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What it takes to be a Qualified Solar Installer

 

 

In a recent post I wrote that an Electrician license alone – even a Master Electrician license – does not qualify you to design and install solar systems. I totally respect the fact that a Master license is a great achievement that requires significant experience and training, but it’s not solar specific. Some took exception to that position, but those are just the facts, in my opinion, and I think I have the experience and credentials to have that opinion.

Most states address this by requiring a building and an electrical permit to legally install a residential or commercial solar system. And in most cases, the plans have to be sealed by a licensed Professional Engineer.

But in many parts of West Virginia, as far as I can understand based on multiple inquiries to the Contractor Licensing Board, there are no clear licensing rules.

At Milestone, we have two licensed Master Electricians in our group, and I’ve worked with other Master Electricians as fill-ins, and I can tell you with total certainty that until you’ve received some formal training on solar systems, or on-the-job oversight from a trained and certified NABCEP installer, you’re not qualified to install all of the electrical components of a solar system, let alone design solar systems. There are many specific electrical issues that are quite unique to solar systems. And electrical is only part of the process. That’s not just my opinion. That’s according to NABCEP’s Job Task Analysis (JTA), spelling out in detail the areas their installer certification test covers and the percentage of questions for each area of expertise (Content Domain in the table below). Continue reading “What it takes to be a Qualified Solar Installer”

Before you buy a solar system, ask the installer these questions:

There’s only one reason I can think of why anybody would take on the serious safety and long-term production risks of having an inexperienced installation company, or one using a group of trainees, install their solar system. That reason is, they may not  know what to ask about, besides price. And when safety and structural integrity are on the line, cheaper isn’t better.

Most non-micro solar systems operate at very high DC current flow and voltages (some as high as 1000 volts DC). Adding batteries takes the installation to a whole other level of complexity. The design and safety issues involved are real and not, in my opinion, a good place for a class project or on-the-job training at the homeowner’s peril.

And while a master electrician license requires knowledge and experience, the license alone doesn’t make someone truly qualified to design and install solar systems. There’s lots more to it than what’s covered in the National Electric Code book or the master test. (I’m sure of that because we have two master electricians on our team, and I’m very familiar with every edition of the NEC Book published since 2005.)

That’s only one part of a solar installation project – and the reason most authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) require a building permit as well as an electrical permit.

So in addition to pricing, licenses and components, you should also ask potential installers about track record, references from previous projects, solar experience and certifications.

Probably the best question you can ask is whether someone who’ll be working on your installation has earned North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners certifications. Their PV (PhotoVoltaic) Technical Sales and PV Installer certifications are tough to get. That’s because NABCEP is the only organization that tests for and credentials every aspect of grid-tied, off-grid and battery backup solar installations – design, mechanical issues, electrical issues, optimized production issues, installation and maintenance. (Please don’t confuse this with NABCEP’s Associate certification, which is an entry-level program; Associates must work under a senior installer, hopefully with full NABCEP certification.) You can check which, if any, NABCEP certifications an installer holds here.

Continue reading “Before you buy a solar system, ask the installer these questions:”

Milestone CEO becomes West Virginia’s only solar installer to earn double national certifications

Now there are twice as many reasons to trust the quality of a Milestone Solar installation.

With the award of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP™) Solar PV (photovoltaic) Installation Professional Certification and PV Technical Sales Professional Certification,Milestone Solar’s CEO, Bill Anderson becomes not only West Virginia’s only solar industry professional holding both prestigious national certifications, but one of only 93 nationwide.

As the cost of solar systems has dropped sharply over the last few years, more and more households, businesses and municipalities are “going solar.” When they do, these two NABCEP marks of quality assure that they’ll be choosing a qualified contractor.

To earn his second NABCEP certification, Anderson had to demonstrate his knowledge of the whole range of multi-craft techniques, skills and abilities required to competently design, install and maintain solar systems – everything from electrical and mechanical system design to job site safety, National Electrical Code compliance, roofing and construction techniques, and system maintenance and troubleshooting.

“One thing you can be assured of when hiring a NABCEP Certified PV Installation Professional is that your project won’t be their first,” said Richard Lawrence, Executive Director of NABCEP.

Anyone who makes the considerable effort required to earn NABCEP certification has documented their training and experience as part of the eligibility process. They’ve also made a very real commitment to upholding high standards of ethical and professional practice. I’m delighted to welcome Bill Anderson of Milestone Solar to the ranks of the industry’s leading solar professionals.

Anderson said that the pair of prestigious national certifications

means Milestone can offer our customers twice the added confidence of knowing that their solar system installations will be completed to the solar industry’s highest standards. Our emphasis, and commitment to customers, has always been based on quality – quality materials, quality engineering, and installation techniques that closely follow industry best practices.

Milestone Solar Consultants, located in Falling Waters, WV, was founded in 2010 and is licensed in West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Company president Bill Anderson is a PMI certified Project Manager (PMP), licensed General Contractor and now holds both NABCEP’s Solar PV Installation Professional and Technical Sales certifications. Milestone has residential, commercial and municipal installations throughout the four-state region – including more solar systems with battery backup than any other West Virginia company.

NABCEP  is a nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors comprising volunteer solar industry representatives, NABCEP certificants, renewable energy organizations, state policy makers, educational institutions, and the trades. NABCEP’s mission is to develop and implement quality credentialing and certification programs for practitioners by supporting and working closely with professionals and stakeholders in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.