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Most Efficient Solar Panels Of 2023 (Guide). Solar install tech

Most Efficient Solar Panels Of 2023 (Guide). Solar install tech

    Most Efficient Solar Panels Of 2023 (Guide)

    Samantha covers all topics home-related including home improvement and repair. She previously edited home repair and design content at The Spruce and HomeAdvisor. She also has hosted videos on DIY home tips and solutions and launched multiple home improvement review boards staffed with licensed pros.

    We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Home. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

    Installing the solar panels for your home is an excellent way to conserve energy and lower utility bills. However, it’s important to understand the differences in the fabrication of solar panels in order to choose the most efficient solar panels for your commercial or residential installation. For those looking to install solar at home, we’ve searched for and found the best solar companies for consideration.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    How Efficient Are Solar Panels?

    The efficiency of solar panels is determined by the amount of sunlight reflected on the panels’ surface, which is then transformed into electrical or thermal energy. Previously, the average efficiency of solar panels was around 15%, but thanks to advancements in photovoltaic technology, the efficiency of solar panels is currently between 15% and 22%. High-efficiency solar panels can even reach nearly 23%. As a result, 370W is the typical power rating of a panel, an improvement from 250W. Two factors go into determining solar panel efficiency: photovoltaic (PV) cell efficiency and total panel efficiency.

    Panel Efficiency

    PV cell efficiency comes as the result of the cell design and silicon type, while cell layout and configuration along with the solar panel size are the basis for total panel efficiency.

    Cell Efficiency

    Total panel efficiency is determined by the maximum power rating under standard test conditions divided by the total area of the panels (in meters).

    Most Efficient Solar Panels

    While the most efficient readily available panels all share efficiency percentages above 20%, Canadian Solar’s HiHero series panels are tied with SunPower for the highest efficiency rating at 22.80% under optimal conditions.

    However, the Canadian Solar HiHero 445 H-AG solar panel has a temperature coefficient of 0.26%. Compared to SunPower’s coefficient of 0.29%, the HiHero edges out its competition when the temperature rises over 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Canadian Solar HiHero High Efficiency Heterojunction (HJT) Cell Module 445H-AG -0.26 22.80%
    SunPower 420-440W Residential AC Module M-Series: M440 -0.29 22.80%
    Q Cells Q.Peak Duo Blk ML-G10 £410.00 -0.27 20.90%
    REC Solar REC Alpha Pure-R REC430AA PURE-R -0.26 22.30%
    Panasonic Solar EverVolt™ Series EVPV410H -0.26 22.20%
    Silfab SILFAB Elite SIL. 380 BK 0.38 21.40%
    Residential panels with data correct as of April 2023

    Canadian Solar

    Canadian Solar offers consumers ten solar panel model series. Its lineup of HiKu Mono PERC panels on one end of the spectrum provides up to 425 watts at 20.9% efficiency, while at the other end, the company’s BiHiKu7 models start at 580 watts and continue through six more wattages to reach a whopping 610 watts.

    However, the company’s most efficient solar panel is its HiHero 445 H-AG model, which features a 445-watt capacity at a 22.8% efficiency rating and a 0.26% coefficient rating.

    SunPower

    SunPower offers three lines of residential panels along with components and energy storage systems. The company’s M series solar panels consist of five models that range in efficiency from 21.7% in the M420 model to the highest in our review, the M440, with a 22.8% rating.

    SunPower’s two other series are the X and U lines. The X lineup uses the company’s own Maxeon technology and ranges from 21.2% to 22.7% in efficiency. The U series is SunPower’s most recent budget-friendly addition that steers away from using Maxeon panels but still comes with similar warranty protections.

    Q Cells

    Q Cell’s residential panel selection includes several models in the Q-Peak Duo BLK ML-G10 and the Q-Peak Duo BLK-G10 lines. The BLK-G10 series features panels that range from 350W to 370W with efficiency ratings from 19.5% to 20.6%.

    The ML-G10 is Q Cell’s most recent lineup featuring higher watt ratings and slightly higher efficiency. Panels in the series include a 385W model with 19.6% efficiency and five more models. The most powerful one in the series is a 410-watt panel with 20.9% maximum efficiency and a temperature coefficient of 0.27%.

    REC Solar

    REC Solar provides five solar panel series to choose from—Starting with its 360W to 375W N-Peak 2 series and increasing in wattage capacity through each series. Its most powerful and efficient panel is the company’s Alpha Pure-R, featuring 430 watts of power rated at 22.3% efficiency with a coefficiency percentage of 0.26.

    Panasonic Solar

    Among numerous industries that Panasonic is involved in, the company offers a selection of 15-panel models in six series variations in its solar energy sector. The collection, called Evervolt, consists of residential solar panels with watt ratings from 350 to 410.

    The highest wattage Evervolt H Series Solar Module offers 410 watts with a 22.20% efficiency rating and a 0.26% temperature coefficient.

    Silfab Solar

    Silfab’s solar panel offerings include two residential series, Silfab Prime and Silfab Elite. Models available in both series have efficiency ratings topping out at 21.4%. The company’s most powerful panel, the SIL-410 BG churns out up to 410 watts with a coefficiency rating of 0.377%

    How You Can Check Solar Panel Efficiency

    Monitoring your solar panels’ performance and efficiencies allows you to compare calculations to keep an eye out for panel degradation, or notice sudden drops in efficiency that could indicate a problem with the system.

    To calculate the efficiency of an individual panel, you’ll need to measure the surface dimensions and determine the total production area in meters squared. You’ll also need the current power production amount in kilowatts.

    There are several ways to determine the kilowatt output. If you’re looking for the panel’s potential, simply use the panel watt rating for the calculation and divide by 1,000. For more accurate testing, take the wattage number from your solar meter or use a multimeter to measure volts and amps. Multiply the two results to arrive at the total watts. Divide the watts by 1,000 to reach the kW measurement.

    With those two numbers, divide the panel output by the total area of the solar panel surface in square meters. Multiply the result by 100. The total is your current efficiency rating of the panels you’re testing.

    For example, a solar panel that measures 182 cm by 106 cm has a surface area of 1.82 m x 1.06 m or 1.93 square meters. If the panel is producing 400 watts or 0.40 kW. Dividing 0.40 by 1.93 equals 0.207. Multiply by 100 for an efficiency reading of 20.7%.

    Efficiency by Solar Panel Type

    There are three types of solar panels that are most often used in commercial or residential installations: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Here is a brief explanation of each, as well as for what applications they are most useful:

    Monocrystalline

    Monocrystalline solar panels are often touted as the most efficient option and are often installed for larger energy systems in commercial and residential properties. However, panel sizes do vary; therefore, monocrystalline can be used in smaller installations as well.

    Pros

    • Made out of silicon with a high purity rating, boosting their efficiency to 15% to 23%
    • Don’t require as much space as polycrystalline and thin-film panels
    • Monocrystalline panels can last upwards of 25 years due to the stable and inert properties of the silicon

    Cons

    • Price point is high because of their complex construction
    • Not a good choice for cold-weather climates, as snowfall can damage the solar cells and cause the system to fail.

    Monocrystalline brands: SunPower, LG, and Panasonic

    Polycrystalline

    Like the name suggests, polycrystalline solar panels are constructed from multiple pure silicon crystals that are melted together. crystals aren’t always better, though. Polycrystalline panels are actually less efficient than their monocrystalline counterparts. They are, however, made in a variety of power settings ranging from 5W to 250W and higher, making them a good choice for both small and large-scale installations.

    Pros

    • Process to create them is simpler, so they are less expensive than monocrystalline
    • Less waste after the melting process, making them better for the environment
    • Durable and long-lasting, just like monocrystalline solar panels, so they are a good choice for budget-minded homeowners

    Cons

    • Lower efficiency (13% to 17%) because the silicon used to make them is lower in purity.
    • Take up more space to produce the same level of power as that of monocrystalline cells.

    Polycrystalline brands: TrinaSolar and YingliSolar

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    Thin-Film

    Though they are lightweight and easy to move, thin-film PV cells—which are not made of silicon—are the least efficient type of solar panel. Use them only for installation that won’t need to produce too much power; flexibility and portability are the two top factors with these.

    Pros

    • Easier and less expensive to produce
    • Excellent for solar transportation applications, such as panels that are installed on bus rooftops and refrigeration for cold-storage trucks

    Cons

    • Not a good choice for rooftops, as they require a large space to harness enough solar power for energy output.
    • Weaker so they break down more quickly than crystalline panels. Only short warranties are available for thin-film panel installations, which is something homeowners especially should consider depending on how long they plan to stay in their homes.

    Thin-film brands: Stion and Solopower

    Factors That Impact Solar Efficiency

    Several things can affect solar panels’ efficiencies, such as the type of solar panel, the inverter efficiency, thermal cycling, etc. Here are some factors to consider before purchasing a solar panel system:

    Solar Panel Types

    When figuring out which type of solar panel is right for your home, the first thing to do is to get acquainted with each type, its construction and its efficiency:

    • Monocrystalline Solar Panels: The most popular and most efficient type of solar panels, monocrystalline solar panels, are popular amongst residences and businesses. They are made of individual pure silicon crystal and can generate between 300 and 400 (sometimes even more) watts of power each.
    • Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Polycrystalline panels are made from several pieces of silicon that are separated into fragments and melted together. They are slightly less expensive but also less efficient than monocrystalline solar panels.
    • Thin-Film Solar Panels: Thin-film solar panels can be made of three different materials: Amorphous Silicon (a-Si), Cadium Telluride (CdTe) and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS). Each type of thin-film solar panel is less expensive than both crystalline panels but is also less efficient.

    Sunlight Hours

    While solar panels can generate electricity in various light conditions, even on cloudy days, their efficiency rates drop dramatically during hours with little light available. Generally, about four hours per day of direct sunlight is necessary to achieve the optimum performance of your solar panel array.

    However, during the remaining daylight hours, when sunshine is present but not direct, your solar panels can still generate substantial electrical power. The same is true of overcast days.

    The total number of hours of any kind of sunlight per day directly affects the overall efficiency of your panels in the short term. There are no long-term effects to solar panels that don’t receive an optimal amount of sunlight daily.

    Inverter Efficiency

    The inverter is what converts general Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC) electricity, which is what your home runs on. Most inverter’s conversion efficiency is around 97% to 99%, so the energy loss is relatively minor.

    Temperature Coefficient

    Solar panel efficiency ratings are measured and recorded under laboratory conditions called Standard Test Conditions or STC. The lab conditions include measurements taken at 25 degrees Celsius (77F). The temperature coefficient rating for solar panels measures the percentage of the panel’s efficiency loss when its surface rises above that temperature.

    For each degree Celcius that the panel’s temperature rises above 25, the panel’s efficiency will lessen by the coefficient rating percentage.

    For example, SunPower’s most powerful solar panel, the M440 produces a maximum output of 440 watts under ideal conditions at 25 degrees Celsius. Its efficiency rating at that temperature is 22.8%. The panel has a temperature coefficient rating of 0.29%.

    When the panel temperature increases by 10 degrees Celsius (50F), which isn’t uncommon under hot sunlight, its efficiency will decrease by 2.9%, meaning its overall efficiency drops below 20%. Essentially, it produces less power when it’s hot.

    Damp Heat

    Solar panel damp heat testing puts a subject solar panel through a rigorous test in which it’s sealed in a chamber kept at 85 degrees Celsius and 85% humidity for 1,000 hours. The test aims to recreate and accelerate the harsh conditions that the product will experience over several years of direct exposure to the elements.

    While damp heat testing doesn’t directly measure the effects of weather on a panel’s efficiency, the process tests the unit’s integrity related to delamination and corrosion, which, in turn, affect the panel’s overall efficiency.

    Thermal Cycling

    Thermal cycling tests your solar panel to see if it can withstand a wide temperature range. Solar panel components can expand and contract during Thermal Cycling, which may affect their efficiency.

    Solar Panel Orientation

    South-facing roofs are ideal for generating electricity with solar panels. West-facing roofs are the next best option, and east-facing roofs are next. If you have a north-facing roof, you may want to reconsider. West and east-facing panels will generate up to 15% less energy than a south-facing array while north-facing panels can lose as much as 20%.

    Identifying the prime installation angle towards the sun is essential to optimize solar panel performance. The exact angle degree varies based on latitude but generally lands between 30 and 45 degrees. The installation angle affects how much time per day the panel receives direct sunlight.

    The installation angle is most impactful during winter when the sun is lower on the horizon. Correct orientation and angle during winter can yield around 50% more energy than panels installed without the same consideration.

    Environmental Factors That Impact Solar Efficiency

    In addition to the typical factors, your environment is also something to consider before purchasing a solar panel system. Environmental factors such as average temperature, weather conditions and even dust and dirt build-up also impact solar efficiency.

    Temperature

    Solar panels work best at about 77°F, with peak efficiency between 59°F and 95°F. However, when the surface temperature of your solar panels gets higher than 149°F, solar panel efficiency can decline.

    Color

    The color of the back sheet that protects the panels can also affect efficiency. For example, while black might look more attractive for a protective back sheet, the color absorbs more heat. This results in higher temperatures and, therefore, a reduction in the total conversion efficiency, so other colors like dark blue, green or even patterns might be a better option for your solar panels.

    Extreme Weather Conditions

    Anything that stands between the sun and your solar panels reduces the amount of solar energy your system produces. Therefore, extreme weather conditions such as snow, wind, rain and hail can potentially affect your solar panel’s efficiency.

    Since snow accumulates onto the surface of your solar panels, the sun cannot penetrate the panels, which will ultimately affect the efficiency of your system.

    Since the wind could potentially cool your solar panels down, the wind can make them more efficient as long as the sun is still shining on them.

    Rain does not affect your solar panel efficiency; however, rain clouds could affect how much sun reaches them. However, constant rainstorms help keep layers of dirt and dust from covering the panels and blocking the light, which could decrease solar energy production.

    Unlike snow and rain, a hail storm can present slight problems for your solar panels. Although solar panels have been tested to withstand hail-like conditions, there is a chance of solar panel damage from a hail storm.

    Dust and Grime Build Up

    As time passes, your solar panels are bound to have some dust and grime build up due to the elements. If there is a layer of dust and grime on your solar panels, the sun will not be able to effectively reach the panels, causing a lapse in efficiency until the panels are cleaned.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    Why Is Solar Panel Efficiency Important?

    Solar panel efficiency is measured by the percentage of sunlight that hits your panel and is converted into usable electricity. Therefore, efficiency is most important when roof space is limited.

    For instance, if you have limited roof space and cannot fit as many solar panels on your roof as you would like, it may make sense to pay more to install higher-efficiency panels to absorb as much sunlight as possible.

    However, lower-efficiency panels will produce the same energy as high-efficiency ones, but they’ll require more to do so and more space. Therefore, lower-efficiency panels can cover your electricity use and help you save money if you have the space to house them.

    The amount of power a panel with 15% efficiency can create can be as much as 100 watts less than a panel of the same size that can achieve 22% efficiency. In an average residential solar setup, the home could require up to eight additional 15% solar panels to generate the same power as 20 units at 22%.

    Why Aren’t Solar Panels 100% Efficient?

    A panel with 100% efficiency can transform all the light that hits the panel into electrical energy. However, since solar panels cannot absorb energy from the entire solar spectrum, they cannot convert sunlight into electricity with 100% efficiency. Specific wavelengths of light are reflected off the solar panels or lost altogether.

    What to Consider When Installing Solar Power Panels

    Cost

    Solar panels can be costly upfront, which is why many homeowners do not take the decision to go solar lightly. The Center for Sustainable Energy reports that the installation can cost, on average, between 15,000 and 25,000. Polycrystalline solar panels are considered the most cost-effective choice in solar panel installations, but it depends on the type of panels and how many are needed for installation.

    most, efficient, solar, panels, 2023

    While your initial investment in solar panels can be recouped over the years, it might take longer for you to see back your money based on a number of factors, including energy usage and weather conditions; the latter might affect solar panel functionality.

    Location

    Solar-powered energy, not surprisingly, is more efficient in places where there is more sun exposure. Residential and commercial buildings in Southern California, for example, would likely reap the benefits of solar power more so than those in the cloudy Pacific Northwest. Still, even places that aren’t the sunniest can benefit from solar power, as cooler temperatures will cause the panels to create more power.

    Energy Usage

    If your energy bills are high, then it makes sense to install solar panels to reduce costs and to earn back the initial investment over time. However, if your energy usage is minimal, solar panel installation might not be worth the expense. It is also important to note that top efficiency is only achieved in top conditions and only at the beginning of the panel’s lifetime of use. As the solar panels age and are exposed to the elements, they will begin to perform less efficiently.

    Solar Installation Companies

    The company you choose to install your solar energy system is a crucial decision. While some installers use several solar panel and component manufacturers, many install just one or two brands. Ensure the installation company you choose is willing to install the solar panel brand of your choice and can service the system when necessary.

    Solar Incentives

    The federal residential solar tax credit allows homeowners to deduct 30% of the cost of their installed solar energy system from their taxable income for the year. However, that’s just one of several incentives that may be available depending on your location. Look for local, state and regional incentives as well. Your solar installation company should be well-versed in helping you discover these benefits.

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    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    What is the highest efficiency solar panel?

    Currently, the highest recorded solar panel efficiency rating took place in a lab and is rumored to have reached over 40% efficiency. However, in more practical conditions, the most highly efficient solar panels available to homeowners is Canadian Solar’s HiHero 445 H-AG model.

    What is the most efficient type of solar panel?

    Monocrystalline solar panels are often considered the most efficient solar panel option. Therefore, they are typically installed for larger energy systems in commercial and residential properties.

    How does increased energy efficiency benefit you?

    Increased energy efficiency in solar panels has several benefits for homeowners.

    • Potentially fewer solar panels to purchase and maintain
    • Highly efficient solar panels produce more power in direct and indirect sunlight.

    What solar panel type has the highest efficiency?

    Monocrystalline solar panels are often considered the most efficient solar panel option. Therefore, they are typically installed for larger energy systems in commercial and residential properties.

    How many solar panels do you need?

    With a home of roughly 1500 square feet, it is estimated that 15 to 18 solar panels will be needed.

    Can you DIY a solar panel installation?

    It’s tempting to save money and install solar panels yourself, especially if you have numerous successful DIY projects under your belt. But installing solar panels is a project that is best left to the pros. Depending on the type of panel you choose, installation might require complex configurations that are otherwise difficult to install correctly without the training experience.

    Additionally, professional installation might be required to uphold the warranty. As with many projects, getting a professional to install a solar energy system means that it will be done right the first time so that you can begin reaping the benefits of it immediately.

    How long will it take to recoup the cost of solar panels?

    This answer will vary depending on a variety of factors, including the initial expense of the solar panel system, the amount of energy incentives and electricity usage. On average, though, it takes homeowners six to 10 years to recoup their initial investment.

    How long do solar panels last?

    Solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years. However, they can last as many as 50 years. The longevity of solar panels depends on the weather conditions where they are installed, as snow, wind and debris from storms can affect their operation.

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    Solar Energy Technician – Job Description, Course, Salary

    Full Information on Solar Energy Technician Job Description, Course, Salary.

    A Solar Energy Technician is Different from a Solar Energy Engineer. There is no need to be highly educated to become a Solar Energy Technician. But a Solar Energy Engineer has to possess Bachelor or Masters Degree in Electronics or Engineering Background.

    Here I will discuss about Job Description, Courses available and Expected Salary of a Technician.

    Solar Energy Technician Job Description

    The solar power sector is all about using photovoltaic cell to convert radiation of the sun to electricity. While the job of a Solar Energy Engineer is to Design and Monitor Solar Panel Manufacturing and Solar Power Plants, the job of a Technician is to install solar panels, do maintenance, electrical wiring, Operate Equipment and Perform Tests of the System.

    Any solar energy project requires services of many technicians with different skills. Some of them can work as assistant to engineers who are mainly responsible for designing of solar energy system, equipment and buildings.

    A solar energy technician may install the system, home solar lighting system, solar water heater etc. He may also require to do some electrical wiring and install the Solar Battery and Inverters.

    Technicians who install solar systems or service solar panels are referred to as solar photovoltaic installers, or PV installers. The Job of a PV Installer is not limited to just installing solar panels on roofs, but they also have to do all the electrical wiring and install the solar battery and inverter and assure supply of solar electricity.

    Solar Energy Technician Education, Course and Training

    In order to become a Solar Energy Engineer, one must possess a Bachelor’s degree or preferably Master’s degree in the field of Electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, chemical engineering, computer software engineering with 3-5 years of practical experience in the field of electricity generation.

    Such engineers must have good knowledge of using power conversion station equipment, experience in high voltage substation projects, knowledge about How Solar Photovoltaic Cells Work, thermodynamics, AutoCAD, knowledge of industry standards, etc.

    However, no Bachelor’s or Master’s degree is required to become a Solar Energy Technician. Anyone who doesn’t even have a Bachelor’s degree can become a technician. However, they must undertake some courses and training in solar energy technology. Many vocational schools, trade associations and some engineering colleges offer such apprentice programs.

    Most such courses are of 1-2 Years that include less theory and more practical training. You will learn solar panel installation, testing and fault finding and fixing faults, maintenance, electrical wiring etc. Such institutes will offer certified technician certificate after completion of the course.

    Where to join Course to Become a Solar Energy Technician

    These are Short Term Courses of 1 Year to 2 Years.After going through this course the student will be able to understand:

    If you are in USA then visit any of the following:

    • American Solar Energy Society (http://www.ases.org)
    • Solar Energy Industries Association (http://www.seia.org)
    • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (https://www.nrel.gov)
    • Solar Living Institute (http://www.solarliving.org)

    If you are in India then visit:

    Job Opportunities and Salary

    After completion of the course, Technicians can get job in Sector of Renewable Energy Sources, Solar Companies, Factories that Manufacture Solar PV Cells, or Installation of PV Panels, Solar Equipment Manufacturers, Manufacturers of Solar Products etc.

    Salary varies from country to country. Some technicians work on daily pay basis while other may get a job with monthly pay scale. Few others can even open their own business. On an average a Solar Energy Technician can earn something between US 12 to US 30 per Hour that adds upto 18,000 and 40,000 per year.

    Solar Training Network

    The Solar Training Network addresses a critical need for high-quality, local, accessible training in solar installation and related skills. It was established under the Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) funding program in 2016 and is administered by The Solar Foundation. The Network allows for greater connection between solar employers, trainers and training institutions, workforce investment boards, and trainees and job seekers, in order to meet ever-changing market demands, especially in regions where solar energy is rapidly expanding. Visit the Solar Training Network website.

    Overview

    DOE’s Solar Training Network partners with leading solar workforce development and training organizations to connect people interested in solar careers with the training they need to enter the industry and the solar employers who need skilled workers.

    The Solar Training Network will be guided by a Solar Jobs Strategy Commission consisting of solar industry representatives, workforce development subject matter experts, diversity group leaders, and other key industry stakeholders. The Solar Jobs Strategy Commission will encourage greater collaboration and information exchange between solar employers, training institutions, workforce investment boards, and solar job candidates. By increasing active connections between each of these sectors, the solar industry will improve training programs, provide more hands-on learning opportunities, and cultivate an educated workforce with the specialized training needed to start a new career in solar.

    Solar Ready Vets® is a separate training program available specifically to military personnel on select military bases who are in the process of retiring and transitioning to civilian life. In contrast, the Solar Training Network can be utilized by all interested job seekers, including current veterans and their spouses who are interested in solar energy.

    History

    The Solar Training Network builds upon the networks created by the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN), a program and partnership between DOE and the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, which began in 2009. The program increased the number of qualified solar instructors at the community college level from just over 50 in 2006 to more than 1,000 today, providing access to more courses in solar energy across the country. It also developed solar training for building and electrical inspectors and created a comprehensive system linking training and credentialing for the solar workforce across residential, commercial, and utility-scale photovoltaic installation activities.

    The Solar Instructor Training Network developed a robust local training network across the United States. During its term, the program partnered with more than 400 community colleges, labor training centers, and technical high schools. The Energy Department invested 17.5 million in SITN, which included 10 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. As a result of these efforts, more than 30,000 students throughout the United States have received some solar training from an SITN-supported educational partner.

    most, efficient, solar, panels, 2023

    The regional training providers within SITN collaborated to develop curricula, identified career pathways, shared labor market data, and resolved issues related to solar training and workforce development. Providers offered multiple resources, including live train-the-trainer workshops and webinars, distance learning courses, and mobile laboratory training modules. They also provided training equipment and tools for instructors. This strong foundation provides the new Solar Training Network with the basis for more advanced training and more active coordination with solar employers.

    Below are the regional training networks that remain active since the conclusion of DOE funding for the Solar Instructor Training Network. Learn more about the current Solar Training Network.

    Former Regional Training Centers

    Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, MassachusettsKennebec Valley Community College (PV)Hudson Valley Community College (PV)

    NORTHERN MID-ATLANTIC STATES

    Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, DelawareNorthern Mid-Atlantic Solar Education and Resource Center at Pennsylvania State University

    SOUTHERN MID-ATLANTIC STATES

    North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, District of Columbia, VirginiaNorth Carolina Clean Technology Center, North Carolina State University

    Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas; Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin IslandsFlorida Solar Energy Center at University of Central Florida

    Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, OhioMidwest Renewable Energy Association

    ROCKY MOUNTAIN PARTNERSHIP

    Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, AlaskaSalt Lake Community College, Solar Energy International, and the Utah Solar Energy Association

    CALIFORNIA AND HAWAII PARTNERSHIP

    California, HawaiiCalifornia Community College Chancellors Office and the University of Hawaii System

    Media Inquiries

    For media inquiries, please email the Energy Department’s Office of Public Affairs at DOENews@hq.doe.gov and be sure to reference Solar Training Network in the email subject line.

    To receive the latest news about Solar Energy Technologies Office, please sign up for the Energy Department’s media list here.

    The Right Person for the Job: Solar Technicians vs. Installers

    With residential solar maintenance and repair, the importance of getting the right person on the job is often overlooked in the industry. While reaching out to the original installers when issues arise seems to make sense, there is a difference between the specialties of installing versus maintaining solar equipment.

    The original installation company may or may not have a service department; so when a service call comes in, often installers are sent in to complete a job that’s actually better suited to a service technician.

    Let’s look at the main differentiators between solar installers and technicians, and how playing to the strengths of each makes for a more optimized process for everyone—from owners to installers and technicians.

    Differences in Solar Service Work

    Solar installers are more likely to be experts in new equipment from a single manufacturer or select manufacturers with whom they often work. They typically have only the equipment they need for their specific assembly, but they won’t have the variety of parts a service technician carries.

    Service technicians, on the other hand, usually have more experience and a catalog of legacy systems, including broader manufacturer lists and yearly updates. One model year to another, even for the same manufacturer, can make a difference in methods for troubleshooting and having the necessary equipment at the ready.

    In fact, technicians tend to see three to four times the number of systems versus an installer. Since they only work in problem areas, they typically know where mistakes can happen.

    The best analogy for this is to think of solar installers as automobile manufacturers and technicians as automobile mechanics. One is expert for assembly; the other is the expert once the equipment rolls off the lot and starts encountering real-world problems.

    Each equipment version can have its own unique issues, and technicians develop methods for addressing these over time. They get to know what they might encounter with this or that particular piece of equipment and can identify specific idiosyncrasies based on dealing with repairs on a consistent basis.

    Technicians also have more knowledge of the calculations and equations involved with the production values of a system: how to determine them, how to calculate, and what can cause production shortfalls.

    Work Day and Style Differences

    A workday for a solar technician also tends to look very different from an installer’s. Technicians typically have multiple sites to visit on any given day, with varying degrees of complexity. This can mean longer and more undefined days, or very short days if an issue is resolved quickly. Installers, on the other hand, generally have a fairly set schedule, with clear daily parameters.

    Another big differentiator is that of the team sport vs. individual sport work style. While technicians are used to working in a solo environment with remote support, installers work in teams. Each member of the install team contributes to a single or a few project aspects. Technicians are well versed in the whole process from head to tail.

    This also means a technician’s vehicle can be smaller since it only needs to carry equipment and not several people. The technician’s smaller, outfitted nv200 service vehicle cuts down on travel costs, which reduces the overall price of service.

    Customer relations is another area where technicians can shine. SunSystem Technology trains technicians on how to resolve issues and interact with upset customers. This can make all the difference when a customer is either upset or might be angling for freebies. Respectful customer management is essential for navigating conflict situations toward win-win solutions.

    Certifications and Familiarity with RMA Requirements

    Solar installers might only be certified in specific lines of equipment, not a multitude of manufacturers. This allows them to zero in on what they do best and get new equipment online as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    On average, technicians will have more manufacturer certifications because they work with a wider base of equipment. There’s also an opportunity to achieve different technician levels by having a certain amount of time on-job, certain OSHA certifications, etc. SunSystem encourages and supports our technicians’ pursuits of continued education.

    Technicians need to be able to clearly relay and accurately document what they find on-site. This process is especially critical because proper documentation is needed for any cases involving warranties or insurance.

    In addition to this, each manufacturer has different processes for RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) documentation. SunSystem has relationships with every major manufacturer, so we know their RMA documentation requirements. Our technicians are well versed in these documentation processes as well, which shortens timelines for getting replacement parts.

    Lastly, as installers often default to replacing equipment altogether, the cost of replacement vs. troubleshooting and repairing comes into play. If technicians can fix existing equipment rather than returning it, this can mean big savings.

    Opportunity Cost of Relying Too Much on Installers

    For solar system owners who are leasing to homeowners, the opportunity cost of moving an installer away from their work to go back for service can add up. It’s not cost-effective to send people who should be installing to do repairs. It’s a diversion of their talent and time away from what they do best—getting more solar systems up and running in the first place.

    Not only are you paying them to fix it, but you’re also losing the opportunity for them to do another installation. You’ll likely have to pull one of your lead installers or electricians to do the service work, which is not the best use of their time. Our partners find that letting their installers install and pulling service work from our technicians is far more cost-effective.

    As an installer, subbing your work to SunSystem means you can FOCUS your energy on where it’s best spent. It’s a perfect example of utilizing different solar professionals in their areas of expertise and allowing them to do their strongest work through the specialization of labor.

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