February 20, 2009

Proposals & Presentations Accepted for 5th Annual Small Wind Conference June 16-17, 2009

Filed under: News — nabcep @ 1:08 pm

smallwindsponsorsweb100Mick Sagrillo, organizer of the 5th Annual Small Wind Conference on June 16-17, 2009 in Stevens Point, WI, is now accepting proposals and presentations for it.  Sagrillo says presentations should be limited to no more than 15 minutes, with an additional five minutes for Q&A.  “We’d like to see three presentations/hour,” says Sagrillo.  Small wind is defined as 1 kW up to 100 kW.

Presentation categories are not yet finalized.  However, presentations being considered include the following areas:

  • Manufacturer updates: what’s working, what’s not, what is being encountered in the field and how is it being resolved;
  • Turbine testing and results, including measurement and verification programs;
  • Resource monitoring and siting lessons;
  • Installer issues, including successful and problem installations, barriers encountered (interconnection, insurance, zoning) and how resolved; and
  • Anything else that might be of value to small wind installers, manufacturers, dealers, public benefits programs, or owners.

The preference is for ‘experience-based’ presentations.  Experience with data is preferred.

Please submit proposals to Mick Sagrillo at msagrillo@wizunwired.net by March 7th.  “We will get the proposals out to the advisory committee for discussion and decision.  We’ll get back on accepted presentations in a few weeks so presenters have adequate time to prepare their presentations,” says Sagrillo.

Presentations for or pending for AWEA or ASES conferences are also acceptable.

Anyone interested in exhibiting at the Small Wind Conference should contact Kirsten at the MREA for details at kirsten@the-mrea.org

For more information, contact Mick Sagrillo at msagrillo@wizunwired.net, or by phone at
(920) 837-7523

February 17, 2009

A Conversation with Board Member, Bob-O Schultze

Filed under: News — Tags: , — nabcep @ 12:22 am

Bob-O and cement pal in Chinatown

Bob-O Schultz has been working in the solar industry for more than 20 years.  A licensed electrician in both California and Oregon, Bob-O  is the owner of Electron Connection, a renewable energy design and installation company located in Northern California. Bob-O is NABCEP certified, sits on the board of NABCEP, and is Vice-President of the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association chapter.  And in his spare time, he’s a regular contributor to Home Power magazine.

Who better to talk about NABCEP and the future of solar than Bob-O?  Here’s our conversation:

NABCEP:  Bob-O, I think of you as a solar elder (no offense); one of those remarkable people who’ve been in the business long before it was fashionable, trendy or timely.  You’ve seen lots of changes, and I’m curious to know what you think have been some of the biggest, more dramatic changes in the solar industry.

BS: By far and away, the increase of on grid PV.   Really, until the last seven or eight years, it was ALL offgrid, except for a very few Y2K systems.

NABCEP:  Since solar is more prevalent today than ever, and since NABCEP has been around since 2003, do you think consumer awareness of the technology has increased as well?

BO:  The installer awareness has risen for sure. If you aren’t doing on-grid PV, you’re probably a very small shop who lives in a very rural place, and you’re probably unlicensed.  Consumer awareness about grid-connected PV increases almost daily, but even the simplest understanding of how it works or is interconnected is still a reach for most people.  For an installer, explaining the “nuts and bolts” of PV in terms the average consumer can understand is the system designer/installer’s first priority.

NABCEP:  As a NABCEP board member, you’ve watched the installer base grow.  What do you think are some of the biggest challenges ahead for NABCEP?

BO:  Without a doubt, increasing the certified installer base in a way that does not lessen our high standards to meet the growing need.  That needs to be a combined effort between NABCEP and the educator community.

NABCEP:  2009 is already starting out with a bang with the eight-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which is surely going to accelerate the industry.  What’s on the top of your ‘to do’ list for 2009?

BO:  Clearly an increase in the number of installed systems in our area will necessitate training and hiring more certified installers.   And with the number of institutions and organizations that are offering NABCEP’s Entry Level Certificate Program (we’re now at 80 providers), those numbers of certified installers will increase.  At 61, I feel like I’m getting towards the end of my useful “wrenching” career.  I’ve been spending more time teaching each year, and I see that as a way to continue my renewable energy work  beyond the point when I can no longer pull wire and lug PVs up onto the roof!

NABCEP:  Good thing you’re teaching, Bob-O.  We’d hate to not take advantage of all that institutional memory.  Perhaps you’re considering becoming an ISPQ Master Trainer?  Thanks for all that you’ve done, and continue to do, Bob-O.

February 16, 2009

A Conversation with Andrew Truitt, Standard Solar

Filed under: News — nabcep @ 10:46 pm
Andrew Truitt

Andrew Truitt, Standard Solar

Say you’ve gotten your BS in Physics with an anthropology minor at UC/Santa Cruz, and your senior thesis was something like ‘b (quark) → u vs. b → c transitions at the Z boson resonance energy.’   After that, you decide to go for a Master of Science in renewable energy systems technology at Loughborough University in the UK where you defended a comparison of US and UK standards for energy efficiency in buildings.  Then you volunteer for a non-profit in San Francisco called Grid Alternatives that installs PV systems on Habitat for Humanity homes, and tutor adult students in math and science for their GED or associates degree.  Makes perfect sense that you might find yourself in the solar business, right?

Meet Andrew Truitt, Director of Residential Construction for Standard Solar in the Washington, D.C. metro area where he manages a crew of ten installers, schedules and oversees all residential jobs, and interfaces with customers, inspectors and utility officials.  “Yeah, I’m busy,” he demurs, “but I love my work!”

I met Andrew in San Diego last October at the NABCEP Board meeting. We chatted briefly over lunch, but I knew then I wanted more time to learn about his work.   Recently, I caught up with him. Here’s our conversation:

NABCEP:  Andrew, your resume is remarkable.  From quarks to the UK to math and science tutor…

AT:  While I was driving a taxi cab in Santa Cruz, CA in 2002, a friend started working at a company called Eco-Energies over in Sunnyvale.  After talking to him about solar, I decided I wanted to work in the industry so I started looking at masters degree programs in solar.  After looking into the offerings state-side, I decided to pursue a Masters of Science in Renewable Energy Systems Technology from Loughborough University in the U.K..  The program explored solar, wind, biomass and hydro-power; mostly focusing on the underlying physics of the technologies.

After graduating, I became an installer at Sun, Light and Power in Berkeley, CA in October 2004, which is where I met my wife who was in sales at the company.  After spending a year at SLP and a year bouncing around the Bay Area, we moved to Washington D.C. where I started at Standard Solar in August 2006.  Incidentally, my wife, Sarah, now works for Sentech Inc. as a contractor to the Department of Energy focusing on the Solar America Cities program.  Yes, the shop talk at home is abundant.

NABCEP:  I was just going to ask about conversation around the supper table. When did you become NABCEP-certified, and are other Standard Solar installers certified?

AT:   I was certified in March of 2007.  Lee Bristol, our Chief Technology Officer, was also NABCEP-certified for PV installation at that exam.  All four of our crew leaders will be sitting for either the March or September certification exams.  If the Entry Level certification exam were available locally or on-line we would have all of our installers certified to at least that level.

NABCEP:  So you and Standard Solar feel strongly that NABCEP certification has value to your work?

AT:  For me, NABCEP is a vital tool for 3 reasons:

  • The NABCEP certification shows customers that we are not new to PV.  It’s becoming increasingly recognized as the standard in solar certification for everyone from 2kW residential customers to megawatt-level commercial behemoths;
  • The continuing education requirement motivates me to keep attending trainings to learn new skills and stay current with my existing knowledge; and
  • The process of studying for the exam helped me to fill in any gaps in my knowledge and confirm the most up to date best practices of PV system installation.

Our solar mission is to perform 30-year, no leak installations that blend aesthetically with the system environment with an emphasis on safety, power production and customer service, and I think that NABCEP reflects and helps us to achieve those goals.

NABCEP:  I’m guessing you’re enormously busy, but I’m wondering if the economic downturn has had an impact on your work.

AT:  We are extremely busy.  The increase in the Maryland grant program this summer really jump started our business.  When the cap was removed from the 30% federal tax credit at the end of last year, that also helped and now the latest incarnation of the D.C. grant program is getting underway.  We have also been fortunate enough to have attracted some significant investment which has allowed us to develop a marketing department and even an actual advertising campaign.

NABCEP:  As busy as you are, you must have encountered some hurdles along the way.

AT:  Coming to the Metro D.C. area I had to spend a lot of time and energy educating permitting officials, inspectors and utilities about how solar works and what things to look for in a high quality PV installation.  That can be a double-edge sword: on the one hand, it’s an opportunity to set a standard for installations that complies with current best practices, but at the same time some officials unfamiliar with a new technology can be rather obstinate about their views, even when presented with strong contradictory evidence.  That being said, we have had great success working with the local utilities and AHJs and feel that everyone is starting to operate on the same page.

NABCEP:  Has the outreach been worth the effort?  Do you have more support today than when you started?

AT:    Absolutely.  Everyone is getting excited about solar these days.  One needs look no further than the last election for proof that once-progressive ideas like renewable energy are now main-stream.  We still regularly get building or electrical inspectors that have never heard the word “photovoltaic” when they arrive at the job site but leave saying “I need that on my house!”  The key is establishing a reputation as a firm that meets or exceeds the code in all facets of the installation and handles business in a professional manner.  If you perform well the powers that be go out of their way to support you!

NABCEP:  What’s surprised you about your work?

AT:  Installing in the snow threw me for a bit of a loop.

NABCEP:  In the snow?  Were you on a steeply-pitched roof?
AT:     Flat roof with 4′ parapet walls, ballasted system, and extreme care taken to keep all electrical connections dry.  I did mention I’m NABCEP certified, right?

NABCEP:  Sounds like you know your safety rules.  So what’s on the horizon for you?

AT:  I’m really excited to be at Standard Solar.  When I started, we were a company of six and now we’re over 50 and growing.  I hope to stay here for at least a few more years and help us become the premier installer of the Mid-Atlantic region.  By that time the “wintry mix” that we tend to get between November and March might be getting a little old – after all, if I’ve learned anything in this field its that a sunny day is never a bad thing!

You can reach Andrew at andrew.truitt@standardsolar.com

From the Chair: Does a qualified tradesperson make a qualified PV installer?

HVCCConfLogoI am going to focus this column on the PV Installers Certification and I want to be clear that the views I express are my own.

One of the biggest issues facing NABCEP today is also a real blessing for the solar industry. Qualified trades people are taking notice of the amount of work there is in the PV industry and seeking PV Installer Certification. All of the entry paths to sit for the PV Installer exam require on-the-job experience as the person responsible for the installation. Many of these otherwise qualified trades people are seeking to sit for the exam before they actually ever install a PV system on a job site.

I’ve been involved with NABCEP from the very beginning and, for me, one of the “best features” of the Certifications we have developed is the multiple paths different individuals can take establish eligibility to take the exam. It was very important to the Board that we create a Certification that was inclusive of all qualified installers and relevant to the industry of the day. While I never thought I’d call the early part of the 21st century “history,” the PV industry has grown at such an amazing pace that virtually everything has changed since the Board first sat down to craft a set of fair test prerequisite conditions. We did a good job then, and the time has come to open the conditions for review.

The issue at hand is “does a qualified trades person – a journeyman electrician in this case – necessarily make a qualified PV Installer.”  The obvious short answer is “no.”

There are special skills and knowledge outside the scope of every-day electrical work that a PV Installer needs to do their job. Unfortunately, the world is not such a simple place and the long answer is more complex.  Journeyman electricians have thousands of hours of training on the job and in a classroom environment as part of their apprenticeship process. While extensive the additional skills and knowledge that these individuals need to learn is generally within the scope of their professional training and experience, there is no real reason that the unique parts of the solar electric installation trade can’t be taught to journeyman electricians.

The question is: How do you assess the installation part of a training program? All of the current entry paths to NABCEP Certification rely on the permitting and inspection process of real-world electrical installation. At the time, successfully obtaining an electrical permit for a solar electrical system and getting the system through to a signed off “Inspection Complete” status was as good as it got for validating that the person sitting for the exam actually did the work and pass a written exam.

Today, there are dozens of well-equipped solar electric training labs across the country and a similar number of extensive and thorough training programs aimed specifically at electrical trades people.  Heck – we even have real textbooks now!  Graduates of these programs are knocking at NABCEP’s door at a time when our industry is undergoing strong demands for an expanding work force.

At our October meeting, the NABCEP Board formed a committee to look for a way to define standards for “hands on installation training experience” that would serve as alternative to on-the-job experience for journeyman electricians. This committee has been hard at work, but like many things “volunteer,” it is moving more slowly than we originally anticipated.

The committee continues to wrestle with vexing questions such as:

  • how many students should be able to get “alternative experience credit” from a single installation;
  • what sort of equipment should be installed:  should it all work out-of-the-box, how complex should the installation be, what type of roofing and racking system should be used;
  • what is an appropriate student to teacher ratio; and
  • how shall the student’s success be evaluated.

As always, we are fortunate to have the caliber of volunteers we do at NABCEP and the group working on developing the new qualifying path standard is made up of some of the more notable names in the solar electric training industry, representing the wide range of stakeholder groups who offer comprehensive solar electric training programs.

I look forward to being able to present the recommendations of this committee to the Board this spring. It will be a good thing for NABCEP and the PV industry to find a way to open their doors to greater numbers of qualified and specially trained electricians.

February 14, 2009

Small Wind Certification Comes to NABCEP

Filed under: News — nabcep @ 7:11 pm

NABCEP is in the process of launching its new Small Wind Certification!

A group of small wind experts comprised of educators, installers, and other experienced wind energy leaders have been working diligently for two years to develop NABCEP’s new Small Wind Task Analysis, which will serve as the foundation for the materials addressed in the NABCEP Small Wind Certification examination.  The Task Analysis has now been submitted for stakeholder comment and fully approved by the Board.  While NABCEP will work towards administering its first exam in September, it may be pushed back until March 2010, depending on high quickly we can convene wind energy installers and other experts to develop and test examination questions and Study Guide materials.

We need your help!  If you are a small wind installer or possess significant small wind energy expertise and would like to volunteer to help develop the new NABCEP Small Wind Certification Examination or Study Guide, please contact us at info@nabcep.org.  Please note that members of the Examination Committee are not able to take the Certification examination for two years after leaving the Committee.