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SolarWindow Enters into Third Phase…

SolarWindow Enters into Third Phase of Technology Development Agreement with U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)

02 Mar 2016
SolarWindow Technologies, Inc., the leading developer of first-of-its-kind transparent electricity-generating coatings for glass and flexible plastics, announced that it has entered into Phase III of its Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The primary development goal of the Agreement is the commercialization of SolarWindow products.
NREL is recognized as one of the most respected and advanced solar-photovoltaic research institutions in the world. NREL scientists have been working side-by-side with SolarWindow Principal Scientist, Dr. Scott R. Hammond during the development of SolarWindow transparent electricity-generating coatings. SolarWindow is initially targeting the five million tall towers and commercial buildings in the United States, which consume almost 40% of the electrical energy generated.
“The prospect of skyscrapers generating electricity from see-through window products is very exciting,” said Dr. Maikel van Hest, a Senior Scientist in the Thin Film and Processing Group within the National Center for Photovoltaics at NREL. “Through our CRADA, we have been able to develop and test this technology using some of the world’s most advanced state of the art equipment. As a result, SolarWindow and NREL have advanced the technology by enhancing scale, efficiency and reliability.”
Under the terms of the Agreement, SolarWindow and NREL will continue to work jointly to enhance product performance, increase scale, and improve reliability; and develop new features and obtain important performance certifications required for a commercial rollout.
In addition, the team will focus on various SolarWindow product-specific goals, including:
  • Large scale window fabrication
  • Interconnection development for easy ‘plug-n-play’ on-site installation
  • Advanced performance measurement and modeling of SolarWindow when installed in various building types and geographies
  • SolarWindow performance under varying artificial and natural light conditions
  • SolarWindow can provide a one-year financial payback while producing 50-times greater energy than rooftop solar when modeled for a 50-story building, according to the company’s independent validation. For the same building, SolarWindow shows 15-times the environmental benefit of rooftop solar by avoiding 2.2 million miles of equivalent carbon dioxide emissions produced by vehicles, according to the company’s independently validated Power & Financial Model.
“With this CRADA extension in place, we’re one step closer to launching what is possibly the single greatest breakthrough technology in clean energy to help us overcome our dependence on fossil fuels,” said John A. Conklin, President and CEO of SolarWindow. “Keeping in mind that commercial buildings consume almost 40 percent of America’s electricity, our goal is to put a solid dent in reducing carbon emissions and offsetting a building carbon footprint while providing customers with clean electricity-generating solutions that make economic sense.”
SolarWindow Technologies, Inc.
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Converting Solar to Usable Energy

Photonic energy is a wave particle that travels at a speed of approximately 300,000 kilometers per second (186,000 miles per second). Almost everything reacts to this energy when contacted by it. The most common reaction is conversion to heat. Plants convert sunlight to chemical energy (complex sugar). The sugar is stored and used by the plant to live and grow.

Humans have also learned how to convert the solar energy to usable energy. We convert solar energy directly into two types of energy for use.

  1. Solar thermal (heat energy) is used for hot water and steam for power generation.
  2. Photovoltaic (solar electric) energy is converted from the visible light spectrum to power electrical appliances.

Solar Thermal Energy:

Solar Thermal energy can be used instantly and it can also be stored as hot water or oil in an insulated container. The storage is usually for no more than a day. This is the most efficient conversion of solar energy to usable energy although it may not be the most cost efficient method. Small-scale solar thermal systems require expensive equipment to capture solar energy, convert it to thermal energy and then store it for later use. The net conversion efficiency is around 30% for the average home.

  • The cost can be amortized over the lifetime of the system (15 – 20 years). Compared to heating water with electricity, the system reduced energy costs during the system lifetime. Compared to heating water with NG, the system may not reduce energy costs during the system lifetime.

Photovoltaic Energy:

Photovoltaic energy (PV) is used instantly since electricity travels close to the speed of light, although it can be converted and stored as chemical energy. Chemical energy storage such as electrolyte batteries or hydrogen provide 24-hour usage of solar electric energy. It also adds cost to the solar electric energy system. The net conversion efficiency of the average PV system without energy storage is around 13% to 16%. Energy storage will reduce that efficiency to 10% to 14%. Off-grid system net conversion efficiency is under 10%.

  • PV systems amortized over 5 to 10 years usually provide a positive return on investment. Over the life of the PV system (25 years), the return is 2x to 5x of the system cost. With energy storage added to the system cost, the lifetime return is 1.5x to 3x of the system cost.

Capacity Limiters for Photovoltaic Energy:

Peak solar hours occur during the six mid-day hours; this is when 80% to 90% of the photon energy is converted to electrical energy. This can be a problem for utilities if electrical energy is consumed during other hours of the day. Utility companies must balance the electrical power grid and provide stable voltage to their customers. A limited amount of solar electric energy can be fed into the electrical grid without causing voltage rise and collapse (around 10% of the electrical load). Increasing the capacity far beyond the 10% limit requires converting the electrical energy to another form of storable energy. Energy storage is necessary to extend the usage of solar electric energy.

  • Chemical energy storage (the electrolyte battery) is the most common method where electrical energy can easily be converter to and from chemical energy. The conversion efficiency is around 90% efficient. The cost of chemical energy storage is high, although several types of batteries are now on the market and prices are dropping. Charging the batteries requires hours for most technologies, although some technologies are faster than others. Residential systems are typically used for backup power when the utility power is lost. Commercial systems will use energy storage mostly for load stability and rate cost.
  • Hydrogen energy storage (fuel cells) is a growing technology where electrical energy is used to separate hydrogen from a molecule such as water. The conversion efficiency ranges between 60% to 90% depending on the method. The net efficiency is reduced much further if the hydrogen gas is concentrated for storage. Compressed hydrogen is very portable and lightweight. Non-compressed hydrogen would require massive storage space and would be impractical as a stand-alone system.
  • A couple of other methods of energy storage are flywheels and capacitor banks but neither have proven to be as feasible as chemical batteries or fuel cells.

Solar Electric Systems:

Solar electric systems produce around 1% of the U.S electrical energy generation; some areas of the U.S are experiencing close to 10%. Here is what is being done to satisfy electric grid stability as solar electric grows in capacity:

  • Correcting power factor problems: Most areas of the electrical power grid experience a lagging current because of inductive electrical loads. Solar electric inverters can correct some of that with their capacitors (capacitive loads).
  • Peak demand: When too many heavy electrical loads occur at one time, the electrical load demand is high, and very difficult and sometimes expensive to generate and manage. Distributed solar electric generation sites provide onsite power and reduce the peak load demand. Since rain and heavy cloud coverage reduce this capacity, energy storage can be installed to work with the solar electric system to produce power on-demand.
  • Load and cost management: Solar electric systems can be directed to produce energy during specific daylight hours when load demand is highest and/or when electrical rates are highest. Combining this with energy storage will increase the return on investment for the system owner.
  • Micro-grids and emergency power: Some solar electric systems with energy storage will be designed with extra storage capacity. These systems can operate and produce electrical power for several days or longer.

The applications identified above will allow solar electric system capacity to grow without limits.

Kelly Provence
Solairgen
www.solairgen.com

Solar Training Students

About Solairgen

IREC Logo Training ProviderSolairgen was the first privately held solar training class company in the eastern U.S. Our IREC Accredited solar training programs continue to provide students with the highest quality learning experience through state-of-the-art distance learning, classroom and workshops, and equipment used in our training programs. We offer complete, nationally accredited, online training and PV installation workshop programs for solar PV design and installation, as well as IREC Accredited online training for PV Sales and Design (Technical Sales).

Our online classes can be taken anywhere there is internet, but students come from all 50 United States to participate in our hands-on workshop, PV203 System Design and Installation. Many students come from outside the U.S. such as the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Eastern countries including India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Solairgen prepares you for a career in solar installation, and can lead you to national certification as a PV Installation Professional and/or a PV Technical Sales/Business Professional. Students may begin their training with our online PV201 then advance their training and knowledge with PV203 System Design and Installation, PV-221 Advanced online training, then prepare for industry certification in our NABCEP PV Installer and PV Technical Sales Exam Preparation classes. Please see our Home page for more information about our comprehensive career training classes program – or call if you have any questions. We’ll be happy to talk to you about your career plans: 706-867-0678 or 800-262-7560.

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Solar Careers in a Galaxy Near You

There is no telling how many solar jobs there are in this galaxy given the probable billions of solar systems within it, but we do know that there are quite a few in this small sector. If you are thinking that you would like to build a career in the solar industry, it is an industry with an impressive growth rate and lots of room. If you’re trying to make a decision to shift your goals toward building a career in the solar industry, it is necessary to see the whole picture.

There are three steps in gathering necessary information to see this picture clearly enough to make the right decision and pick the solar career path that fits you best.

  1. Assessing the types of jobs available and the number of these jobs in the industry is step one. Here are some information resources to help you do that:
    • The Solar Energy Industry Association SEIA provides the National Solar Database on their website. This database is a Google map of the U.S. that allows the user to find manufacturers, installers and others serving the solar industry.
    • The Solar Foundation (TSF). TSF publishes an annual Solar Jobs Census report.
    • The Department of Energy DOE maintains a Solar Career Map on their website. Most of the U.S. jobs in the solar industry are directly connected to system design, installation and sales, however, there are many jobs created by the solar industry that have an indirect connection.
  2. Preparing yourself for a new career or even a slight shift from your present career requires a clear understanding of the job qualifications you’ll need. Studying the industry as a whole is easy since there is so much available news on it. In order to focus on the area that suits your experience, aptitude and work desire, a knowledge of education, training and skill requirements is necessary. Most employers want to verify your ability to perform the job prior to hiring you. If you are in accounting or finance and plan to incorporate solar into your present business model, the learning curve is not so steep. If you are in sales, construction or manufacturing, the learning curve is steep enough to require specialized training. The solar industry has developed organizations to help workers, employers, state and federal agencies and consumers make wise decisions regarding experience and solar training.
    • The Interstate Renewable Energy Council IREC sets standards for accredited training schools and trainers. Workers and employers can use their accredited training database to find quality schools and trainers.
    • The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners NABCEP provides the opportunity for solar installation professionals and solar sales professionals to become certified. These certifications are difficult to get, but sets the certificants apart from others. The standards are high so that employers and consumers can make good choices.
  3. Finding the job is one of the most stressful steps in the process but it is easier than it seems if done with an effective method. Follow these steps and you will meet the people who will be doing the hiring.
    • The National Solar Database is a great place to start; it will show you most of the companies who are established in the solar employment sector.
    • The American Solar Energy Society ASES has chapters throughout the U.S. The chapters are supported through the membership of solar companies and other interested parties and groups. Join your local chapter and take time to go to the open meetings. This is the best networking opportunity you will find.
    • Another form of networking is getting to know people who know the potential employers. Most people meet these contacts while taking training; the trainers know the employers and the employers trust the trainers. There is no better first connection with the industry players than in a training class. The linked chart shows the most common recruitment methods used by employers.

Changing or building a career takes time and it should not be rushed. Take time to get as much training as possible. There is a lot of free solar training on various industry web sites to help you get started, but if you want to be taken seriously, it will be necessary to take IREC accredited courses from a certified school. Make the change at a pace that will ensure success – fast enough to get you there but not so fast that it burns you out. Time is on your side because solar jobs in this small sector of the galaxy are growing.

Kelly Owen Provence
IREC/ISPQ Certified Master Trainer
Solairgen School of Solar Technology

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Is Renewable Energy an Oxymoron?

In short, yes it is. Energy changes form, but it does not renew itself and an outside force cannot renew it, although it can draw energy from an outside source.

On the other hand, everything is energy and as far as we know, there is no less of anything now than there ever has been. Matter and energy are part of the same equation; energy changes form but it doesn’t cease to exist. In that respect, all energy is renewable.

What is usually termed renewable energy is energy that uses a fuel source that appears to be endless, continuous, and for the most part not found in storable state.

Fossil fuel energy comes from ancient carbon stores and nuclear energy comes from radioactive heavy metal deposits; neither of these energy sources can be replenished for our use.

Solar energy is the most abundant of the renewable energy sources. It takes about two years for a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy system to produce as much energy as was consumed to manufacture it. Photon energy is abundant but not concentrated; this requires massive area coverage. In locations where a large amount of energy is consumed, the real estate required for the PV arrays can be a serious cost factor. Using some type of building integrated PV array attachment seems to make the most sense. One major problem with solar PV energy is that is must be stored in order to displace conventional steam producing energy sources. Over all, PV energy is the most renewable source of energy we have.

Wind energy is not as abundant as solar energy but it is more concentrated. Wind energy systems require less area than PV systems but they required dedicated real estate; they cannot be integrated with existing buildings, however they can be integrated with the existing flora and fauna. It only takes about one year for a wind energy system to produce as much energy as was consumed to manufacture it.

Wind is a result of solar convection due to the earth’s rotation, local terrain and air temperature; this being the case, wind energy is variable with regard to location, time of day and time of year. Energy storage is necessary if wind energy is to displace conventional steam producing energy sources. Wind energy is probably the second most renewable energy source we have.

Hydroelectric energy that uses dams is limited to existing rivers and bodies of water. This type of energy currently provides about 20% of the world electrical power. The advantages of using hydroelectric energy are, flood control, potential energy storage, and recreation areas are created; these power plants create many economic benefits besides generating electricity from a renewable energy source. The disadvantage is mostly the effects on the ecology of the river system. The long life of hydroelectric generators makes them an excellent renewable energy source.

Biomass steam generators are quickly becoming a replacement option to coal steam generators. The limit to this renewable energy source is available land and water resource; otherwise, it has the on-demand energy delivery like coal but has a carbon-negative footprint.

Geothermal energy derives its energy from the internal heat of the earth and is an excellent source of renewable energy. The limitation for now is that it is only available in locations where the earth’s mantle is proximate to the Earth’s surface.

Renewable energy and clean energy are dissimilar with regard to the energy source. Nuclear energy is considered very clean since the emissions are produced only from construction and maintenance of the facility. The chart below shows the proportion of energy generated to CO₂ emissions for each generators lifecycle.

Courtesy of www.nei.org

The question of whether renewable energy is an oxymoron is a good one. As with most commonly used terms or phrases, it is dependent on a particular perspective. In my own definition of renewable energy, I consider the lifecycle of the energy generated verses the lifecycle of the energy source; the former must be greater than the latter.

If nature can renew the energy source in a period equal to or les than the period in which we consume the energy, consider it renewable.

Start your solar training classes to learn more about renewable energy. Learn more about Solairgen School of Solar Technology

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Does Certified Solar Training Make Cents

Does certified solar training make “cents” for solar PV design and installation companies? Spending money on training may seem questionable since there is so much free information on the internet these days. If you have the time, you can find just about anything you want or want to know about through the internet. The biggest problem with that approach is qualifying the accuracy of the information. A PV design and installation company that decides to self educate usually misses some key information. The cost for missing this information to save on quality training is usually much higher in the long run.

What are the training options?

  • If you are dead-set on getting free online training, be sure that the information is from a professional source such as IREC, NABCEP, NREL, FSEC or an accredited school. There are a lot of internet videos that show only part of the process and they leave a lot out. You have to ask yourself, “Would I trust my car repair to someone whose knowledge and skills came from an internet video? “
  • Researching and reading volumes of information and then sorting it out, is a very laborious job. There are few people have the time to do this effectively, and I do respect their effort and dedication. However when I hear someone say that they are self-taught, I have three thoughts: (1) This person must be very tenacious to have done it the hard way, (2) Is this person a maverick that may not know what he/she does not know? (3) Does this person take this approach with everything they do?
  • On the job training (OJT) is the most sought-after source; it is also the most difficult to find. Without good formal training, a person is going to make mistakes; it is unavoidable. Mistakes cost money and are great teachers, especially when the money is your own, but most companies realize that a new untrained employee will not effectively contribute to the profitability of the company for the first few months. The cost to the employer is greater than the cost of training.
  • Online training from accredited schools is a good place to start. The real benefit to taking online training is that you don’t have to take time off work and pay for lodging during the training. Another benefit of online training is that the cost is lower than in-the-seat training.
  • In-the-seat training is the best format for training as long as the class size is not too large. If there are more than 20 students in the class, the one-on-one contact time is almost nonexistent. Small classes of 10 people or less is the best learning format for any class, especially for hands-on training classes.

What is the true value of attaining certified training?

  • The most important value is the accurate knowledge that you attain. Along with the knowledge, the training school usually provides continued support to its students; they are usually glad to answer questions from their former students.
  • In order to be successful in any industry it is important to have regular correspondence with every sector of your industry that can make you more successful. Maintaining a relationship with a good training source will help keep you and your company in front of changes in the industry.
  • Hiring trained personnel and maintaining appropriate training levels with your personnel will save you a lot more than the training will cost.
  • Organizations that offer nationally recognized certifications in the PV industry, such as NABCEP, require the applicant to have certified training from an accredited school.
  • Whether you are talking with colleagues, associates or customers, formal training is the only training that will earn their respect.

Does certified training cost more than the benefit? The answer is no; if you are part of the front line of the solar design and installation industry, good quality training will not only save money it will provide a strong foundation of knowledge and the clarity necessary to ensure better job performance. Making certified solar training a part of the business model is essential to building a successful solar company; not only does it make sense, it makes “cents”.

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Solar PV Training and Employment

Solar PV Training and Employment

It would seem logical to assume that since the Solar PV industry is growing at such a robust pace, there should be plenty of jobs available. That is a correct assumption, but there is a gap between the need for workers and the need for a well-trained work force. The old adage is; you need experience to get a job, but you can’t get experience without a job.

Fortunately, almost all prospective PV employers understand that in this industry, the training comes first, and it’s usually enough to get you started.

There is one sure way to bridge the gap between experience and employment: training and networking.

The first step is to get training from a recognized and competent solar training company. Be sure that it is an accredited solar training program that will be recognized throughout the country. The second step is to get experience, and there is more than one way to get it.

  1. Find out where the solar PV contractors gather; associations are the best place to look. The American Solar Energy Society has state chapters all across the country, and most have regular meetings every month or two. It is very affordable to join an association, and the meetings are a perfect place to get to know the solar contractors and business leaders. Take the time to get your foot in the door and be willing to be time-flexible when someone approaches you about working together – because someone probably will.
  2. If you are already in the construction industry, it is a short segue into the PV industry with proper training, and you can expand your business quickly, and with relatively little financial investment.
  3. Start your own company.  Starting any business is easier said than done, but many people do it quite successfully. If you have an entrepreneur’s spirit and the determination to get a company rolling, this is a good choice. Check the laws in your state to determine if you need to have licensing prior to installing PV systems.
  4. The “hybrid” start.  Many people intend to start their own installation companies, but want an installation or two under their belts before doing so. Working with an existing company on a project-by-project basis can help you get a little experience before you go out on your own.
  5. Install a system on your own house (or a relative’s).  You will learn just as much about installation, and you have your own PV system and some experience at the end of it.

One of the best ways to become valuable for a long-term career is to attain an industry certification. NABCEP has several certification programs; Solar PV Certified Installer, Solar Thermal Certified Installer, and Technical Sales Certification. Each of these certifications requires experience that can be obtained by either working as a self-employed, or working for a solar contractor.  Familiarize yourself with NABCEP at www.nabcep.org.

You can’t get NABCEP Certification without meeting their criteria, and no training company can certify you. The industry leaders know this, and are willing to help you on your path to Certification. After all, with a few exceptions, they pretty much had to get their certification the same way you will. They can work with you on a “project-by-project” basis, or hire you full-time or part-time.  Each company is different, but almost all are dedicated to the industry, have high standards, and are willing to help new installers learn.

Beware of training organizations who sell up their “Job Programs” or placement assistance. It sounds great to you before you pay your training tuition, but it’s mostly talk with very few programs actually putting people to work in the solar industry. If you find work through them, it will usually be an unpaid position as an apprentice. Don’t be sucked in to “We help you find a job.” Training companies can point you in the right direction and have contacts in the industry, but they aren’t job placement organizations.

The truth is that it takes time and dedication to retrain yourself into any industry where you are readily employable. If you want in the solar industry then be persistent and you’ll get in. Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Important links for more information:

www.nabcep.org
North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (to determine eligibility requirements for NABCEP Certification)

www.irecusa.org
Interstate Renewable Energy Council (to verify accredited training programs)

www.ases.org
American Solar Energy Society (to find a chapter to join nearest you)

 

Kelly Provence
IREC/ISPQ Certified Master PV Trainer
Solairgen
www.solairgen.com
706-867-0678

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Grid-tie Inverters and Generators

Grid-Tied PV Systems and Generators

The question keeps coming up; “Will a generator keep the grid interactive, non-battery based PV array operating during utility power
outages?” In theory, it seems like a logical idea since the generator operates at 240 volt 60 Hz and this is what the inverter is looking for in order to
continue operating.

The problem is, the generator cannot absorb the excess energy from the PV inverter output, nor can the generator react quickly enough
to the fluctuating output of the PV inverter. With a grid connection there is a certain amount of buoyancy or capacitance in the grid to allow for varying electrical energy.

A second problem is how the generator will react to another AC source; it may shut down or it may be damaged by the other AC source.

The solution is the same as it has been since the start of PV energy systems, battery storage. There are many new product advancements in
battery storage or energy storage and the future looks bright. For now, the best solution for backup power during a utility outage is one of two options:

  1. An AC generator can be set up as backup power with a transfer switch that senses the loss of utility  power. If a grid interactive, non-battery based PV array is operating when utility power is down, it will go into a standby status until the utility power returns to normal.
  2. Another option is to use a battery based, grid interactive PV system that can provide backup power during utility outages; a generator can be tied in with the battery-based inverter to help charge the batteries during extended cloud cover and rainy conditions.

If option #2 is your preference, you will find that battery based inverters are quite different from utility interactive inverters. If you presently have an SMA utility interactive inverter, you can add the SMA Island battery based inverter to the system and have the best of both worlds.

For other utility, non-battery based interactive inverters, you either need to change out the inverter to one that is battery based with the utility interactive feature or just use the generator as the backup.

Kelly Provence
IREC/ISPQ Certified Master PV Trainer
Solairgen
https://www.solairgen.com/
706-867-0678

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Multi-Credentialed Solar Installer-Trainer

Solar Panel InstallationSolairgen’s Kelly Provence: Multi-credentialed installer/trainer talks with IREC’s ISPQ about the value of credentials

By Jane Pulaski
September 15, 2011

What do you say about someone who was the first PV trainer in the U.S. to hold four credentials (IREC ISPQ Master PV and three NABCEP certifications)? An overachiever? Staying ahead of the competition?  Hip to the importance of credentials to maintain integrity in the solar profession?  All of the above?
Achieving any one of these credentials is an ambitious goal, but four?  I wanted to know what (or who) is behind Kelly’s drive to be multi-credentialed.  Here’s our conversation.

IREC:  Kelly, I’m going to get right to it:  what inspired you to attain so many credentials?
KP:  I was at a dealer conference at the Florida Solar Energy Center in 2003, when I became aware of NABCEP and the importance of certification. It became apparent to me that in order for the solar industry to maintain a high level of installation integrity, there needed to be a national standard to measure professionalism; NABCEP was doing that with their certification program. In 2006 I earned the PV Installer Certification and in 2007 earned the Solar Thermal Certification; these credentials demonstrated my experience and commitment to my customers, as well as support for a national standard.

IREC:  NABCEP awarded its first PV certificants in November 2003. So if you were hearing about it then, you were tuned in to the value of credentials at the very beginning.  The NABCEP credential must have resonated with you.
KP:   It did. I knew that this industry needed to maintain high standards to succeed and time has proven this to be true.  At Georgia Solar Energy Association meetings and in my own work, I supported NABCEP certification as the industry standard we should, and do, support.  I started the Solairgen training program with two goals in mind: to help students enter the market with a high level of competency and guide them toward certification.

IREC:  Before you discovered NABCEP, what kept you busy? Was solar part of your life then?
KP:  Before Solairgen, I owned and operated an electrical contracting company, Provence Electric, from 1995 to 2008. Solar installations were always a part of the business model. In 2002, Solairgen was formed at which time PV and Solar Thermal design and installations became my single focus. I later became involved with the development of Georgia Solar Energy Association (GSEA.)  It was while serving as an officer with GSEA that I saw the need for solar training in Georgia. It was then I moved from design and installation and shifted focus solely to PV and ST training.

IREC:  Since you recognized the value of an installation credential, when did you recognize the value of the IREC ISPQ credential?
KP: Soon after I designed and implemented our training program, I realized that IREC ISPQ accreditation and trainer certification is just as important to the training sector as NABCEP is to the installation sector of the solar industry. Having the IREC ISPQ credential allows a potential student to make a better decision when selecting a training course – it assures them of the quality of the program they’ve selected – and provides the national training standard they want and need. Moreover, the entire solar industry benefits by having a high national standard of quality and professionalism. We all win.

IREC:  Most definitely.  I’m curious…what was the order in which you went for the IREC ISPQ credential? Was it program accreditation first, then trainer certification, or was it trainer certification first, then program accreditation?
KP:  Program certification came first. The value of accreditation was most important to the company, which of course was important to me.  I had several years of installation experience in PV and ST to draw from in teaching, and two NABCEP certifications, but the class syllabus itself needed the “Gold Seal.” After that, Master PV Trainer certification became my goal.  Solairgen offers both an accredited class, and a certified instructor.  That assures potential students that Solairgen has met the highest quality standards for installation and design training, and keeps us competitive.

IREC:  Having an accredited program and certified instructor does ensure the highest quality teaching/learning experience possible.  I’m wondering what kind of students you’re seeing in your classroom.  Is it a wide range of skills and experience?
KP:   The  students’ varying backgrounds keep my job interesting and challenging.  We offer different classes and each one has its own dynamic. The 40-hour entry level class is usually full each month and consists of electricians, electrical engineers, builders, finance and marketing professionals, with motivated entrepreneurs from unrelated fields. My students are always interesting, and it’s enjoyable to see the high-level of enthusiasm they all show with the opportunity to enter this field.  I’m always impressed by the commitment and hard work the candidates in my NABCEP Exam Prep classes demonstrate to become nationally recognized and proficient in the industry. About half of the exam prep students are electricians, some are engineers with the balance being solar contractors and integrators. Many started out taking my PV-203 class. There’s a lot of combined experience in the classroom. It isn’t uncommon for me to learn something from them in the course of a class.

IREC:  With such a wide range of skills and experience, it must be a continuous challenge to make sure everyone’s needs and expectations are being met.   How do you tackle that?
KP:    My first priority is to teach the design and installation of PV equipment and systems with a high level of competency. Everyone comes into my class with strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important that I “level the information field” as soon as possible by bringing all the students to a common level of understanding. This is something I enjoy and do well.  It’s rewarding to see so many of my PV-203 students pass the NABCEP Entry Level Exam and then see them go on to rewarding careers in the field – then NABCEP Certification. After each of my exam prep classes and the NABCEP certification exam, I start checking the NABCEP site regularly for new certification awardees.  I get a tremendous sense of pride when I see my students who have come through Solairgen classes earn NABCEP certification.  Another challenge I face with my students is to stay current with technology and the industry in general, revising my classes as I do.  Students are more informed and sophisticated than ever, so I consistently “re-educate” myself so that I deliver up-to-date industry and technological information to my students.  If I’m informed, so are they.

solar-panel-installation-trainingIREC:  That’s the sign of an exemplary teacher, and students know one when they find one.  Not surprisingly, the converse is also true.  So in your experience, and if you can narrow it down, what would you say is your biggest success…or successes?
KP:   Without Solairgen’s credentials, we would have a hard time competing in an increasingly competitive solar training industry.  Bringing my wife, Leigh, into the company is one of my successes.  She was instrumental in getting our PV-203 class IREC/ISPQ accredited, and subsequently my IREC/ISPQ Affiliated Master PV Trainer Certification.  Having Leigh focus on the marketing and administrative demands of a growing company allowed me the opportunity to put all of my energy into designing classes and teaching.  She also encouraged me to get the NABCEP PV Technical Sales certification in their inaugural round of testing. I was the first PV trainer in the U.S. to hold all four credentials: IREC ISPQ Master PV Trainer, with three NABCEP certifications.  Of course other top trainers in the industry were right behind me and earned the same credentials, but it was nice to be the first and only, even if it was only for a short time.

IREC:   Oh…now I understand who’s the boss.  Sounds like a great team.  Does Leigh have other certifications in mind for you?
KP:  I actually had her believing I was the boss during the first month we started working together. We may have other programs developing so I’m sure I’ll get a nudge in that direction when the time comes. But for now I intend to pursue advanced OSHA training certification, and would also like to become involved in code development. But if I can find the time, which is a luxury, I’ll go back to college to study physics and chemistry. There are many areas of energy conversion that are yet to be discovered and developed.

IREC:  Physics and chemistry?  I’m so glad there are people like you. I’m a recovering English major, so if you ever need any help spelling ‘physics’ or ‘chemistry,’ or with diagramming sentences, I’m your go-to.  I know you’re always looking ahead…what do you see in the queue?
KP:  Gaining momentum for Solairgen’s advanced class to teach PV system designers and installers how to analyze system performance is in the immediate queue. I believe this is critical information installers and designers need for their increasingly knowledgeable customers who have expectations of return on investment. Getting this training out to everyone who could benefit is the challenge we are working on now.   Long-range goals may involve helping technical colleges develop and implement their solar programs, both PV and solar thermal. I have had several technical college trainers and professors come though our training prior to implementing solar into their own programs. That’s a training venue we’re eager to develop. We’re also in the early development stages of a program that, if it works out, will enable students to receive installation credits toward qualifying for the NABCEP Installer Certification exam.  It isn’t in place yet, and there are many logistics to be worked out, but that’s next on our expansion agenda.

IREC:  If past performance is any indication of future results, I’d expect to see this as part of Solairgen’s offerings soon (unless you’ve signed up for physics and chemistry classes).  Besides your work, which obviously motivates and energizes you, what inspires you?
KP:    Wilderness inspires me. The times I feel I have achieved the most, professionally and personally, is when I hike.  The reason I entered into the renewable energy industry was to contribute to a sustainable energy balance, lessening the negative environmental impact of fossil fuels. I am inspired when I think that it is possible. When I’m hiking, I imagine that it is.

IREC:   So does Leigh have plans for you to get your hiking certification?  Your work and commitment are inspiring, Kelly.  Thanks a million for your time.

You can reach Kelly directly at koprovence@solairgen.com, or visit Solairgen’s website at www.solairgen.com for information about training classes.