Photovoltaic laboratory exercises should be closely aligned to the scope of instruction, keeping in mind the skill level and capabilities of the participating students, for the following course offerings:
4.1 Types of PV Courses
1. Entry Level Courses. Often aligned with NABCEP Entry Level Learning Objectives and can employ the NABCEP Entry Level Exam as the capstone to their course. At a minimum this level of coursework requires introduction to all the elements of solar resource assessment, harvest and the basics of the various technologies, including an introduction to battery technology.
2. Intermediate Courses. Offer more in-depth instruction – basic site analysis, system design, and installation to trouble shooting and problem solving in a variety of settings.
3. Site Evaluation and Sales Courses. Incorporate the latest software /technology, products, applications, and current PV sales trends.
4. System Design Courses. Advanced system design, adapting to a variety of situations, choosing and using design software, CAD operation, incorporating the latest industry trends understanding and applying applicable codes and standards.
5. Advanced Installation Courses. These courses often prepare participants for obtaining one of the certifications that are available in the industry (NABCEP installer certifications, UL University, etc.).
6. Safety Training. Each specific lab activity will require safety instruction that might include any, or all of the following areas: OSHA 10 and 30 (OSHA cards issued to successful completers), fall protection, ladder safety, hand and power tool use, electrical safety, (NFPA 70E), introduction to and use of “tool box safety talks.”
Note: Networking with local trade unions, an independent training and apprenticeship program, or other trade associations may be helpful to get OSHA training offered for free or at reduced rates.
See IREC’s Exemplary Solar Education and Training Programs Best Practices document for more information.
4.2 Solar Content Integration
In developing and expanding the solar workforce, the question arises as to whether it is better to educate and train solar specialists or provide supplemental solar knowledge and add-on skills to more traditional occupations. Focus group meetings held by both IREC and the Florida Solar Energy Center have shown that, by a two-to-one margin, industry representatives feel that the added-skills approach is the best strategy at the present time — or at least until there is greater certainty about the demand for solar energy.
For example, providing a journeyman electrician with the added skills to install PV systems may be more prudent than training a “PV installer” from the ground up. If the solar market declines, the PV installer may be out of work. Whereas the electrician is still an electrician and can apply his broader talents to non-solar electrical work. Even in a stable solar market, workloads may not be significant enough to keep PV installers fully employed.
Solar content integration is simply the process of determining ways to infuse needed solar content into education and training programs for certain occupations that are closely related to solar occupations. Supplemental solar topics can be integrated into existing courses, or entirely new courses can be integrated into existing programs.
See IREC’s Solar Energy Education and Training Best Practices Document on Solar Content Integration
4.3 PV Lab Procedures
Labs should be designed to reinforce classroom curriculum to include all job related aspects of PV, both grid interactive and stand-alone, to include:
- Safety procedures and protocols
- Cell theory
- Electrical theory and applications
- Site evaluation: orientation, local climate, electrical service, structural considerations, shading, etc.
- System design: calculations, layout, component configuration, and integration
- System Components: equipment identification, operation, and installation
- Installation: processes and procedures for installing an adequate variety of mechanical systems and attachments
- Trouble shooting and maintenance
4.4 PV Lab Forms & Documentation
- Important Lab Activity Questions (PDF)
- Sample PV Hands-on Lab Activity Form (PDF)
- PV Hands-on Lab Activity Form Template (PDF)
- Lab Documentation Considerations (PDF)
4.5 Examples of PV Lab Exercises
- Shading Experiment (PDF)
- PV Module Current Voltage Measurements (PDF)
- Grid-connected PV Assembly and Checkout (PDF)
- Effect of Tilt and Azimuth Orientation on PV Production (PDF)
- PV Power Output and IV Curves (PDF)
- Micro Inverter Rooftop Layout and Installation Writing Exercise part 1 (PDF)
- Module Diagnostics/Testing (PDF)