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.