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When California faced an energy crisis in 2001, Tim Sears and Erica Mackie were installing renewable energy systems in the private sector. But as they watched their state and profession makeup two halves of a state-wide power breakdown, the two engineers sprung into action, determined to spread the knowledge and skills needed to make solar energy available to underserved communities.
One of the leading manufacturers of solar site assessment technology announced the release of a new version of its product today: the Solmetric SunEye 210 is now available, ladies and gentleman of the solar industry. If you're not thrilled to your fingertips, Gentle Reader, it's probably because you're not a solar installer; but if you're curious about why this is such an important element of the install process (and to get more product details), read on.
California solar incentives have been among the strongest in the nation for years, leading the pack much of the time. Distributed by utilities rather than by a state body, the California Solar Initiative's rebate has made it possible for the state to make incredible progress towards its goal of 1,940 MW of installed solar capacity by 2016 with solar installations distributed geographically across the state. In October 2009, the program had reached 509 MW, and demand isn't slowing down. Southern California and the San Diego area have been booming right along with the rest.
China may be well en route to fulfilling its solar ambitions—which include solar power capacity of 10 to 20 gigawatts by 2020—but a dearth of domestic project developers and installers may cause its dreams to hit a stumbling block, according to this WSJ article. While the Chinese government has announced attractive new measures, such as subsidizing 50 to 70 percent of various solar projects to be deployed through 2011 as part of its recently-publicized “Golden Sun” program, some analysts doubt the Asian giant’s ability to match its installation capacity to its massive production capabilities. From the WSJ:
The solar industry is still relatively new. It's going through all kinds of growing pains, from determining the best solar incentives and financing options to figuring out the best materials for solar panels themselves. One of the ways in which the industry has yet to really settle is training: for most highly-skilled trades, there is a proscribed certification process. For solar installers, the single most recognizable professional benchmark is getting a voluntary NABCEP certification. (NABCEP is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, in case you were wondering. It's a mouthful.) The organization makes a great argument for certification:
Updated for 2016: We get a lot of questions here at GetSolar about why solar installation seems expensive. Savvy internet users point out news items that say solar should be mere pennies per watt in the next few years, or come across the wholesale prices for solar panels and believe that's what they should be paying for installation. But like any specialty in the construction industry, solar installation has a wealth of good reasons for being as expensive as it is. One of the main reasons is expertise. When I'm asked if it's possible to learn how to install solar on your home and avoid using an installer, I say sure...if you have a few years to grab a master electrician's license and solar certifications.