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"Three Decades of PV Experience, Reliability and Energy Production Results"

What Is a Solar Professional, A Definition and Description (A Short White paper)

The Path To Becoming A Photovoltaics (PV) Professional As A Career,
John R. Balfour MEP, Ph.D.,
The Energy Doctor™, Since 1977

Clean well planned work takes future roofing and other maintenance into account as a customer cost if the PV system has any impact on another part of the structure.
Professionalism begins with pride
in the work.

Courtesy of PerfectPower Inc. and the Energy Doctor LLC
To become a PV Professional is to take the Path to Master the Art and Science of Photovoltaics.

Mastering PV is a lifetime avocation! It is a profession which requires high levels of desire, skill, training and knowledge.

It requires an attitude that includes the kind of commitment you have to your favorite sport or hobby. In such endeavors, you receive satisfaction and a certain level of joy or pleasure from the pursuit. It must be personally meaningful for you if you wish to succeed.

A model airplane enthusiast or hobbyist may build, modify and crash their model over and over again. In the process, they will rebuild it better and stronger while thoroughly enjoying the process and the outcome. They see that finding and achieving eventual success comes incrementally.

Serious enthusiasts shrug off the failure! There is always a way to avoid or get around failure and the true enthusiast embraces that adventure.

Learning experiences contribute to their development as they grow their skill and knowledge with each success.

Many people are so focused on their hobby and being good at it that it helps build character, skill, knowledge, enhances their abilities to create, communicate and become a master at what they do.

With 35 years in the Solar industry, as we prepared the materials for the Art and Science of Photovoltaics PV curriculum, I had numerous opportunities to learn more about my industry.

In the development of this educational series of texts and classes, I have participated in developing occupational definitions, determining tasks responsibilities with both general and specific requirements.

It was during these exercises, sometimes with competitors and others in the industry, where I felt I could begin to explain clearly what being a solar professional in the Brave New Solar World required and what it means. Understanding the real value is important.

Our focus is not on looking at PV as a job.

There is seldom any commitment to a job as jobs come and go. If PV is going to be just a job for you, you may find that it is not where you should place your efforts.

Unfortunately, many in our industry see PV as a transitory business deal where you make the money, take the money and run. They consider the laborer they hire to be a PV professional because they want the world to think that their company and their abilities are something more than they will ever build them to be. They call themselves experts in an industry that is just beginning to learn what expertise is all about.

To master the basics, as a designer or installer apprentice, takes focus, time, concentration and effort.

At least two years of solar training with a previous base in electricity, PV classes and hands on experience are the most basic requirements. This introduction doesn’t make you an expert. During that time the apprentice PV professional will grow in skill development and knowledge.

They will learn the language, concepts techniques and ability to handle complex challenges and tasks.

Their rewards are in part provided in receiving better wages because they provide greater value for themselves their company and their customers. Yet, the greatest rewards will come in knowing how good you really are and that you are a recognized skilled specialist, a developing PV artisan.

Why does PV professionalism require so much study and skill?

When you work with expensive high tech equipment, you are working with someone else’s money and usually on their property. You are working with equipment that if improperly designed and installed can cause serious damage to yourself, your team, your customer’s property and others.

That damage can consist of damage to a roof where their home or building is flooded. An improperly designed and/or installed system can cause a fire which can damage or burn the building, or someone. Ignorance or sloppiness can result in serious electric shock, burns or death.

As a Professional PV team member you have responsibilities to know what to do, how to do it, and clearly see and eliminate any potential problem that can create any kind of negative consequence.

Becoming a PV Professional means you are helping to build an industry!

To build an industry, that industry must provide value with productive technology that performs well for decades while producing high quality and quantities of electrical power. It must be done so the pubic and your potential customers have a right to believe they are treated ethically.

Would you want or expect anything less for yourself?

As a career, PV is a commitment to a change of perspective requiring a lifelong commitment to continuing educational development and growth.

It seems today as I write; the vast majority of the individuals in our industry are not professionals and do not intent to be. They have not yet determined that hiring and training legions of limited underskilled employees they see as grunt labor, does not build a future or an industry.  They will drop away to be replaced by those who value what they do and desire to be the best at what they do.

I see a resistance to in-depth training, to furthering individual and organizational educational development and there is a continuing reliance on myths and assumptions. It is very short sighted.

I believe this to be dangerous to the individuals, their companies, customers and the industry in general. Their attitude can not survive in a competitive, rapidly evolving and very internationalized world.

You may wish to think of becoming a PV professional as joining a Guild of Artisans.

In the medieval era, to join and become a member of a Guild required acceptance into that Guild. You had to bring a certain level of ability and intelligence to the Guild while committing to an intense educational and training process that was a life long “journey” and commitment.

Your first step was to work for a specified period as an apprentice where you learned the basics of your trade. When that was accomplished and your peers accepted that you had achieved that competence, there was another period of time where you became a journeyman. As a journeyman, you furthered your skills learned all the tools, knowledge, secrets and the art of your craft.

Time, hands on experience and the guidance of a master craftsman prepared you for the highest level of professional skill, knowledge and Guild classification and rating. Then and only then, after all those years of work, you became a Master craftsman.

The Master carried on the knowledge, became the teacher and guided the trade maintaining quality, standards and both aspects of Art and Science. All of this was true for architects, masons, carpenters, weavers, bakers and the list goes on.

The Energy Doctor approach to becoming a PV professional is to follow a similar path whether there is an official PV Guild or not.

To become an apprentice in the PV industry will require at least two years of training and experience.

To master the intermediate knowledge as a journeyman will take another two to five years. This is true even with the basics of electricity and engineering experience they may bring with them.

Then there is the Master Photovoltaic Professional, the teacher and mentor. They are like a doctor, a licensed engineer, architect or Master Artisan. They are the link between the past and the future. They are the continuity for a trade that values, quality, skill, experience and the development of a trade which will always provide a good comfortable living for their families.

The Art and Science of Photovoltaics texts are the basic educational tools of the apprentice who wishes to master his or her chosen career. I believe that to complete an apprentice level of training requires at least 1600 hours of intense supervised training in the classroom, with labs, seminars and specialized training that supports your skill development. Basic electricity study and knowledge is the minimum prerequisite.

That may seem like a lot of time and effort because it is.

Yet, before you are unleashed upon the world in the process of becoming a PV professional, it is the minimum of what you will need to be safe, reliable and productive.

Given time and experience, with the right employer, a willing student with a good mentor will move to the top of their craft as they learn and master the Art and Science of Photovoltaics.

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