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Solar Instructor Training Network

The Solar Instructor Training Network promotes high-quality training in the installation of solar technologies. Nine regional resource and training providers support the professional development of trainers and instructors of solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar heating and cooling (SHC) technologies across the country.

The goals of Solar Instructor Training are to accelerate market adoption of solar technologies by ensuring that high-quality installations are standard and to create sustainable jobs within the solar installation industry.

Background

The Solar Instructor Training Network launched in October 2009 to address a critical need for high-quality, local, and accessible training in solar system design, installation, sales, and inspection. Solar Instructor Training  Network is a five-year effort intended to create a geographic blanket of training opportunities in solar installation across the United States.

In partnership with the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) addresses workforce development barriers within the solar industry. In addition to ramping up its efforts to increase the number of trained workers in the solar industry, DOE finances accreditation of solar trainers and training programs, certification of installers and installation instructors, and distribution of best practices for training programs. Answers to frequently asked questions about the Solar Instructor Training Network are available.

National Administrator of the Solar Instructor Training Network

Photo of adults, who are participating in a train-the-trainer event, learn more about solar technologies. The participants are examining circuits and tools on a table. Photovoltaic panels lean on the front of the tables.

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) became the National Administrator of the Solar Instructor Training Network on August 25, 2010. IREC was selected for this role after a competitive solicitation process, and Joe Sarubbi is the National Administrator project manager for IREC.

IREC serves as the national point of contact for the network, conducting outreach to disseminate its products and best practices. IREC is developing a robust national infrastructure which can meet the employment needs of a rapidly growing domestic solar industry. The group manages the network's collaboration, coordinates joint activities, and works with a broad set of stakeholders to prioritize and address issues related to solar training.

IREC is a non-profit organization that works to remove barriers to renewable energy. Throughout its 28-year history, the organization has been instrumental in progressive rulemaking for connecting distributed power to the utility grid, workforce development, consumer protection, and stakeholder coordination. IREC assesses instructional quality by credentialing programs and was the lead in forming the North America Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

Funding for Regional Resource and Training Providers

DOE plans to invest $27 million, including $10 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, to the network of regional resource and training providers below. The regional resource and training providers are well-established solar training institutions offering expert instruction and top training facilities. In order to deliver the most appropriate training possible, the regional resource and training providers collaborate on a regular basis with each other, educators, solar industry representatives, workforce investment boards, and state and federal agencies.

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*Figure correct as of May 2014

The regional resource and training providers offer resources to select educational institutions in their regions. Resources include train-the-trainer workshops and, in many cases, training equipment and tools for instructors. As a network, the regional providers collaborate to develop curricula, identify career pathways, share labor market data, and resolve issues related to solar training and workforce development. These providers are using innovative approaches to training, including distance learning courses and mobile laboratory training modules. Regional resource and training providers sponsor instructor training in PV and/or solar heating and cooling technologies, and in some cases, assist in equipping the laboratories and facilities of local training providers.

Regional Resource and Training Provider Network

The nine winners were announced on October 8, 2009.

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Northeast
  • Kennebec Valley Community College (PV)
    Kennebec Valley Community College will develop a nationally accepted train-the-trainer program. The goal is to target instructors from community colleges, career and technical education centers, and private industry training incubators in the Northeast who are looking to enhance their existing programs through the inclusion of solar PV installation training courses. Contact Dana Doran, Director of Energy Programs, (202) 453-5157, for more information.
  • Hudson Valley Community College (PV)
    This project will establish a network of Institute of Sustainable Power Certified instructors across the northeast and develop a solar photovoltaic training facility that will support future instructor training in the region. Contact Penny Hill, (518) 629-4983, for more information.
Northern Mid-Atlantic States
Southern Mid-Atlantic States
  • North Carolina Solar Center at North Carolina State University
    This project will develop a training program for solar professionals, installation workforce, and local educational instructors. By collaborating with a local energy industry leader, North Carolina State University will also provide additional professional development opportunities to the local workforce such as providing apprenticeships with companies. Contact Henry Tsai, (919) 515-5433, for more information.
Southeast
  • Florida Solar Energy Center at University of Central Florida
    This project will create the Southern Alternative Energy Training Network, which will develop industry-recognized and staff-alternative energy training centers throughout the southern U.S. The resulting programs will create a trained pipeline of workers to meet current and future employment demands needed by the solar industry. Contact David Block for more information.
Midwest
  • Midwest Renewable Energy Association
    The Midwest Renewable Energy Association will provide instructor development opportunities and organize a network of instructors, installers, engineers, administrators, and other industry stakeholders to create and share instructional resources. The program will use team learning methods and collaborative technologies to create instructional resources. Contact Nick Hylla for more information.
South Central Partnership
  • Energy Institute at Houston Community College, Ontility
    This partnership will establish a network of educational, industry, and state partners to ensure the availability and effectiveness of solar installation training throughout the region. This project will also provide professional development opportunities for educators at institutions that wish to start or improve training and education programs in solar installation. Contact Tammu Obey-Monroe for more information.
Rocky Mountain Partnership
  • Salt Lake Community College, Solar Energy International, and the Utah Solar Energy Association
    This project will train trainers and offer professional development activities at community and technical colleges that are developing new or improving existing solar PV and solar heating and cooling installation courses. Participating institutions from states within the region will be selected through a competitive process. This project will also further develop and implement train-the-trainer courses via the Internet and hands-on workshops, based on Solar Energy International's nationally recognized solar photovoltaic and solar heating and cooling curricula. Contact Judy Fisher for more information.
California and Hawaii Partnership