Solar Energy Technician: Responsibilities and Requirements

Updated May 30, 2023

Solar energy technicians are construction professionals who install and maintain solar panels in a variety of locations. Learning about the requirements and responsibilities can help you determine if being a solar energy technician is right for you. In this article, we discuss what a solar energy technician is, what they do, how to become one and provide details about this growing field.

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What is a solar energy technician?

A solar energy technician, also called a solar installer, is a professional who installs and maintains solar panels for businesses and residential buildings. They could also help install other various components, like pumps, fans and collectors. This type of work involves some knowledge of construction methods as well as an ability to learn local, state and federal codes for solar panels.

Related: 20 Green Careers for the Environmentally Conscious

What does a solar energy technician do?

Solar energy technicians spend their days working on solar panels in a variety of applications. Responsibilities might include:

  • Installing and maintaining panels on the roof of a residential home or corporate office

  • Helping build a solar farm

  • Lifting heavy materials, climbing ladders and moving about on roofs

  • Staying up to date on local, state and federal codes to install and maintain panels according to regulations

  • Reading blueprints and schematics to place panels correctly

  • Cutting, fitting and connecting multiple panels

  • Choosing and configuring setup locations

Your duties will probably change as you advance in your career as a solar energy technician. For example, when you're just starting out, you may be more involved with the manual labor aspects, but as you gain more experience, you could handle the planning parts.

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Requirements for becoming a solar energy technician

There are a variety of skills that can be helpful in developing a career as a solar energy technician, including:

Construction expertise

Much of the work that a solar energy technician performs involves at least some knowledge of construction processes and tools, like attaching panels to different types of roofs and wiring them to electrical grids. You can usually learn most construction skills during on-the-job training or an apprenticeship.

Physical abilities

Solar panel installation involves physical labor, so you should be able to lift heavy objects, climb a ladder, operate tools and equipment and feel comfortable with heights. As your career advances, you may find that you perform less of the physical aspects and more of the management parts. However, it's still helpful to remain physically fit to oversee installation sites, including surveying roofs to find ideal panel locations.

Attention to detail

Installing solar panels or working on their maintenance requires good attention to detail. The work of installation, from following blueprints to connecting the right wires, can be very detailed, and being aware of even the smallest pieces ensures your work is correct. Additionally, if there is a problem during installation or with existing solar panels you're maintaining, attention to detail can help you discover what the issue is.

STEM knowledge

STEM knowledge can help you as a solar panel technician in a variety of ways. Math is a regular part of the job, especially as you advance, as you might need to compute the right number of panels for an area or make energy calculations. Understanding of electrical systems can be especially helpful in this role as well, since you may need to help with wiring.

Relevant code awareness

Local, state and federal codes can impact your work on a daily basis. An in-depth knowledge of all codes is not necessary, but knowing how and where to find the code information you need is important. You usually learn about relevant codes during your training or education to become a solar installer.

How to become a solar energy technician

Here are the steps to becoming a solar energy technician:

1. Get your high school diploma or GED

A high school diploma or GED is the first requirement to become solar energy technician. If you know you want to be a solar energy technician while you're in high school, you can begin preparing through your studies. Classes on math and science would be helpful, as well as shop classes and CAD (computer-aided drafting) classes. None of these are necessities to getting a job as a solar energy technician after graduation, but they can teach you useful skills and help you get an early start in your training.

2. Obtain training or education

There are two possible paths to becoming a solar energy technician after high school: Complete an apprenticeship for up to one year or attend a one- or two-year college program. Each is a valid option that teaches you the important skills you need. In an apprenticeship, you learn through paid on-the-job training while working under the supervision of licensed solar energy technicians. In a college program, you receive more formal training, which might include STEM classes and practical applications of those skills.

3. Work on advanced education

In order to advance your career, you might decide to pursue education beyond your apprenticeship or short college program. There are a wide variety of options for this, including multiple relevant bachelor's degrees and certificates offered through colleges or professional organizations. Bachelor's degrees that apply to this field might include those in renewable energy, solar technology, systems design and alternative energy. Additionally, the Electronics Technicians Association, North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners and Roof Integrated Solar Energy all offer optional certifications that can help your career.

4. Earn your license

In some cities or states, having a license to work as a solar energy technician is required. In other locations, licensing is only necessary if you plan to own your own business as a solar energy technician. Each location has its own licensing requirements, which might include an exam, a certain amount of work hours or certification from a particular organization. It's important to research the requirements in the state or states you plan to work in so that you can plan ahead for what you need to do.

How much do solar energy technicians make?

Solar energy technicians average $21.12 per hour in the United States, although a variety of factors can impact your wages. That includes your location, your skill level and any specialized training, certifications or licenses you may have. In a city like Los Angeles, where the cost of living is higher and demand for solar installations is also higher, the wages for solar energy technicians are more than the national average.

Related: Highest-Paying Construction Jobs

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Job outlook for solar energy technicians

The job outlook for solar energy technicians is extremely positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, solar energy technician employment is expected to grow 51% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than average. With solar power becoming more cost effective and popular, and an increasing awareness of climate change issues, solar energy technicians are in demand.

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