Richard Lawrence, NABCEP: Page 3 of 3
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SP: Do you have any insight into where new markets for solar are emerging in North America now based on the demand for NABCEP certification?
RL: We’ve seen a growing market in the Southeast over the past few years. While I’m excited about the new market there and encouraged by the adoption of requirements for NABCEP credentials that we see in some of the utilities in these areas, my bigger concern is what I see happening in some of the existing markets around net metering, demand charges and other policies that have a dramatic impact on the economic viability of solar. Some states have seen hundreds of jobs disappear literally overnight. These attacks on solar are cropping up all across the country. It’s more important than ever for solar companies to pay attention and get involved.
SP: Several solar training organizations offer courses designed to help individuals prepare for NABCEP’s PV Installation Professional and PV Technical Sales certifications. What advice do you have to help solar professionals evaluate the various providers?
RL: Hundreds of schools, colleges, nonprofit organizations and private companies offer solar courses today. The vast majority offer only one or two introductory-level courses. These can be a great way to get started, but it’s naïve to think that you can learn everything needed to become a solar professional from one or two classes on the subject. The best programs offer a wide variety of courses and focus on renewable energy technology. They have a strong introductory level class or two, and intermediate and advanced courses in topics such as off-grid systems, technical sales, commercial-scale design, and maintenance and troubleshooting. In addition, while an online course can be very valuable, there’s no substitute for hands-on experience. Better training programs have a dedicated lab with a variety of different types of systems and components. Finally, if the goal is to prepare for one of our certification exams, instructors should have the certification themselves.
SP: What are the benefits of NABCEP’s Company Accreditation program and how does it differ from the certification an individual would acquire?
RL: NABCEP certifies individuals and accredits companies. Both certification and accreditation are ultimately about consumer protection. When we initially developed our certification programs, customers were primarily hiring individual contractors to install and maintain their solar equipment. Now customers are comparing quotes from different companies and have very little control over who actually designs and installs the system. The NABCEP Company Accreditation Program helps to ensure that the company has qualified staff; appropriate policies and procedures; a focus on worker safety; and commitments to ongoing staff training, quality assurance and ethical practice.
SP: We were pleased to see that NABCEP recently elected one of our contributing authors, Rebekah Hren, to its board of directors. What other opportunities does NABCEP have for professionals looking to support the organization?
RL: NABCEP wouldn’t exist without the contributions and dedication of industry experts. We have over 100 volunteers who serve on our board and various committees. We’re always looking for experienced professionals to provide guidance and technical assistance in the development and maintenance of our programs. If anyone is interested, please send a resume and letter of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also love having NABCEP Certified Professionals volunteer time at our booth at different conferences during the year to speak with people about the value of their certification and what it has meant for their careers.
SP: In addition to the Continuing Education Conference, what are some NABCEP-related dates industry professionals should be aware of in 2016?
RL: The next application deadline for certification exams is August 5, 2016. NABCEP Continuing Education training will be available at Intersolar North America in July and Solar Power International in September. Of course, people can check the SolarPro training calendar for other NABCEP CE Credit opportunities throughout the year.