems on rooftops for residential and commercial use. Along with the initial installation process, solar technicians are also capable of maintaining and upgrading these systems when such is required.
Over the years, the profession has enjoyed an increase in popularity. This is down partly to the need for sustainable power, the increased access and affordability of critical photovoltaic parts, and the attractive pay for professionals in the field.
If you’d like to pursue a career in this field, it is important to understand what being a solar technician entails. To that end, below is an in-depth guide on everything you need to know about being a solar technician, including the roles and responsibilities, work requirements, salary, career outlook, and the process involved in becoming one.
Who is a Solar Technician?
A solar technician is anyone who has been trained on how to properly assemble, configure, install, maintain, and upgrade solar panels for sustainable power generation. Being a solar technician is very rewarding, but it comes with its fair share of challenges.
For starters, solar technicians are expected to be physically fit, seeing as the job requires a lot of movement, heavy lifting, climbing, crouching, and standing. Apart from the physical aspects, solar technicians are also expected to be technically sound.
They will make technical decisions, perform calculations, read blueprints, and take measurements as often as possible.
Tasks and Responsibilities of a Solar Technician
Along the course of a work day, solar technicians carry out certain tasks, including but not limited to the following:
- Carrying solar panels to the site of assembly. Climbing ladders onto rooftops where these panels will be assembled and installed.
- Identifying the best location and configuration for installation.
- Following state, federal, and local building codes for installation.
- Read blueprints, schematics, and specifications to ensure that installations are standard and can pass inspection.
- Taking measurements, cutting panels, and putting them in place.
- Making use of hand tools such as drills and screwdrivers to this effect.
- Set up batteries, fans, pumps, and other support structures.
- Seal openings on roofs, if there are any, during the course of installation.
Requirements to Become a Solar Technician
There are a few paths to becoming a solar technician. Given the abundance of options, it is safe to say that becoming a solar technician is easy. To begin, you must fulfill a handful of requirements.
Diploma or GED - Most employers and training schools will often require that aspiring solar technicians possess at least a GED or equivalent.
Driver’s License - It is also common for these bodies to ask for a valid driver’s license.
Communication Skills - Apart from tangible documents, soft skills such as communication, interpersonal relationships, and teamwork are also valuable for a solar technician.
How to Become a Solar Technician
Having fulfilled the above requirements, below is a path on how to become a solar technician:
Solar technicians can start seeking employment without a formal post-secondary education. To do so, they must work for a solar company as part of an apprenticeship/ on-the-job training program.
In fact, it is possible for those who have started this program in high school to continue and get employed without having a college degree.
Those who wish to obtain formal training or an advanced degree can also choose to do so. This is often more appealing to many as it makes them more attractive to employers and allows them to keep up with the increasing technicality of photovoltaic systems.
Outside of a degree, aspiring solar technicians can also pursue certifications from notable organizations, making them even more employable. Some notable organizations in this regard include:
Electronic Technicians Association (ETA) - The ETA boasts numerous successful and highly respected electronic technicians, including professionals at large companies such as ESPN, Google, and Motorola. It’s a good organization to be a part of.
North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) - NABCEP provides multiple opportunities to get certified solar technicians, but the most popular is the PV Installation Professional (PVIP) certification.
Roof integrated solar energy (RISE) - Solar technicians who wish to obtain certification in rooftop and large-scale solar energy installation can also choose to do so through RISE.
Finally, most states require that, along with certification, solar technicians must also be licensed before they can practice. Each state also has its specific rules, timeline, and requirements for licensing. The fees also differ.
Those who wish to review the licensing requirements in each state for solar technicians can do so on the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) website.
Solar Technician Salary Overview
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for solar technicians in 2021 was $47,670. Those who fell into the top ten percent could earn as much as $72,080 per year, while those in the bottom ten percent took home $36,320.
Sorting by industries, technicians who worked in utilities earned the most, with an annual average of $48,370. Those who worked in plumbing, heating, and air conditioning took home $47,930, while electrical contractors earned $47,610.
Salary by Cities & State
Solar technicians in Santa Cruz, Watsonville, California, earn the most annual median income of over $72,300. San Francisco - Oakland - Hayward followed with $58,650.
Honolulu, Hawaii, follows closely with a $58,590 annual median income.
California and Hawaii remain among the highest-paying states thanks to the economy, favorable legislation, and the weather. Oregon, Texas, Massachusetts, and Arizona round up the country’s six highest-paying states for solar technicians.
The BLS projects that the field of solar technology will grow by about 27% between 2021 and 2031. This is an overwhelmingly positive projection higher than the national average by nearly 20 points.
A few of these openings will arise from the need to replace old workers, while most will result from the increasing demand for solar power and sustainable energy.