One of the biggest factors in the success or failure of a solar installation company is quality training. I believed this when I first started working in the PV industry, and over the past 14 years, I’ve become even more convinced that quality training is one of the critical keys to success in this increasingly competitive field.
I’ve long been recognized as a passionate champion for quality solar training.
My first job in the PV industry was “Director of Training” for one of the largest wholesale distributors in the mid-2000’s. Over the years I built one of the largest contractor training programs, developed dozens of technical training curriculums, and served as a technical trainer in both live and web training events attended by tens of thousands of installers, designers, engineers, and other solar professionals.
In addition, I organized several of the largest technical training events ever held and served on the boards and technical panels for several key industry organizations. I do this work less for the money and more because I’ve dedicated my career to helping make PV power the leading form of electrical power generation.
When properly designed and installed using quality products, a PV system has the potential to last for 20-30 years, driving down the cost/kWh over system life, expanding the industry, and replacing dirty fossil fuel and dangerous nuclear power with clean safe PV power. Simply stated, quality solar training is core to our industry achieving these critically important goals.
Most installers prefer to learn On-The-Job, and while “OJT” experiences are an incredibly valuable learning method, the risk of mistakes is costly if you do not get formal training before plunging into PV system design and installation.
Unfortunately, I frequently see major design and installation mistakes made by solar installers that forgo training.
These costly mistakes sometimes require complete system removal, redesign, and reinstallation of a PV system.
Mistakes range from:
- improperly size conductors and conduit
- leaking roof penetrations
- ill-advised interconnection methods
- structurally compromised PV attachments
These avoidable errors, made by uneducated solar contractors result in expensive service calls, system downtime, premature component failure, and a loss of customer confidence.
A good friend once told me that humans tend to learn from their own mistakes, but smart people are wise enough to learn from the mistakes of others. This is the reason to consider solar training.
Quality training organizations have instructors and curriculum designers that have worked in the industry, gone through this learning curve, and their wisdom encapsulated in the training program can shortcut new solar business’s ability to develop these design and installation skills. It is important to realize that PV system design and installation is a complex trade borrowing elements from carpentry, plumbing, electrical, roofing, and IT.
Even experienced electrical contractors benefit from solar training as you need to learn how to waterproof roof penetrations, optimize the PV system design for kWh performance, and comply with building and electrical code considerations that electricians never encounter outside of solar installation.
Simply put, quality solar training reduces the likelihood of mistakes. Based on following hundreds of solar companies that take this training, I have concluded that most recover their investment in quality solar training within the first few projects.
Another benefit of quality solar training is the increased confidence of knowing what you are doing, which translates to more confidence when interacting with customers. While customers may not know the technology like an installing contractor, they often know when someone is confident in their trade. Qualified trained installers exude confidence helping give your company a competitive edge.
Quality solar training is worth every penny, and I strongly encourage all new solar contractors to prioritize quality training for all their system designers, installers, and sales representatives.
Jeff Spies is President of Stardust Solar Technologies (Canada)