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How To Become an Accredited Solar Installer | South Africa

With the pressing need to address power challenges in South Africa, installing solar panels on the rooftops of households and businesses emerges as a strategic solution. The solar photovoltaic (PV) industry is on the brink of a transformative boom, spurred by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s unwavering commitment to leveraging rooftop installations as a panacea for the nation’s energy crisis. As a result, the demand for qualified and accredited solar installers is set to surge. This guide serves as a comprehensive roadmap for South Africans aspiring to become accredited solar installers in this expanding era of renewable energy.

Step 1: Understand the Industry Landscape

Before embarking on a career as a solar installer, it’s essential to grasp the dynamics of South Africa’s solar industry. President Ramaphosa’s endorsement of rooftop installations underscores the industry’s pivotal role in addressing the energy crisis. Stay abreast of industry trends, technological advancements, and regulatory updates through reputable sources like the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) to navigate this evolving landscape effectively.

Step 2: Obtain Relevant Education and Training

Mounting PV panels is just the beginning; there’s more to a solar installation. Everything from the inverter onwards — converting solar-generated DC electricity to grid-compatible AC — requires a qualified electrician’s touch.

Registered South African electricians are required to complete a national exam in addition to a trade test and an NQF level 3 certificate, which must include a Technical Senior Certificate. Additionally, they must register with the Department of Labour (DOL) and possess a Wireman’s License. This qualification is crucial for independent contractors or those starting their own solar company, covering the installation from start to finish.

If you prefer working for a company with a qualified electrician overseeing work, a quicker entry is to become a Solar PV Service Technician — doing so is a hands-on way to gain experience without going the full electrician route.

Valsa Trading’s PV Solar Training courses provide a solid foundation for success in South Africa’s growing solar industry. The PV Solar Training courses offer comprehensive product training that equips you with the expertise needed to thrive in the renewable energy sector.

Step 3: Pursue Certifications

Certifications are pivotal in establishing your credibility as a solar installer in South Africa. Two key accreditation bodies, the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (SAPVIA) and the Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa (SESSA), offer essential certifications for aspiring solar PV installers.

Accreditation by organisations like SAPVIA and SESSA verifies that installers have the necessary expertise, follow all relevant regulations, and act ethically and professionally. For instance, SAPVIA’s PV GreenCard programme focuses on quality assurance, with accredited installers listed in an online database for potential clients.

Installers must supply company registration information as well as proof of DOL registration as certified electricians to be eligible for the PV GreenCard programme. Furthermore, documentation of successfully finishing a five-day PV installation course and passing a two-day practical and theoretical exam is required. This rigorous process ensures that accredited installers are knowledgeable and have the practical skills necessary for top-tier solar installations.

In addition to these industry-specific certifications, the Solar Photovoltaic Service Technician NQF Level 5 certification, recognised by the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA), provides a national qualification for those entering the renewable energy sector. This certification encompasses four modular part qualifications: Solar PV Mounter, Solar PV Installer, Solar PV Technician, and Solar PV Service Technician. Enrolment requires a minimum of Grade 11 (NQF Level 3) with passed Maths and Science as subjects.

Stay informed of the enrolment requirements and any updates from SAPVIA, SESSA, and SAQA to align your certification pursuits with industry standards. These qualifications are testaments to your commitment to excellence in the dynamic field of solar PV installation.

Step 5: Obtain a Licence from the Electrical Contracting Board (ECB)

Becoming a solar installer typically requires approval from the Electrical Contracting Board (ECB). You’ll need to pass the ECB licensing exam, which assesses your knowledge of electrical systems and safety regulations. Ensure that you meet all the requirements and prepare thoroughly for the exam.

Step 6: Stay Updated on Licensing Requirements

Licensing requirements may evolve as the industry grows and regulatory frameworks develop. Stay vigilant about any changes in licensing requirements by regularly checking with SAPVIA, SAQA, and the ECB. Remaining informed ensures you can adapt to new regulations and maintain compliance throughout your career.

Step 7: Gain Practical Experience

Beyond theory and certifications, practical experience is invaluable in the solar installation field. Seek opportunities to work alongside experienced professionals or participate in internships and apprenticeships. Practical experience allows you to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios, enhancing your problem-solving skills and efficiency as a solar installer.

Step 8: Build a Network Within the Industry

Networking is a crucial aspect of any profession, and the solar industry is no exception. Attend industry events, workshops, and conferences to connect with professionals, suppliers, and potential clients. Building a solid network opens doors to new opportunities and provides a platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration within the industry.

Wrapping Up

While there are currently no legal requirements to become a solar installer in South Africa, the industry is evolving, and accreditation is becoming increasingly relevant. Stay ahead of the curve by obtaining relevant education, certifications, and practical experience.

Keep a close eye on developments within SAPVIA, particularly the PV GreenCard assessment, as it moves towards formal accreditation. By following these steps on how to become an accredited solar installer and staying informed, you can position yourself as a competent and accredited professional in the burgeoning renewable energy sector in South Africa. Valsa Trading‘s commitment to comprehensive product training further ensures that individuals are well-prepared to thrive in this dynamic and growing field.

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