Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems convert energy from the sun's rays into electricity. Most are identifiable by the large panels (usually 3x5 feet) that look something like a skylight when mounted on a pitched residential roof. But solar cells are also manufactured as flexible panels, roof tiles, and shingles. Other cells may be integrated with building materials, such as siding or windows.
Solar system installers mount those panels on roofs or on racks positioned to maximize exposure to the sun, connect them together and then patch them into an inverter, which converts the DC solar power to AC. The final step is connecting the PV power source to the building's electrical circuit and to the main electrical grid.
At this stage of the industry, many solar installers are people who came to the business from one of the construction trades. Some states currently require that the electrical work for a system be performed by an electrician, and so people who are seeking careers in the business should obtain certification or an associate's degree in electrical design or a related field.
The U.S. Labor Department estimates that there are 7,000 solar PV installers working currently, half in California. There may be many others, however, who are currently electricians or employed by electrical contractors. The increasing number of industrial installations are probably done by electrical firms.
Increasing energy costs combined with the tax breaks that many states are offering for alternative energy installations will cause a steep increase in the job opportunities for this field. The entire "green" industry field is seen as a high-growth sector, and home solar installations are the beginning for multifaceted solar power usage. Job prospects are excellent.
Salary Range Hourly
Entry Level $15/hr
Crew Manager $25/hr
Electrical Professional $35+/hr
Source: U.S. Department of Labor