Solar Technical Training

The sun is just beginning to rise on the job market for men and women who choose solar technical training. Includes a list of comprehensive training programs for solar training programs.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Editors
July/August 1985
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Students in the Colorado Mountain College solar retrofit program—an intensive one year course of study—are installing a solar hot-air system on a home in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
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Solar technical training may lead to a job that makes a real difference. 

Would you rather be working at a job you can believe in . . . one in a field that's as sure to grow as fossil fuels are sure to be depleted . . . one that makes a difference? Maybe you should consider attending solar technical training to become a solar/renewable energy technician, a professional who installs, maintains, operates, and tests renewable energy systems and performs energy audits. But how does one learn the skills needed to do such a job or to prove his or her qualifications to potential employers and customers?

Chances are, there's a technical school or college in your region that can teach you what you need to know to get started. Across the country, such institutions are responding to the demand for qualified solar technicians by developing comprehensive training programs. In fact, the cry for competent solar practitioners is so strong that, in many cases, today's students of solar technology already have job offers when they graduate.

The entries that follow this introduction summarize the programs offered by a sampling of schools around the U.S. But before you pick one, you need to make a basic decision: How far do you intend to go with your solar education?

You'll notice that the listings are divided between training programs and two-year associate degree programs. Training programs, which provide a certificate of completion, are shorter, but they also tend to be more trade and less theory-oriented. For example, a two-year associate degree program might include courses in math and science to broaden your understanding of the principles of energy. What's more, that degree program will probably require that you take general education courses (English, for example), as well as the specifically career-related curriculum.

A training program may be more focused upon giving you the job skills needed to get started in the solar field. It will teach you what you need to know (and give you a certificate saying you've had the training) quickly. However, if you have the time to devote to a two-year degree, there are certain advantages to doing so. First of all, though this may sound obvious, a certificate isn't a degree. Consider what that means. A degree from an accredited college—with transcripts of courses and grades available for an employer's review—is a much stronger qualification to advance to (or even start at) a position beyond installation. Do you imagine yourself designing solar energy systems or managing teams of installers? If so, a degree could be helpful. Then too, if you ever decide to pursue a higher degree—perhaps solar engineering at Jordan Energy Institute, Trinity University, or some other four-year college—a two-year associate degree can be applied directly to the requirements for the more advanced training. Getting credit for certificate courses will be much more difficult.

So decide what your long-term goals are and review the listings—then write to some of the schools and request catalogs. There's still time to register for the fall semester and get started on your road to a new career.

SOLAR TRAINING PROGRAMS

Cabrillo College
Aptos, CA
 

One-year Certificate: a program including solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, daylighting, conservation, energy auditing, hands-on system installation, and other renewable energy technologies.

Coastline Community College
Fountain Valley, CA
 

Certificate in Energy Management: a program designed to train middle managers to evaluate energy needs and sources, make decisions on equipment purchases, do lighting design, and develop future energy plans. Consists of 24 standard credit hours plus electives.

Colorado Mountain College
Glenwood Springs, CO
 

One-year Solar Retrofit: 12-month (three-semester) program emphasizing the retrofit of greenhouses, sun spaces, domestic hot water systems, and space-heating systems to existing buildings. Includes training in energy auditing.

Photovoltaic Systems: an intensive three week course on the installation and maintenance of stand-alone photovoltaic systems.

Edmonds Community College
Lynnwood, WA
 

One-year Certificate: a program including solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, daylighting, conservation, energy auditing, hands-on system installation, and other renewable energy technologies.

Essex County Technical Careers Center
Newark, NJ
 

Solar Systems: a 300-hour program on solar domestic hot-water, space-heating, and cooling systems.

Solar Systems Night Course: a 120-hour (over four semesters) program on solar collectors and domestic water- and space-heating systems.

Solar Heating and Water Systems: a 25-hour course; contact Essex County College, West Caldwell, NJ.

Florida Solar Energy Center
Cape Canaveral, FL
 

Seminars on Solar Topics: numerous one-to three-day sessions on topics ranging from solar installation to research.

Jordan Energy Institute
Comstock Park, MI
 

Energy Management Certificate: a 31-credit-hour, two-semester program in power production and energy management.

Seminars and Workshops: Over a dozen short sessions are offered each year on practical solar skills.

Macomb Community College
Warren, MI
 

One-year Certificate: a program including solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, daylighting, conservation, energy auditing, hands-on system installation, and other renewable energy technologies.

Mohawk Valley Community College
Utica, NY
 

Solar Energy Certificate: a two-semester program of training in the installation and maintenance of solar thermal systems.

New England Fuel Institute
Solar Energy Education Division
Watertown, MA
 

Solar Heating Installation and Maintenance: a 160-hour (four-week) course licensed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Education.

New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, NM
 

One-year Certificate: a program including solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, conservation, energy auditing, and other renewable energy technologies.

NRI Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, & Heating School
Washington, DC 
 

NRI Master Course in Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, and Heating with Solar Technology: a 51-lesson correspondence course that includes six lessons in solar- and energy-related topics. It takes between 14 months and three years to complete.

Orange Coast College
Costa Mesa, CA
 

One-year Certificate: a program including solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, wind, conservation, energy auditing, and hands-on system installation.

Pensacola Junior College
Industrial-Technical Dept.
Pensacola, FL
 

Solar Energy Certificate: a one-year certificate course in the installation, operation, maintenance, repair, and testing of solar systems.

Red Rocks Community College
Golden, CO
 

Solar Energy Installation and Maintenance: Courses in the two-year certificate or associate degree programs may be taken without entering a degree program.

Passive Solar Design: Same as above.

Sierra College
Rocklin, CA
 

One-year Certificate: a program including solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, daylighting, conservation, energy auditing, hands-on system installation, and other renewable energy technologies.

Southwestern Technical College
Sylva, NC
 

Seminars and Short Courses: STC periodically offers one- to three-week short courses as a supplement to its degree program.

Solar Technical Training: Two-Year Degree Programs

Cabrillo College
Aptos, CA
 

Associate Degree Program: includes solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, daylighting, conservation, energy auditing, hands-on installation, and other renewable energy technologies.

Colorado Technical College
Colorado Springs, CO
 

Solar Engineering Technology: a two-year associate degree program in solar theory and design that can be extended to a four-year bachelor of science degree.

Community College of Allegheny County
Physics Dept.
Pittsburgh, PA
 

Energy Technology/Physics: an associate degree program emphasizing solar energy, energy auditing, fossil fuels, and energy physics.

Edmonds Community College
Lynnwood, WA
 

Associate Degree Program: includes solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, daylighting, conservation, energy auditing, hands-on system installation, and other renewable-energy technologies.

Jordan Energy Institute
Comstock Park, MI
 

Renewable Energy Technology: Training in the theory and use of renewable energy technologies leads to an associate degree in Applied Science.

Macomb Community College
Warren, MI
 

Associate Degree Program: includes solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, energy auditing, conservation, hands-on system installation, and other renewable energy technologies.

Mohawk Valley Community College
Utica, NY
 

Air Conditioning Technology with Solar Option: associate degree program in active and passive solar energy theory and installation; includes photovoltaics.

Oakland Community College
Auburn Hills Campus
Auburn Heights, MI
 

Alternate Energies Technology: an associate degree program with emphasis on your choice of energy management, systems design, solar architecture, business, or special interest areas.

Orange Coast College
Costa Mesa, CA
 

Associate Degree Program: includes solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, wind, conservation, energy auditing, and hands-on system installation.

Red Rocks Community College
Golden, CO
 

Solar Energy Installation and Maintenance: 63-credit-hour associate degree program including other general education requirements. It emphasizes hands-on experience and offers credit for skills in trades.

Passive Solar Design: 63-credit-hour associate degree program including other general education requirements. It overlaps some active-solar courses and includes drafting.

Sierra College
Rocklin, CA
 

Associate Degree Program: includes solar thermal systems, photovoltaics, daylighting, conservation, energy auditing, hands-on installation, and other renewable energy technologies.

Southwestern Technical College
Sylva, NC
 

Alternate Energy Technology: an associate degree program emphasizing solar and renewable energy applications, energy conservation, and installation; includes general education requirements.

Other Solar Training

Sonoma State University
School of Environmental Studies and Planning
Rohnert Park, CA
 

Energy Management and Design: a certificate program that covers active and passive solar applications and energy management for those already holding or pursuing a bachelor's degree.


Solar Industry Pay

How much you can earn as a graduate from a solar-technical or a two-year associate-degree program probably depends more on your own initiative and inclination than it does on the education itself; still, the certificate or diploma does open the door to possibilities. When we asked the directors of some of the programs included in this article what their graduates were earning, we received answers indicating a wide range of compensation. Some graduates are working on construction crews; individual wages vary from $4.75 per hour as a carpenter's apprentice in Maine to $8 an hour as an installer in North Carolina. One 22 year old Colorado Mountain College graduate is already a foreman, making $12 per hour. Another is doing solar consulting work for $15 to $20 per hour. On the average, though, most graduates of training programs are employed by contractors doing solar installation work and are making $6 to $10 per hour. Two-year graduates, on the other hand, are more likely to be involved in directing such projects or working with consumers, and their pay is commensurately higher.


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Post a comment below.

 

WebFrootz LLC
1/19/2012 6:25:36 PM
Great program for someone who is looking to get an associate degree in this area. But there are also multiple specialized solar training companies that provide hands-on training during 5-6 days of intense studies and practical work. We personally have had a great experience with Philadelphia-based Infinite Solar, but I am sure there are others, especially on the West coast.

Solar Sales
5/2/2009 2:41:21 PM
I received my solar sales training from www.PVSolarSalesTraining.com. They provided just the technical information I needed to do a solar needs assessment, how to create a solar estimate in 15 minutes, how to explain solar cost justification, how to do a killer solar presentation to the buyer and how to handle common solar objections. If you’re a salesperson that doesn’t climb ladders, www.PVSolarSalesTraining.com delivers a process that lets me spend the majority of your time at the kitchen table asking questions and selling the value of solar. NABCEP Certification was good if I wanted to signoff on installations, but I wanted to know what to talk about and present when I met with a buyer. It couldn’t find a solar training program that had instructors with sales, marketing and business development coaching backgrounds that could present the content within the context of the NLP Sales Model. Best of all, they offer a money-back guarantee.

solarguy71
1/26/2009 11:23:24 AM
HeatSpring Learning Institute will be holding a 3 day solar training in the Boston MA area at the end of March. The solar training will focus on photovaltaic (pv) electric solar systems. More information can be found here: HeatSpring solar training boston ma http://www.heatspring.com








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