From Solar Energy International (SEI) student to site supervisor, we love to share success stories like those of Solar Training Alumni Andrew Niles, who began his solar journey at the Solar Ready Vets Cohort at Fort Carson, Colorado, where SEI was giving classes.

Andrew is currently a site supervisor at Strata Solar based out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but got his start with an energy-related career path in the Army, where he was a Power Generation Equipment Technician and Repairer. “Because I already had that background to electricity generation using fossil fuels, I knew that the solar industry is the future and would build on my power generation knowledge,” he explained.

According to Andrew, “My experience was exceptional because not only was I building on my knowledge, the instructors made classes interesting and provided an excellent learning environment to learn about the solar industry.” Andrew progressed through many SEI courses including PV101: Solar Electric Design and Installation, PV201L: Solar Electric Lab Week (Grid-Direct), PV203 Prep and 301L: Battery-Based PV Systems Fundamentals, before successfully completing the entry-level NABCEP.

Moving forward, Andrew explained that the training he received at SEI gave him the skills and confidence needed to pursue a new career path in the solar industry. “SEI provided me with solar knowledge by starting at the basics. After completing the training and obtaining my NABCEP certificate, I felt confident in seeking a career in this field after retiring from the U.S. Army,” Andrew explained.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Niles. Pictured: A completed 6.6 MW Qualifying Farm (QF).

Andrew’s first project was a 6.6 MW Qualifying Farm (QF) solar farm, where he was the Site Superintendent. According to Andrew, The Superintendent is responsible for oversight, coordination, and successful completion the array while managing between 80 to over 200 construction employees depending on the size of the site.

Andrew provided guidance and technical support to employees, secured temp labor, and subcontractors as Site Superintendent of two QFs, and one utility-scale solar farm.  His latest project is a 20 MW Dominion Utility-scale farm in Virginia.

“My Army career prepared for me for the supervisory and managerial role, while my SEI solar classes foundation helped in building on that solid solar energy base,” Andrew said.

“Just like I made a career in the military, I hope my solar career can take me to a level where I can be a part of the decision-making: a construction manager, solar instructor, overseeing projects in my home (Caribbean Islands) and work for the Department of Energy,” Andrew said. His SEI solar instructor training has inspired his future goals: “These near term and long-term goals would tie-in my solar experience with my Master’s degree in Business Administration.”