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Milwaukee Installer Reflects on His Career In Solar

February 5, 2013 - 1:45pm


Brian Webster (left) and Mario Richard install photovoltaic modules on an Englewood, Colorado, home. | Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL.

Brian Webster (left) and Mario Richard install photovoltaic modules on an Englewood, Colorado, home. | Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL.

How can we make it easier for more Americans to go solar? Lessons can be learned from the City of Milwaukee and its efforts to create a thriving, local solar market. Follow our weeklong series to hear from Milwaukee-based installers, residents and city leaders on what it’s like to be a part of this solar community.

Share your enthusiasm. This is Nick Matthes’ advice to fellow-electricians with an interest in performing solar installations.

After spending 10 years as an electrician, Nick decided to pursue the training and skills needed to become a certified solar installer. Now established in the field, Nick says its genuine enthusiasm for the craft that helps in guiding the Milwaukee community through the process of going solar.

Nick describes his solar career as a never-ending quest for knowledge. The work of an installer is highly variable, so it pays to stay informed. “I have to integrate solar design into a whole bunch of different scenarios. Each presents its own obstacles,” explained Nick. This can mean everything from figuring out the best positioning for panels on a Victorian-style roof or sorting through fluctuations in permitting, utility and state requirements for residential solar. “The value of education cannot be understated. The more approaches you can utilize in integrating solar the better,” said Nick.

One obstacle that’s no longer much of an issue is getting potential customers up to speed on the solar installation process. Said Nick, “One of the biggest hurdles before was trying to explain the process and price to customers -- price can put up a large barrier.” Milwaukee Shines -- the City of Milwaukee’s solar program -- has worked to change that. The city is intensifying efforts to demystify the solar installation process for local residents and helping connect them to certified installers. “Now it’s coming from a non-biased third party who let’s consumers know of any red flags. It gives them a sense of security right off the bat,” said Nick.

Another welcome change? The partnerships that are being created throughout Milwaukee’s solar community -- from solar suppliers to nonprofits to installers. Nick explained, “Milwaukee Shines has been working on getting everyone together and on the same page. We’re all excited about selling things locally.”

As he reflects on his own experiences as part of Milwaukee’s solar community, Nick’s enthusiasm starts to kick in. “I get to put together solar electric systems. It’s gratifying to be going to work and doing something that I view as a worthwhile endeavor.”

Interested in joining America’s solar workforce? Our Solar Instructor Training Network offers high-quality, local and accessible training in solar system design, installation, sales and inspection.