Building the Next Generation of Solar PV Installers

The more that traditional electricians and contractors are exposed to solar photovoltaic (PV) principles, the more likely it is that they will enter the solar market themselves and help it grow. That’s the idea behind a recent partnership in New York between the state, the solar industry and a major electrical workers union.

Solar energy systems are being installed on four International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) training centers in New York State in a program designed to raise solar awareness and provide training to IBEW membership. Each installation is comprised of a 30 kW solar power system made up of Sharp solar PV modules. “It’s a logical way to help the solar power industry grow,” said Joseph Maraia, president of the New York State Association of Electrical Workers. “Electricians and contractors are well positioned to bring this new generating technology to the mainstream.” The program is being funded through grants awarded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to four IBEW local unions in affiliation with the National Electrical Contractors Association. State of New York Lt. Governor Mary Donohue announced that NYSERDA provided $740,000 to the organizations’ Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee to support the statewide effort. “Partnering with IBEW to train their membership with solar electric technology is another means to penetrate the market and foster new skills for electrical contractors,” Donohue said. “This program is an opportunity for electrical contractors, and sends a strong message that New York is looking toward the future where solar energy is a feasible option for many businesses and consumers.” The solar systems, with a combined capacity of 150 kW, or enough power for 30 homes, consist of PV modules assembled by Sharp Electronics at its facility in Memphis, Tennessee. “Sharp is committed to making solar a more mainstream energy alternative, and we are gratified to see the State of New York and the IBEW demonstrate what can be done with today’s advanced solar power technology,” said Ron Kenedi, general manager of Sharp Electronics’ Solar Systems Division. NYSERDA President Peter R. Smith said the program would help IBEW electricians and contractors gain firsthand experience installing solar power which would in-turn lead to growth of the solar industry in the state. The funding from NYSERDA is the first time a government agency has provided statewide support for union hall installations. The projects are managed by NPCP, LLC – the National Photovoltaic Construction Partnership, a national effort sponsored by the IBEW to help unions, contractors, and building owners install solar power and support the growth of the solar power industry. In addition to New York, NPCP has projects underway in California, New Jersey and many other states. The installations provide a training opportunity for union electricians and contractors by increasing their awareness and interest in the technology and market for installing solar systems.

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