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Solar Certification

What is the difference between the NABCEP entry level and the NABCEP certification exam?
The NABCEP entry level is a "Certificate of Knowledge." The full NABCEP is a "Certification."

Certificate of Knowledge: NABCEP offers an entry level Certificate of Knowledge aimed at students wanting to get into the solar photovoltaic field. After taking a course from an approved provider and passing a national exam, this Certificate shows that the recipient has achieved basic knowledge, comprehension and application of key terms and concepts of photovoltaic (solar electric) systems operations.  The Certificate by itself does not qualify an individual to install PV systems but it does prepare them for employment in the field.

PV Installer Certification: The NABCEP PV installer certification is a voluntary certification that provides a set of national standards by which PV installers with skills and experience can distinguish themselves from their competition. Certification provides a measure of protection to the public by giving them a credential for judging the competency of practitioners. It is not intended to prevent qualified individuals from installing PV systems nor to replace state licensure requirements. The target candidate for NABCEP certification is the person responsible for the system installation (e.g., contractor, foreman, supervisor, or journeyman). You can read more at www.solarenergy.org/nabcep-certification.

How do I register for the NABCEP Entry Level Test?

In regards to the NABCEP Entry Level Exam (ELE), there are two options available for you. One is the Paper and Pencil Exam at our Paonia, CO classroom and the other is Computer Based Testing (CBT) that is facilitated at testing sites around the country. For Paper and Pencil offerings of the NABCEP ELE, please see the above link where you can view the most current scheduling and details for registering to take the exam at SEI's Paonia, CO campus. The fee for the Paper and Pencil Exam is $150/person, which includes SEI's administrative fee. Please call to register, the fees for all test registrations are non-refundable.
For Computer Based Testing, NABCEP has contracted with Prometric Test Centers to facilitate the test around the country. You may want to to use their Test Site Locator to ensure there is a suitable location for you. The fee for the Computer Based Exam is $120/ person, which includes SEI's administrative fee and is non-refundable. If Computer Based testing is the option for you, here are the steps to follow:
  1. Call the SEI main office at 970-963-8855 to obtain this form: NABCEP ELE - CANDIDATE ELIGIBILITY FORM
  2. Complete the form and email it as a pdf attachment to purchases@solarenergy.org (or fax to 970-963-8866, if necessary).
  3. Call Solar Energy International at 970-963-8855 to register and pay for your testing fees over the phone.
  4. Your information is then submitted to NABCEP, and then Prometric contacts you to schedule time and location for testing.


How do I get NABCEP certified?
Go to the NABCEP website and look at the list of qualifications.  Depending on your personal past experience there are multiple tracks to qualify to sit for the test. Find the track that best fits your personal experience. You can also read more at www.solarenergy.org/nabcep-certification.


Do I need to be NABCEP certified?  
NABCEP was originally intended to be a voluntary certification, (like an ASE certified mechanic), to set you on a higher level and prove that you know something about PV. However as we go forward and grow as an industry we see certain areas require NABCEP for different reasons.  In some places you have to be NABCEP certified to get incentive money for PV systems or to get a solar contractors license. In other places it does not matter.


What other certifications do I need?
What requirements you need to operate a business in your area is up to your local jurisdiction. Some are state-based requirements, some county-based and even some city-based requirements in certain cases. You must know your local contractor license laws before starting a business. There are no national overrides of state-based requirements. The full NABCEP certification is a nationwide certification but does not override any local laws. In some states you have to be a licensed master electrician to touch a PV system. In other states there are no requirements at all. And most states are somewhere in the middle. Some states even have a specific solar contractors license.

There can also be situations where you have to be a licensed electrician to pull permits and do the electrical work, but the local incentive or rebate program requires a full NABCEP certification to get the rebate money. Do not make assumptions, you must consult your local jurisdiction, state, county, and city plus utility and incentive program managers before you start a business.


After this class, will I be able to go out in the field and start installing PV, operating as my own company?  
Probably not. If you are already an electrical contractor in your area and you take our all of our PV classes and really understand everything well, then maybe. You must realize that a PV installation business is a whole trade in and of itself, just like electricians, plumbers, and heating and air conditioning. SEI recommends you work for a solar contractor for a few years before starting your own business. Our classes offer intensive technical training but ultimately just scratch the surface of this industry. Aside from the PV parts, you need to understand roofing, electrical, OSHA safety, NEC, NFPA 70e, general contracting, business management, plus PV industry specific training from equipment manufacturers, and so on. We want our students and the solar industry to be successful which is why we will not lie to you and say that this SEI class is all you need.

What is a Training Certificate Program?
A Training Certificate Program is different than a third party Certification, such as NABCEP.  A quality training certificate program should be based on industry-reviewed curriculum that introduces students to current technologies and best practices. A quality training certificate program should also have a strong focus on safety and real world job-site conditions.  Additionally, a quality training certificate program should be long enough in both training hours and number of courses to fully expose you to all the topics and conditions that exist in the industry.  

For information on SEI Solar Professionals Certificate Program please click here.  With this program you will exceed the baseline required number of training hours for industry certification exams. One thing to keep in mind when selecting a training program is that a quality training certificate program should offer you rigorous preparation for an industry and a career. It should NOT solely prepare you to pass a test. This explains why SEI's certificate paths are at least 120 contact training hours in length. 


What is a CERET Renewable Energy Certificate?
The CERET Renewable Energy Certificates are designed to provide students with the theoretical knowledge necessary to begin a career in energy management and renewable energy technology. The certificate requires a minimum of 12 credits of coursework, including one face-to-face course. Students may choose from online and face-to-face courses in several areas of emphasis including transportation, photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind, and biomass. Certificate courses are developed and taught by renewable energy experts from CERET partner institutions listed below, including SEI.

How do I obtain my CERET Renewable Energy Certificate?
Students apply for the certificate program through Madison Area Technical College (MATC). Certificate courses are developed and taught by renewable energy experts from CERET partner institutions, including:

Students register with, and pay tuition directly to, the host institution offering each course. At the same time, students should apply for the certificate at Madison Area Technical College. As each course is completed, students should notify Barb Anderegg at MATC, who tracks transcript progress toward the certificate. Note that Madison Area Technical College will only issue an official transcript when all 12 credits are completed. The CERET certificate is designed to pair with existing two-year college programs. Certificate credits may be combined with additional coursework to enhance traditional diploma, degree, transfer and associate programs. The credits also may be combined with additional training, job experience and/or professional examinations to qualify for certification by national renewable energy institutions.

More information on the CERET Certificate in Renwable Energy Technology