What Solar Certification & Testing Are Important in the Solar Industry?

January 9, 2024

The rapid progress of solar energy encourages many individuals and businesses to locate solar systems in their homes and workplaces. It’s becoming a trend across various states as entire solar farms replace conventional fuel-based facilities.

Simultaneously, the demand for professionals specializing in solar power is rising. Just believe the numbers — the employment of solar photovoltaic installers is projected to grow 22 percent from 2022 to 2032, much quicker than the average for various professions. That’s why this surge in demand has resulted in a need for professional expertise in installation and compliance.

What Solar Certification & Testing Are Important in the Solar Industry

In this research, we’ll shed some light on the difference between different solar certifications and the solar installer certification needed for professionals to have a competitive edge in their field. Read on and learn about the positive aspects of getting certified and the types of certification for solar panels.

The Importance Of Solar Certification In The Solar Industry

Certifications in the solar industry give professionals the practical skills and knowledge needed to prosper in their roles. And that’s not all — they can make the lives of their clients more comfortable and eco-friendly.

Solar certifications attest to their expertise and demonstrate their dedication to staying up-to-date with the recent developments in solar technologies. If you consider acquiring any of the solar industry certifications, you will end up having a powerful resume. Besides, solar certification will equip you with the tools and skills needed to tackle real-world challenges in the field.

Advantages of Solar Certifications

What Solar Certification & Testing Are Important in the Solar Industry

Solar certifications offer crucial benefits by confirming expertise, ensuring safety, and fostering innovation within the industry. These certifications aren’t just valuable for professionals; they’re essential for anyone eager to contribute to a more sustainable future.

Here are the main benefits:

  • Credibility and professional reputation upgrade
  • Industry recognition: validation of your expertise in solar technologies
  • Expansion of your network and connecting with certified solar installers
  • Career growth: new opportunities and higher earning potential

For instance, there’s a prestigious and widely recognized solar certification called the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Certification. NABCEP offers a range of other solar certifications:

  • Photovoltaic Associate (PVA)
  • Solar Heating Installer (SHI)
  • PV Installation Professional (PVIP)

Getting any of these solar certifications is a big win for workers. They cover a wide range of top-notch technical skills and are recognized globally within the solar industry.

Why Do You Need A Solar Installer Certification?

Unfortunately, there is a prevalence of self-taught installers in the market. A solar installer certification serves as a means to distinguish a qualified solar installer from the pool of many others. Solar certification guarantees that customers receive top-notch service without room for mistakes.

While solar PV certification is not obligatory in numerous states, it proves a solar professional’s qualifications and competence. When a solar technician is willing to acquire certification, they have to do specific training in solar energy and pass relevant exams that show their proficiency.

The Role of NABCEP Certification In The Solar Industry

NABCEP offers a range of certifications and qualifications for experienced professionals, experts, and newcomers in the fields of solar heating, photovoltaics, and small wind technologies. It guarantees to unlock your new job opportunities as the global community of the solar industry recognizes and highly values this type of solar certification.

Several noteworthy PV certifications offered by NABCEP are worth delving into:

  • Photovoltaic Installation Professional (PVIP)
  • Photovoltaic Installer Specialist (PVIS)
  • Photovoltaic Technical Sales Council (PVTS)
What Solar Certification & Testing Are Important in the Solar Industry

PV Installation Professional (PVIP)

This is the highest level of solar installer certification in the solar PV industry. This qualification shows that you can properly specify, install, implement, inspect, adapt, configure, and maintain any type of photovoltaic system. The latter means that a certified solar installer can work with grid-connected and stand-alone systems that meet the reliability and performance needs of customers in the United States and Canada.

Many wonder if taking the PVIP exam without experience in the field is possible. The answer is no; this exam by NABCEP requires experience for eligibility. It’s designed to certify professionals in solar installation.

If you have not yet been in the role of solar installer, that’s okay! You can still work on your 58 hours of solar panel installation course prior to or during the acquisition of experience. NABCEP permits training completion within five years of taking the exam.

Keep in mind: every solar installation certification on this list needs to be renewed every three years.

The PVIP certification is helpful for:

  1. Solar system designers
  2. PV installers
  3. PV construction supervisors
  4. PV service technicians
  5. Structural engineers
  6. Master electricians
  7. Solar project developers
  8. Solar field technicians

What Solar Certification & Testing Are Important in the Solar Industry

Solar Installations Council (PVIS)

To obtain this solar installation certification, you must complete training in solar energy, which requires a shorter duration than training for PVIP.

The training offers an OSHA mini-course for solar panel testing and other topics in the construction industry. Furthermore, it discusses the issues of preventing and identifying dangerous situations when installing solar systems.

To obtain this solar installer certification, you must finish 24 training hours, with 6 specifically in National Electrical Code (NEC) training, from an accredited program.

The PVIS certification is helpful for such occupations:

  • PV installers
  • Solar electricians
  • Solar crew chiefs
  • PV construction supervisors

PV Technical Sales Council (PVTS)

This solar panel installation certification is tailored for individuals aspiring to market solar energy systems. PVTS may accompany knowledge and expertise of such occupations as engineers, performance appraisers, and financial analysts.

Unlike previous solar certifications, PVTS doesn’t require experience in the industry. However, you need to understand client interaction, identify a target audience, analyze solar systems, and assess incentives.

To acquire this solar technician certification, you need to cover a total of 58 advanced PV Training hours. Secure at least 40 hours of advanced PV-specific training, following the NABCEP PVTS Job Task Analysis through an accredited institution. The remaining 18 hours can be obtained from either an accredited or non-accredited provider.

The PVTS certification can be used for:

  • Solar salespeople
  • PV sales managers
  • Solar marketing professionals
  • PV account managers
  • Solar energy sales consultants

Other Solar Certifications In The Field

Here are some other solar installer certifications:

Type of solar certification Occupations Ways to acquire it
Council of Systems Design Professionals (PVDS) Certification Best for individuals looking to build a career in solar system design To obtain PVDS, you must have relevant work experience, undergo lengthy training in solar energy, and pass an exam.
Commissioning and Maintenance Board Certification (PVCMS) PVCMS is a unique certification designed for professionals in commissioning and maintenance roles The solar panel technician training is fast, but practical experience is required.
Board of Solar Inspectors (PVSI) Certification Required for inspectors to validate the proper function of solar panels To get PVSI, you need excellent solar systems design, legislative framework, and documentation knowledge. You need to complete a solar panel installation course, pass an exam, and gain work experience.

Different solar certification programs require different periods to complete. It also may depend on the province or state you are trying to get certified in. However, one thing is universally necessary for all solar installers, and it is a license.

Licensing In The Solar Industry

Licensing requirements differ based on state jurisdiction. In certain cities or counties, a solar installation contractor might need a specific license for solar panel installation, whereas others may not have such a requirement.

However, most solar panel installers must be licensed electricians because much electrical work is tied to the installation.

It’s important to explore another aspect of solar certifications: solar panel certification. Today, quality solar panels must meet various standards. If you are considering running a solar business and selling panels, you must know which solar panel tests guarantee solar panel reliability.

Let’s delve into the specifics of solar panel testing and the international standards involved in this part of the solar industry.

The Importance Of Solar Panel Testing

Testing solar panels is a common practice as it ensures a module’s quality and safety. Quality solar panels do have a long lifespan. If properly built and installed, equipment should generate usable electricity for over 25 years. These numbers are striking. Just considering the longevity of such an investment, people want to ensure solar panel reliability. Thus, they expect any equipment on their roof to perform well and operate safely after all solar panel tests are carried out.

What Solar Certification & Testing Are Important in the Solar Industry

With solar energy getting more popular, some governments and utility companies have introduced new regulations that require any grid-tied solar equipment to hold specific solar certifications. Below, you may get familiar with the most common solar certifications that prove solar panel reliability and quality.

The Most Common Solar Panel Testing and Solar Certifications

When checking a solar panel spec sheet, you’ll spot acronyms and numbers under safety and rating certifications. Wondering what these mean? Here are some common solar panel testing norms and certifications for comparing panels. If you’re eyeing a career in solar energy, understanding these standards is key. Let’s decode these terms together.

IEC: International Electrotechnical Commission

It is the foremost global organization dedicated to developing and disseminating international standards encompassing all electrical, electronic, and related technologies, including photovoltaic (PV) panels. This organization neither carries out solar testing nor module testing but only sets the requirements and standards for other testers.

IEC 61215: Standards for crystalline silicon terrestrial PV modules

IEC 61215 is a key and widely embraced standard for testing residential solar panels. This standard indicates that the solar panel module has undergone rigorous stress tests, ensuring high-quality, optimal performance, and safety.

IEC 61215 solar standard requirements apply to monocrystalline and polycrystalline PV modules, the most common solar panel types.

Solar panels conforming to IEC 61215 standards undergo testing in the following areas:

  • Mechanical load test (wind and snow)
  • Electrical characteristics (wet leakage current, insulation resistance)
  • Climate tests (hot spots, UV exposure, humidity-freeze, damp heat, hail impact, outdoor exposure) and others

IEC 62716: Ammonia corrosion testing of photovoltaic (PV) modules ammonia corrosion

Do you live close to a farm or a place where livestock graze? If so, ask for IEC 62716 when choosing the panels with the right solar certification.

These solar panel tests determine a module’s resistance to ammonia (a poisonous gas primarily produced by the decay of plant and animal matter). Installing a solar panel system close to farms and livestock can be a concern, as ammonia corrosion can accelerate degradation in a panel. Then, it leads to lower overall electricity production over the lifetime of the system.

IEC 61730: Standard for PV module safety

Like with any electronic device, there is a potential for electrical shock in improperly constructed solar panels. This is where IEC 61730 comes into play. These solar regulations focus on the safety aspects of solar panels. It includes an evaluation of the module’s construction and testing requirements to assess the following:

  • Electrical safety
  • Mechanical safety
  • Thermal safety
  • Fire safety

Photovoltaic (PV) modules that pass the solar panel tests outlined in IEC 61730 prove a reduced risk of facing these types of hazards.

IEC 61701: Salt mist corrosion testing

The name gives you a hint. When planning to install solar panels on a beach house, it’s advisable to discover if the solar panels have successfully passed IEC 61701 module testing. Solar panels undergo a series of salt sprays in a controlled environment during testing.

Post-spraying, testers check modules for physical damage (corrosion or delamination) and evaluate their electrical output and overall performance. Solar panels that successfully pass IEC 61701 tests can be set up near roads with elevated winter salt levels.

IEC 60068-2-68: Blowing sand resistance testing

Some solar panels endure IEC 60068-2-68 testing to detect how well they hold up in sandy desert environments. Continuous exposure to abrasive sand can cause wear and result in physical or mechanical defects in a solar panel over time. If you are installing solar panels in an area prone to frequent sand or dust storms, consider selecting panels that have successfully passed these tests to enhance the durability of your system.

What Solar Certification & Testing Are Important in the Solar Industry

Underwriters Laboratories

This is another solar energy certification company based in the US. They conduct testing services and certifications for various products such as electrical appliances, industrial equipment, and plastic materials. For solar panel testing, they have two standards: UL 1703 and UL 61730. Let’s take a closer look.

UL 1703: Standard for flat-plate PV modules and panels

UL 1703 is an industry-standard solar panel module testing to check safety and performance indicators. Like IEC 61215 or 61703 tests, panels with this certification experience simulated climatic and aging tests. This solar certification means that panels have been proven safe regarding mechanical loads, fire, and electrical hazards.

You may notice that a solar panel spec sheet includes both UL 1703 and IEC 61730 under safety solar certifications; this is typical for any quality solar panel sold worldwide. UL 1703 is necessary for solar panels sold and installed in North America, while IEC 61730 is internationally recognized and widely applicable to the global solar market.

UL 61730: Photovoltaic module safety qualification

UL 61730, a newer inclusion to solar panel testing and certifications, contains the module testing procedures and standards of UL 1703 with IEC 61730. This particular solar certification means international approval regarding a panel module’s safety and performance.

Shortly, It will become common to see this certification — as opposed to both UL and IEC — because it is often the most cost-effective option for manufacturers. To complete solar panel testing, developers must provide multiple samples.

Completing UL 61730 module testing reduces the number of panel samples needed as well as testing time and costs for companies that are planning to sell in both North American and international markets.

Shaping a Brighter Future: The Power of Solar Certification

The solar panel industry is a relatively new field of work that faces a shortage of certified solar installers and professional electricians. You have a chance to earn a good spot under the sun if you decide to acquire industry-recognized solar certification.

Employers highly regard workers with proper solar panel technician training and relevant expertise to handle intricate design projects. Moreover, knowing various solar certifications of standard helps to select the most appropriate solar panel system for individual clients. Simply put, if you know the industry inside out, you are deemed to succeed.

Jed Hilton
Jed Hilton

Jed Hilton, our Founder and CEO, has over a decade of experience in the solar industry. His innovative leadership and expertise in solar technologies guide our company's vision and strategy.

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