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Does Quality Assurance in the Solar PV Industry Start with Manufacturing or the Technician?

Posted by: chris
July 24, 2013

Solar PV Quality Issues in the News
Quality assurance is a hot topic in the solar industry and Solar Energy International (SEI) has a vested interest in the quality of PV systems installed world-wide.  Much of the media attention has been on the quality of components, specifically PV modules, coming from the manufacturing side of the industry.  SEI's focus starts with the highest quality training experience for students and professionals who already are or will become the technical experts for the industry.

Chris Turek, Director of Online Learning and Student Services for SEI said, "There have been recent reports and news stories of PV component quality issues in the manufacturing side of our industry.   Even though SEI isn't part of the manufacturing aspect of our industry, we consider these findings very important and roll them into our training experience.   Being able to troubleshoot, operate, and maintain PV systems in an expert fashion is the mark of a true solar professional."

Where the solar industry as a whole is grappling with the reality of "value-engineered" manufacturing practices, SEI has focused on producing the highest quality of student graduates for over 20 years.

Turek went on to point out, "Here at SEI we feel that quality starts with the professional doing the work.  That may be system design, component selection, installation, troubleshooting, and everything in between.   This is one of the reasons why we take a product or brand agnostic approach in our teaching methods.  We want our graduates to be able to walk into any solar PV design and installation situation, no matter what the system size, no matter who produced the components, and be able to think on their feet." 

"Sometimes the answer isn't found in a product manual or spec sheet.  Personal insight through education and real world industry experience is where the answer is often found.   This is why we employ the greatest number of ISPQ Credentialed Trainers in the solar industry.   We want our students to learn from the very best - the professionals who are integrating these systems all over the world from residential to utility scale applications."

"We put a lot of work in our curriculum development to make sure it reflects current technologies, effective practices, and electrical code, but it is our instructors that bring to the table the wealth of knowledge that can't be replicated anywhere else in our industry.   If someone is going through SEI's Solar Professionals Certificate Program, they are going to spend at least 160 contact training hours with this curriculum and our expert instructors.    That is where quality assurance starts - fostering a strong solar industry workforce with the best technical training possible."

The PV201L Lab Experience - more info

Course Description: This is the ultimate hands-on PV experience available!  This solar training workshop offers five days of installation practice with grid-direct systems at SEI's world-class PV Lab training facility in Paonia, Colorado. The maximum eight to one student-to-instructor ratio and comprehensive lab setting create the perfect environment to get your first hands-on PV experience.

By working in small groups, students will put what they've learned in PV101 to the test. They get their hands dirty by fully installing and commissioning a wide variety of system types before testing the system, then de-commissioning and breaking down. SEI is not affiliated with any equipment manufacturers, so students get unbiased opinions and are able to work on all of the equipment being used in the field today.

Students rotate between a commercial ballasted roof, two steep roofs, a ground mount and a pole mount system that contain a variety of inverters, modules, racking hardware and mounting methods. Students will learn fall protection best practices and different harness set-ups. They will learn lockout/tagout procedures to create a safe working environment and use an assortment of meters to test systems.

The PV301L Lab Experience - more info

Course Description: This workshop offers five days of hands-on installation practice with battery-based systems at SEI's world-class PV Lab training facility in Paonia, Colorado.  Safely install, test, and commission battery-based PV systems in this solar training workshop.  Lab stations are comprised of both stand-alone and grid-tied with battery back-up systems, and include both AC and DC coupled systems. 

Participants will concentrate on battery safety, wiring, and maintenance, and will wire balance of system components including:  combiner boxes, disconnects, power centers, controllers, battery banks, and inverters.  Set-up, basic programming, and testing of components for specific battery-based applications will be integrated into the lab sessions.  Students will learn fundamental procedures for safe installation and commissioning practices, and all exercises will have an emphasis on battery safety considerations.  The maximum eight to one student-to-instructor ratio and comprehensive lab setting create the ultimate environment to get your first hands-on PV and battery experience.

The PV351L Lab Experience - more info

Course Description: This intensive, advanced training is designed for solar professionals already working in the PV industry who want to take their skills to the next level. Students in this class will learn the theory behind and gain hands-on experience with a wide range of state-of-the-art analytical tools. The class will focus on PV system commissioning, performance evaluation, operations and maintenance, and troubleshooting techniques using tools such as thermal cameras, IV curve tracers; multi-meters and insulation resistance testers.

About Solar Energy International
Solar Energy International (SEI) was founded in 1991 as a nonprofit educational organization to help others to use renewable energy resources and sustainable building technologies through education and technical assistance.

Our vision is focused on helping create a more sustainable future for our planet and its inhabitants. Through our work, we see clear opportunities to influence people's thinking and behaviors towards energy efficiency and the use of natural, sustainable methods of energy production and utilization.

Solar Energy International is a 501(c)(3) Equal Opportunity Institution and Employer, and is not affiliated with any dealer, manufacturer, distributor, or any other renewable energy commercial enterprise.

Media contact for SEI is Christopher Turek, Director of Online and Student Services - chris(at)solarenergy(dot)org - 970-963-8855 x115 -

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