Solar Panel Installation (and Eating Your Neighbor’s Lawn)

Great news!  It’s been a while since I posted, but there are a slew of recipes that you’ll be seeing added over the next few days.  As few things in life turn out perfectly the first time, I have been refining the previous recipes and trying a few new ones, side dishes mostly.  Most have been successful, but more on that later.  Great news, you ask?  Yes!  I’ve just signed up to get certified as a solar panel installer.  This means that for the next eight months, I’ll be working toward completing the necessary coursework and study hours for the National certification exam, and hopefully getting some practical experience working with panels along the way.  You might be asking why this should interest you in any way… well, since I love to share, and since writing about things helps me to learn, I mean really LEARN things, I’ll be keeping a sort of study diary on this site.  So if you’re wondering where to start on that whole “watts vs. volts” issue, or if you need a little brush up on your high school physics or electronics (and who doesn’t?), keep checking back often to see if I’ve covered the topic here.  I’ll be using the SEI’s textbook on photovoltaic installation and repair, which is pretty much the best on out there as far as I can tell.  Class starts Wednesday, so more about that then!

In the meantime, I’ve been reading a lot about urban foraging.  It’s a huge topic with relatively few available references.   But starting with Christopher Nyerges’ excellent Wild Foods and Useful Plants guides and also covering specific guides to my local SoCal area, I’ve been out every morning hunting for food.  And it’s everywhere!  Did you know that most of the plants in your garden, never mind those that professional landscapers use in public places, are edible in one way or another?  Geraniums, pansies, daylilies, lavender, nasturtium, chrysanthemums, marigolds, roses and more all make tasty snacks alone or blended into recipes.  You can even replace some of the gourmet items in your pantry with wild alternatives, adding an exotic flair to your cooking.  For example, nasturtium seeds make an excellent caper substitute when pickled, and you can make jellies straight from your yard instead of store-bought marmalades. 

If you’d like to find out more about the plants of your area, I’d highly recommend you check out a book that specializes in your area and start looking for wild foods every time you go out the front door.  I have to admit that though I’d never even noticed what was edible before, now I’m finding myself distracted trying to walk down any street, looking at the possibilities.  And the fruit you pick is SO much sweeter than the one you buy, even if just in principle.  The book I just finished Edible and Useful Plants of California (can’t remember off-hand who wrote it) also included many great anecdotes about the Native American food and medicinal uses of various plants.  When moving away from reliance on the grid, you’d do well to know a bit about the native flora of your community.  And I hardly need to spell out its importance after grid-crash, except to point out that it will be the few months following immediate aid and before people’s sowed crops mature that will be hardest for individuals to survive.  If you know about edible plants, then you can sit happily munching on your neighbors’ lawns while they sit inside their houses panicking.  You might even get an “I told you so” out between bites.  How’s that for sweet justice!  Until next time, happy foraging!

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Ricky said,

    Hi,
    I was searching in the internet about solar and stumbled
    upon your blog. I am very interested in solar that I am considering chaning careers. Currently, I am 14 yrs into semiconductor testing. I feel that it would be a step backward and huges steps forward. I also saw about the certification (NABCEP) and want to know the details. Costs, 8month course (as you mentioned), on-the-job trainings (?) and can be a certified installer. I am an electrical engg grad but don’t have any experience as a roofer, contractor or being an electrician.
    Ricky

  2. 2

    solarious said,

    Hello Ricky~

    If you are already into semiconductor testing, then you would be far ahead of the curve for most people getting into the field. Most of the people in my certification class are electricians by trade, and they seem pretty familiar with the conventions of electricity, semiconductors, etc. I imagine you’d be right about even with them in terms of prerequisite understanding.

    The NABCEP certification is administered by their organization. I do not yet know the cost of the test itself, but it comes with a prerequisite of completing the necessary number of hours of class time in preparation. The courses I am taking are a 100 hour introductory course, which cost me about $30 to sign up for at a local adult education center.

    That class will be followed by another class, with a duration of 400 hours, which I will take at another area adult school, which has partnered with either SEI or NABCEP (I can’t remember which) to become a certified training location for the exam. This class will run somewhere in the range of $75 to complete over the 8 month period. The hours completed are more pertinent than the length of program: the training location near you may condense or stretch the class hours. The introductory class covers electrical theory, and starts getting your feet wet working with the panels, and the second class is directly focused on getting you ready for the exam and employment. You’ll probably spend another $100 or so on books, too. (if you have no local classes, you can google the photovoltaic installer classes at East LA Skills Center to get an idea of what I’m talking about)

    Once you are certified, or even on your way to getting so, the job opportunities for solar employment are great right now. I wouldn’t worry too much about not having the experiences you listed, with a strong work ethic, you should do fine. I’m seeing most positions opening in the $25 range and up hourly, with full benefits, 401k with matching, and stock options in many cases. Not too shabby. Add experience, and you can expect more. With a degree in electrical engineering, you should be well-qualified for any position. From the job descriptions, I’d say it will be best if you a. have your own car, b. don’t mind heights, and c. can lift heavy weights (~75 lbs).

    The teachers of the courses are often the best people to take to about employment opportunities, since they are involved in the industry, and usually hear about job opportunities before the general public. I’d recommend you look up a local adult education center that offers the course (or if there are none in you area, contact the SEI) and ask about the job prospects in your area, even before taking the course.

    I commend you for thinking of joining the industry. I was just reading the other day in the LA Times that solar panel installers are expected to be one of the most in-demand jobs in the state in the coming years. With that forecast added to the fact you’ll be helping people save the planet, I don’t think you can go wrong! Best of luck, and please let me know if you have any more questions or decide to get certified.

  3. 3

    solarious said,

    An update to my last comment for those wishing to get certified through NABCEP as a solar panel installer: There is now a new page on this site all about the requirements, costs, and resources available to those seeking certification. You can access it here: https://solarious.wordpress.com/photovoltaic-class/nabcep-certification-news/

    You may also enjoy working along with the solar power class on this site. You can find the link in the top right corner of every page.

  4. 4

    drumat5280 said,

    I just did a video on this certification topic if anyone is interested:
    http://www.solardave.com/index.php/how-to-get-solar-panel-installer-certified-video/

    Dave


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