Because of public interest and advances in the renewable energy industry, the government has spent billions of dollars cultivating solar energy through the use of solar panels. This investment is good news for workers in the industry, including solar panel installers. The field of solar panel installation is expected to grow by 24 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The demand and salaries, however, are influenced by government funding and consumers' ability to pay the cost of installing solar panels.
Solar panels convert solar energy into electromagnetic energy using the semiconductor materials silicon and gallium arsenide. Solar panel installers carefully lay and attach the solar panels on rooftops and on land. They run wires to the power unit, test voltage settings and assist in planning the layout of the panels. They typically must have a high school diploma, take classes in installation from a trade or community college, and be comfortable working high off the ground. Experience in solar panel installation, roofing or contracting will increase your chances of landing a job. If you have no experience, a potential employer provide training if you show a commitment to safety, teamwork and communication.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the salary for a solar panel installer ranged from $26,250 to $57,980 a year in 2012. The median salary was $37,900 a year. The BLS reports that the median salary can vary depending on the industry. Installers working in power and communication line and related structures construction earned a median salary of $41,250 a year, while installers working in plumbing, heating and air-conditioning industries earned $39,520 a year. Electrical and wiring installation contractors earned $32,470 a year.
Solar panel installer salaries also vary by region. According to the Career Builder salary calculator, a solar panel installer in California makes on average $32,520 a year, while an installer in Colorado makes on average $27,684 a year. An installer in New York makes $31,846 a year, and an installer in Kansas makes $32,015 a year.
Partly Sunny Outlook
Although jobs for solar panel installers are expected to grow at an above-average rate between 2012 and 2022, the BLS states that because this is a small field, job growth will be limited to approximately 1,200 jobs in 10 years. Also, job growth depends on the government's commitment to fund solar energy initiatives. Consumer cost is also a factor; a customer can spend as much as $14,000 on solar panel installation, then wait four years to break even on energy savings. Heavy construction periods might bring more demand, while colder months might bring a decline. Seek work in warmer southwestern states, such as Arizona, to boost your year-round job prospects.
- Alternative Power Solutions Corp.: Job Description - Solar Panel Installers
- The Hindu: Improving the Efficiency of Solar Panels
- Sun Valley Solar Solutions: Job Description - Solar Installer
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Solar Photovoltaic Installers - Summary
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Solar Photovoltaic Installers - Pay
- Environmental and Energy Study Institute: Solar Energy
- Department Of Energy: 2014: The Year of Concentrating Solar Power
- Solar Gaines: Solar Panel Costs
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Solar Photovoltaic Installers - Job Outlook
- Career Builder: Salary Calculator - Solar Panel Installer - California
- Photo Credit brainstorm1962/iStock/Getty Images
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