That brings up the question of who is doing design, installation and service and just how are they qualified to do these jobs. What sort of formal training and education do people working in the renewable energy industry need to have? Sounds like specific formal education programs will be developed to have a way to standardize the qualifications for these solar and wind related positions. Similar to various contractors who must be state licensed to do certain types of work in residential and commercial venues.
Ultimately it comes down to accountability and standards as it always does. Do you want someone who was just hired last week to be installing panels and doing wiring in your home or business? Potential customers want to see qualifications and a successful track record from solar businesses.
Since 2004, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) has been compiling information on occupational descriptions and titles for the solar industry focusing primarily on photovoltaics (PV) or solar electricity. As the solar industry continues to set record growth, we are also seeing corresponding changes in the occupational profiles associated with a maturing industry.
Not that long ago, a solar installer handled many facets of the job – it was not unusual that “one guy did it all.” But today, there is differentiation in job categories as markets grow; systems are moving from small residential ones to larger, commercial projects requiring a variety of contractors and crews; work is governed by state licensing laws; and consumers are looking for quality assurance through third-party credentialing programs.
According to a July 2008 IREC Report, over 80,000 solar installations were completed in 2007. The average size of a grid-connected PV residential installation has grown steadily from 2.2 kW to over 4.7 kW from 1998 to 2008. The size of a non-residential system has also been growing in recent years with an average of 67 kWDC in 2007.
* Report prepared by Jane Weissman, Executive Director, IREC, with thanks to Jerry Ventre, Jim Dunlop and Katie Bolcar for their review and comments.