In an industry that keeps growing exponentially through continued investment and financing from both private and public funding, the search for quality and recognition will be necessary for the future. Even a medium-sized solar system which generates around 815 kWh a month, and costs around $10,000 and has a lifetime of up to 30 years, is a major investment for most homeowners.
So how does the industry guarantee quality installations across the board for different markets and applications? The answer is the NABCEP Certification, a nationally-recognized credential to that indicates an installer has the experience and knowledge to perform safe, effective work. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Certification is not a mandatory certification, but is increasingly becoming more valuable as it demonstrates that you have a qualifying level of solar PV training and thus are competent in the field.
Being NABCEP certified has a variety of advantages:
- It is the most recognized and esteemed certification in the solar industry and a legitimate way for installers to differentiate themselves against those that are not certified.
- As an individual, having such a certification on your resume leads to higher salaries, an Indeed.com report has evaluated the difference as up to $20,000 per year in the New York area, and improves the chances of winning bids, or moving on to employment at bigger, more well-known firms.
- NABCEP is also adding benefits by working on exclusive deals for its certified members from industry's top products and services, these deals include various discounts and reimbursement with companies such as OnGrid Solar and NYSERDA.
Government Incentives and Requirements
After the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 that allows tax credits of up to 30 percent on new solar installations, the individual states are also funding incentive program for individuals and businesses in order to help their first steps in the solar and green energy. Most importantly to those looking into NABCEP Certification, many of these programs must be conducted by NABCEP-certified technicians. In Maryland for example, the MEA Maryland Energy Administration — provides grants for solar photovoltaic systems, solar water heating, geothermal heating and cooling and wind turbine systems, provided that at least one employee at the contracting company has a NABCEP Certification. The goal here is for the MEA not only to increase the amount of renewable energy in the state, but to guarantee that work is performed to a high standard of quality that reduces the chance of safety hazards.
Some states go beyond simply tying certification to incentives; North Carolina for example, is requiring at least one NABCEP-certified employee in a company in order to be registered as a solar PV contractor, and the State of New York requires it to be listed as a PV installer on the NYSERDA. In California, the State added 258.3 megawatts of residential and commercial solar panels during the first half of this year and 57.2 Mw of those did not receive incentives from the California Solar Initiative (CSI), currently running out of money, a proof of its success. This is the perfect example of how governmental incentives have been a huge motivator for solar installations all over the country, making the NABCEP certification an even more highly-desired requirement to lead and complete more and more projects in the future.
You can verify which organizations are implementing incentives in your local area on DSIRE, an online database available to all.
How to Become Eligible for NABCEP Certification
The NABCEP is an exam that requires some prior experience. In order to be ready to pass your exam, you are going to need specific solar training. NABCEP requires 58 hours of training and candidates must have installed at least two solar arrays. The OSHA 10 certifications, demonstrating you have the skills and knowledge to safely work in construction projects, is also needed.
NABCEP is not an organization that provides training or teaching, but accrediting a certain set of skills that an individual has in this related field.