Solar training on the rise
Solar sector employment in the U.S. is booming. In 2017 it employed just over 250,000 solar workers nationwide, according to a Department of Energy census. It’s only a matter of time before that solar wave comes to Canada. When it does, we will need trained professionals to install these projects and make sure they’re safe.
Enter Randall Benson. He’s a master electrician who’s been installing solar systems in Canada since 2001. His company, Gridworks Energy Group, designs and installs solar PV systems and offers solar PV training out of Edmonton.
“People are hearing about solar from all over the world, and they’re asking questions like, ‘what is this?’ and ‘how can I do this?’ and I think they’re probably searching for opportunities,” says Benson.
Gridworks’ five-day solar PV design and installation course is three days of theory with two days of hands-on work installing solar systems. Benson has trained more than 700 of his colleagues in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, but now he’s opening his courses up the public — and he’s seeing a lot of interest.
Amit Kumar is an electrician who primarily works in the oilsands. But he’d love more solar work.
“I’m very optimistic about it,” says Kumar. “I think there’s a huge industry that’s here and it’s going to happen soon. And I want to be a part of it. It’s the solar industrial revolution.”
Spencer Thornton is a Red Seal journeyman electrician who works in Edmonton and around Alberta for Four Elements Electric. His work is mostly on big commercial and industrial jobs.
“I think that things are going to be really positive in the next couple of years, as technologies become a lot better, [and] obviously prices decrease.”
Thornton says using energy from the sun completes the circuit for an electrician: “It’s kind of like a circle of life thing where you take a system that actually takes the sun, produces the energy, and then you produce the systems that use the energy.”
Solar and wind made up 74% of new U.S. electricity capacity installed in first five months of 2015. And as the latest U.S. solar market report from Greentech Media shows, installations are going up (especially on residential rooftops) and the price is coming down.
Solar is becoming a price-competitive way to produce electricity, and this bodes well for training programs like Benson’s and the growth of solar.