March 10, 2010

Charting Your Solar Course: what to look for in renewable energy training programs

Information about and courses for solar energy training used to be sparse with just a few organizations shouldering most of the load.  But in an amazingly short time, demand for trained installers has resulted in an explosion of course offerings across the U.S.  You’re interested in getting into the industry, but where do you start?  What should you be looking for?

Charting Your Solar Course, in the April/May 2010 issue of Home Power Magazine, is a comprehensive, yet easy-to-understand article about renewable energy training opportunities in the U.S.

The article focuses on renewable energy installation and system design training offerings, from on site workshops and programs to online courses to training at energy fairs and conferences.  There’s an extensive table, alphabetical by state, of more than 150 solar education providers, ranging from renewable energy specific training centers to university programs.  Schools and training organizations that have NABCEP-certified installers—both PV and solar thermal, are included in the table, as are facilities that offer NABCEP’s Entry Level exam.

Read Charting Your Solar Course

January 29, 2010

NABCEP’s Vice Chair, Jane Weissman, talks about workforce development in SolarPro Magazine

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — nabcep @ 3:35 pm

The February-March 2010 issue of SolarPro Magazine features an interview with NABCEP’s Vice Chair, Jane Weissman, who talks with SolarPro’s Managing Editor, Kathryn Houser, about workforce development and quality training opportunities for individuals and for training programs.

Weissman is also Executive Director of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, a 28-year old non-profit organization instrumental in rulemaking for connecting distributed power to the utility grid, workforce development, consumer protection and stakeholder coordination.

Read the full interview about workforce development and quality training with Jane Weissman.  Scroll down to find the article.

NABCEP cited in WSJ article on solar hot water

A thorough article about the value of solar hot water in the 1/28/10 issue of the Wall Street Journal cites NABCEP, IREC, DSIRE, SRCC and SEIA.

The article, Cheap Hot Water? Just Add Sunshine, also has a three-minute video that shows the installation process.

January 20, 2010

NABCEP News January 2010

Filed under: News — nabcep @ 10:38 am

With 2010 starting the new decade, NABCEP’s Executive Director, Ezra Auerbach, gives a rundown of news and activities that have been keeping NABCEP’s phone and email busy.

Read the NABCEP News newsletter for January 2010 (in both Word and PDF formats).

January 19, 2010

Solar credentials: what are they?

Certified, certificate holder, accredited,and licensed—do you know what they mean?  What’s the difference between them?

In the rapidly evolving world of renewable energy credentials for installers and training organizations, knowledge is power.

In the February/March 2010 edition of Home Power Magazine, NABCEP’s Ezra Auerbach explains and demystifies the terms to help the consumer know what to look for when selecting a solar installer.  Typically, certification status is awarded to an individual, and NABCEP is the organization that certifies solar photovoltaic and solar thermal installers.

Accreditation, on the other hand, is a credential awarded to a program or an organization that has met rigorous standards.  The non-profit, Institute for Sustainable Power Quality (ISPQ), develops and maintains international standards for renewable energy training providers.

Read the article in the February/March 2010 edition of Home Power Magazine.

December 2, 2009

NABCEP Weighs in on National PV Installer Certification in SolarPro Magazine

Filed under: News — nabcep @ 10:55 pm

The article, The Correct Role for National PV Installer Certification in the December ’09/January ’10 issue of SolarPro magazine, asked, ‘what is the best path forward for NABCEP?’ Three industry experts, including NABCEP Executive Director, Ezra Auerbach, weigh in on the issue. 

Read the full article.

September 30, 2009

A conversation with NABCEP Treasurer, Les Nelson

Filed under: News — Tags: — nabcep @ 6:01 pm

Les Nelson’s solar thermal resume is nothing short of phenomenal.  Beginning in 1972, building prototype solar collectors for a start-up in Massachusetts, Les’s handiwork can be found in legislation and policy advocacy on numerous solar energy related issues at the state and federal levels.  He’s been a Director of the Solar Energy Industries Association since 1994, and Chair of its Solar Thermal Division since 1998. He’s the Executive Director of the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation, which rates and certifies solar thermal equipment, and NABCEP’s Treasurer and board member. He has been an elected Director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association since 1986, and served as its President for five terms.  Despite his frighteningly busy schedule, he was gracious enough to visit with NABCEP about the solar thermal industry and its future in NABCEP.

NABCEP:  Les, you’ve been in the solar thermal energy business for a very long time. What was the hook that grabbed you in the first place?

LN:  I began working for a start-up company in Massachusetts in 1972, building prototype solar collectors.  It was great work – the engineers would give us two young guys, a design for a solar collector, and we’d build it for them.  The company was testing a new, high efficiency concept at the time, and the oil shortage of the early 1970s hadn’t occurred yet.  Within a couple of years, we did see gas station lines, and solar water heating took off from there.

NABCEP:  What was it like back in the early days of solar thermal installations?  I get the feeling like it was the wild west–no regulations, no standards, no rules.  Were you concerned about the speed of the boom & bust of the industry?

LN:  In the mid to late 1970s, there was no product certification, so systems were generally packaged with all of the components one needed for an install, at least for the most part.  The U.S. government was making large grants for commercial sized solar water heating projects on schools, multi-family housing, retirement homes, etc.  The only check and balance was the system design – however, in many cases, it was done by engineering firms that had never designed any solar system before, let alone one with dozens or even hundreds of collectors.  In many cases, where systems were installed as per the design, they just didn’t work.  So there was a great deal of “field re-engineering,” to get systems to function. Inspections of installed systems were done by local plumbing inspectors who may never have seen a solar system installation before.  We’ve come a long way since then, although we still face the challenge of not having many firms with experience in designing solar thermal systems.

NABCEP:  So here we are in 2009, with a very robust solar industry.  There’s NABCEP to certify solar PV and solar thermal installers, there’s ISPQ for accredited institutions and trainers.  It was a long haul to get here, and it’s a much improved world as a result.  It should be a comfort to the consumer, and to the industry, that it’s becoming more sophisticated and responsive.  Do you think all this progress was a matter of time and talent?

LN:  I think the vision that led to the creation of NABCEP was inspired.  I commend those who worked on conceiving NABCEP, and the other quality assurance mechanisms that are in place to help improve installed quality of solar systems, both PV and solar thermal, such as the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation.  Sooner or later a widely accepted measure of knowledge and experience in solar system design and installation such as NABCEP was bound to emerge, so it’s fortunate that NABCEP recognized the need and moved to establish that measure in the early 2000s.

NABCEP:  It was one of those beautiful marriages of time and inspiration.  But it wasn’t easy at first, launching NABCEP, trying to encourage support from the industry.  Lots has happened, much has been implemented.  But with growth comes challenges.  What’s facing NABCEP?  What are some of the bigger challenges ahead for the organization?

LN:  I believe that sorting out the various offerings of knowledge and proficiency programs that are increasingly coming into existence around the country will be a major effort in years to come.  There is a significant difference between a measure which has been thoroughly vetted by numerous stakeholders, and which has established rock-solid procedural underpinnings, and one that decides it’s a good time to open a referral service or training facility.  There are a number of very good suppliers of these types of products in the US, but not all programs are well grounded.  Another challenge is sorting out just who will have the right to install solar systems of all types in various jurisdictions around the US.

NABCEP:  While the current universe of NABCEP-certified solar thermal installers is small–less than 100 nationally–the demand for them is great, and growing. Since the first NABCEP solar thermal exam was administered in 2006, NABCEP has heard that the certification process is too rigorous, too difficult.  Yet we all demand that solar installers–whether PV or solar thermal–are qualified.  How does NABCEP balance the demands of certification with the needs of qualified installers?

LN:  Installers are developed over time, not created whole.  The NABCEP process ensures that a candidate for certification has spent adequate time actually installing systems and has successfully completed a rigorous training program.  NABCEP sets the bar high to ensure that only qualified individuals are eligible to sit for our exams.  Even those individuals who enter the solar industry from ‘traditional’ electrical or plumbing trade careers require a high degree of specialized knowledge, much of which is not part of their core training. NABCEP certification validates that an individual has attained that knowledge and training and has been able to pass a difficult exam which tests for specialized knowledge required of solar installers.

NABEP:  Do you think in the nearly six years of NABCEP’s existence and work, that the public has become aware of NABCEP and understands and appreciates the enormous value of certification?

LN:  I believe that NABCEP has made good progress in this regard, in large part due to the industry members who have passed the NABCEP examination and make sure to mention that credential to their prospective customers.  It’s very difficult (and expensive) for NABCEP to get the word out to the public on its own, but as more and more Certificants are added, NABCEP enjoys the benefits of enthusiastic, country-wide promoters of certification.

NABCEP:  What do you want to see NABCEP accomplish in the short and long term?

LN:  I’d like to see incentive programs for solar technologies structured in such a way as to reward installers of solar systems with NABCEP Certification by increasing the incentive when the installer is certified.  This type of structure would reward the advanced experience and knowledge level of NABCEP Certificants, while preserving the voluntary nature of NABCEP Certification.  Longer term, unfortunately, the issue of the “right to install” solar needs to be resolved in a manner which is generally amenable to all involved in the solar industry.

June 11, 2009

From the Chair: A farewell, a hello

Filed under: News — nabcep @ 11:31 am
Ezra Auerbach

Ezra Auerbach

This is my last column as NABCEP’s Chair, and at the same time my first Executive Director’s column. I am pleased to say that the Board of NABCEP has asked me to become the organization’s Executive Director. I started my new job on June 1, 2009.   In the meantime, Jane Weissman is acting Chair while NABCEP looks internally and externally for a new Chair and my replacement on the Board.

As outgoing Chair, I want to use this column to reflect backwards.

Over the past seven years that I’ve served on the Board we’ve seen NABCEP go from a “new” concept of certifying solar professionals to the industry “gold standard” for PV and solar thermal installers. In addition we brought in a very successful Entry Level Certificate of Knowledge certification.  Currently, there are over 700 PV installer certificants, nearly 100 solar thermal installer certificants. The Certificate of Knowledge (COK) program is gaining momentum with over 2000 certificants- more than double the number we had in January of this year. NABCEP is most assuredly making a positive difference in the quality of renewable installations in the country. A study conducted for NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) sums it up nicely: “…systems installed by NABCEP certified installers have fewer problems at time of inspection than those installed by non-certified installers.”

The progress has been steady and extremely fast; much like the explosive growth of the PV industry in the past few years. Not prepared to “rest on our laurels,” the NABCEP Board has asked staff to continue rolling out new certifications and Certificate of Knowledge programs which continue to meet the needs of our growing industry. To that end, we are working on a Small Wind Installer Certification – the task analysis has been approved, as have the requirements to sit for the exam. A technical committee of wind experts will work on the exam with a different group of individuals working on a study guide. We have started work on a Solar Thermal Certificate of Knowledge and are beginning to develop a task analysis for a Solar Electric Technical Sales Certification.

As Executive Director, one of my many responsibilities is seeking new sources of funding for NABCEP.  Currently,  we rely on the generous support from the Department of Energy and NYSERDA, along with fees from test takers and educational providers.  However, we need wider financial resources to support our existing programs as well as to grow new ones.  This year, we started a campaign to bring in contributions from individuals and businesses with some modest success.  We Energies of Wisconsin took the lead with a significant contribution and became  our first Platinum Sponsor.  RML Electric of sunny Phoenix, Arizona  has become our first Green Level Sponsor. Join We Energies and RML Electric and contribute today at whatever level you or your company can afford. Your generous financial support will help us to continue the work we are doing to further quality renewable energy installations. To learn more about how you can contribute to NABCEP please visit .

The NABCEP booth and staff will be out-and-about during June at the PV America 2009 conference in Philadelphia, and the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin. If you’re there, please stop by our booth and say hello.

Installer’s Corner: Vicki McAninch, Meridian Solar, Austin, Texas

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — nabcep @ 11:23 am

Vicki McAninch

Vicki McAninch

Vicki McAninch is a remarkable wearer of many hats.  At Meridian Solar, she’s answered phones, invoiced clients, designed and installed PV systems for residential and commercial clients.  She’s technically brilliant: graduating from Baylor University in 2000 with a BS in Engineering with electronic and computer emphases.  She’s a mom with two daughters, and is currently the only female NABCEP-certified PV installer in Texas.  I was delighted to catch up with her and learn more about her work.  Here’s our conversation:

NABCEP:  Hi Vicki, and congratulations on becoming the first female NABCEP-certified PV installer in Texas.  That’s some distinction.  I’m curious; what inspired you to get into the solar business?  Did you see yourself up on the roof installing PV systems?  I’m sure you carry your weight (plus those of PV panels).   What’s a typical day for you at Meridian, or is there no such thing as a typical day at Meridian?

VM:   Honestly, I have mixed feelings about being the first female in Texas to attain the NABCEP certification.  On the one hand, I am sure it’s a distinction that I will remind my daughters of (with pride) from time to time, but to be the first NABCEP-certified Texas female installer in the five years since the exam was first offered is a lonely position to be in.  I would love to see more women on the technical side of renewable energy, and in the future that will be the case.  I’ll take the chance to mention organizations like Solar Energy International, Society of Women Engineers, MREA, Solar Living Institute and the like, who deserve credit for extending targeted efforts to women becoming involved in solar or technology in general.  Rest assured that there are solar sisters here in Texas. The solar industry, in general, is very supportive of women, but as with many other construction-oriented trades, PV installation crews tend to be male dominated.

I first became acquainted with the renewable energy industry here in Austin in 2003 when I met the president and CEO of Meridian Solar, Andrew McCalla, at the ‘Green Festival’ when it was hosted in Austin in the summer of 2003.  Meridian offered me an opportunity to couple my engineering degree and experience in the semiconductor industry with my interest in sustainable living, renewable energy and permaculture that could not be turned down.  I have worn a lot of hats over the years at Meridian, and the company has changed substantially.  Currently, I’m not wrenching.  I’m designing systems and producing AutoCAD drawings for both residential and commercial projects.

I became NABCEP-certified in October 2008, but becoming a PV installer was not something that I had set out to do after college.  It has been a long held belief of mine that to be a good engineer or designer, one must have experience with applied aspect of the technology to design any system, and that is why I wanted to install PV systems.

NABCEP:   Andrew has had a successful business from the beginning.  In fact, he was in the first group of certificants when NABCEP administered its first PV certifying exam in October 2003.  I’ve lost count of how many Meridian employees are NABCEP-certified.

VM:   Meridian currently employs seven of the twenty-three NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installers in Texas, which is more than any other firm.  An additional three Texas certificants are former Meridian employees who have moved on to other impressive endeavors.  It is not uncommon for the NABCEP certification to be a springboard to advancement.  The labor pool for experienced PV personnel is tight, and the pool of certified personnel is exceptionally tight.  For example, our NABCEP certified personnel work in executive management, project management, design, sales, installation crew lead and trainer, and master electrician.

NABCEP:  Between Austin Energy’s solar rebate initiative and the new federal tax incentives, you guys are keeping busy at Meridian not only in Austin, but in other cities in Texas and other states as well.  Pity Texas still doesn’t have a state-wide incentive program yet.

VM:   Certainly, we install outside of Austin!  We just completed work on the largest PV installation in Texas at the former Pearl Brewery in San Antonio.  We have also completed installations out of state; a comprehensive portfolio of our installations can be found on our website.

Our municipal utility, Austin Energy, has been a progressive steward of renewable energy, conservation and green building programs in Texas.  Other utilities are following suit with conservation and solar rebate programs of their own.  In general, widening acceptance of PV technology and distributed on-site RE generation, the efforts to curb global warming, the energy crisis, reliance on foreign energy sources, need for less polluting electrical generating capacity and the like don’t add up to people, organizations and businesses investing in solar without the financial returns being favorable.   I would rather see renewable energy being subsidized to the same level as nuclear or coal, but in the meantime, hats off to the organizations that are helping PV to be financially feasible.

It would be nice to see the State of Texas added to the list of states to offer a statewide rebate program.  Advances in manufacturing and product development will also help to bring the cost of solar down in the future.  The renewable energy industry must continue to grow and mature, and the people of Meridian and other companies like ours will continue to stay busy facilitating that growth.  Activity has been gaining speed.  Last year, when the renewable energy tax credit extension was uncertain, we experienced a sustained lull before and after the credits were reinstated. The economic slow down kept business suppressed, but that seems to be behind us now.  All of our installers are full-time employees of the company, and even during the last industry lull, Meridian was able to continue to hire and grow.

NABCEP:   I’m not at all surprised.   Growth is good, but not without its challenges.

VM:     The industry as a whole continues to expand at a phenomenal rate.  There are always new product offerings, technological advances, code revisions, rebate programs and incentives, legislation, utility tariffs, permitting jurisdictions and industry news to keep up to date on.  The constant growth of the company paired with a substantial amount of work to complete, creates a challenging environment to keep pace with while balancing personal priorities.  I feel that the key to succeeding at keeping current is the sharing of ideas and information among my colleagues, and the availability of good industry specific publications and information outlets.

NABCEP:   What’s the size of the residential system these days?  Does Meridian install more commercial than residential systems, or vice versa?

VM:   I have been encountering increasing demand from commercial projects.  Commercial design and installation is typically more complex due to the scale, specifics of interconnection, safety, equipment and logistics of the installation.   Meridian is currently performing around 65 to 70% of installed kW in commercial applications.

Residential systems are getting larger, but typical system size usually linked to the constructs of any incentive program offered.  I see quite a few 6kW to 7kW residential systems these days, but system size varies greatly.  For example, we recently completed a 38.4kW residential system.

NABCEP:   If the size of systems are getting larger and more complicated, it makes me think that perhaps today’s solar consumer is better informed, even more enthusiastic about solar PV than ever.

VM:      As more incentive programs are being offered, more people are realizing that investing in solar makes good financial sense.  Generally speaking, it was more common for a residential customer who was contemplating a photovoltaic installation to have performed a quite a bit of homework relating to solar before investing.  Now, the decision to invest in a solar electric system is easier to arrive at because the financial hurdles have been lessened.  A short six years ago, renewable energy and conservation was not in the newspapers or discussed among the masses as it is today.  It is the case that people, in general, are better informed about renewable energy, and there are more information outlets available now.

NABCEP:   You’ve been at this work since 2003.  You’ve seen lots of growth and changes, but I’m curious to know what has surprised you most?  What’s ahead for you in this industry?

VM:  The growth and changes industry wide have been incredible in such a short period of time.  It has been my good fortune joining Meridian as a young company while the renewable energy industry was gaining momentum towards the explosive growth that we see now.  This has allowed me to wear many hats at Meridian.  There’s no shortage of opportunities to grow professionally.  Looking ahead, I am planning on pursuing my professional engineer’s license, and continuing to design renewable energy systems.

NABCEP:  Sounds like you at Meridian are a good fit.  Thanks so much for taking time to talk with us, Vicki.  Keep up the great work.

June 5, 2009

NABCEP Names New Executive Director

Filed under: News — nabcep @ 8:16 am


Malta, NY, June 5, 2009 – NABCEP

The Board of Directors of the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is pleased to announce that Ezra Auerbach has been appointed as the organization’s Executive Director. At the same time, the Board wishes to express its sincere thanks to Think Energy, Inc., which has provided management services to NABCEP for the past year.


Acting Chair of NABCEP’s Board of Directors Jane Weissman, said; “We hired Think Energy at a time when NABCEP needed focused assistance in organization and management, and now that the organization is on sound footing, it is the right time to transition our management from an external company to a full-time Executive Director.”


Mr. Auerbach, whose involvement in the renewable energy industry spans many years, has served as the Chair of NABCEP’s Board of Directors for five years. He resigned his position as Chair to assume his new duties as Executive Director. “I’m thrilled at the chance to advance my volunteer, part-time passion for NABCEP’s mission to a full-time occupation,” said Mr. Auerbach. “I know the magnitude of this job and am well aware that I have big shoes to fill. The fact that we can once again contemplate in-house management of NABCEP speaks volumes about the quality of work that Rebecca Eaton and her team from Think Energy have done.” 


NABCEP will be consolidating operations and personnel in its Malta, N.Y. office. Mr. Auerbach stated that, “NABCEP is going to build a strong team here in the Albany area, and to that end one of my first priorities is to build a talented and diverse staff.” He requests that interested parties visit NABCEP’s website —— and visit the “news” section to view upcoming job openings.


About NABCEP: The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is a volunteer board of renewable energy stakeholder representatives that includes representatives of the solar industry, NABCEP certificants, renewable energy organizations, state policy makers, educational institutions, and the trades. Each member of the board was chosen because of his or her experience and involvement in the solar energy industry. NABCEP’s mission – to support, and work with, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, professionals, and stakeholders – is intended to develop and implement quality credentialing and certification programs for practitioners.


NABCEP Contact: Ezra Auerbach,, 1 800 654 0021

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