This is a presentation I gave this week in Cleveland at the ElectroExpo. The audience was pretty small, just fifteen folks attended, so it turned into an intimate conversation rather than a formal presentation. An honest discussion about business, renewable energy, and education is right up my alley, and I walked away with some really valuable insights about the benefits and challenges people face when they get into solar and think about NABCEP Certification.

What I Learned About NABCEP Certification From The Audience

  1. NABCEP Certification can help a non-P.E. get professional liability insurance. I had never heard this before. An electrical contractor with lots of residential PV experience won a project doing a commercial rooftop system. With no professional engineer on staff they couldn’t get professional liability insurance for the project…until they hired a NABCEP Certified PV installer. Have you ever heard of anything like this?
  2. Students at technical high schools really struggle with the NABCEP Entry Level Exam. A really passionate high school instructor in the audience, who I know must be a great teacher, shared that none of her high school students have been able to pass the NABCEP Entry Level Exam. Zero. HeatSpring has a 96% passing rate on that same test, and only difference is who takes our courses. We cater to very experienced professionals, while she’s starting from scratch. What she’s doing is way harder, and we agreed to continue to stay in touch and brainstorm ways she can move the needle with her kids.
  3. The case for small electrical contractors getting into solar isn’t obvious. Every year the solar industry puts up huge growth figures, but the rising tide doesn’t lift all boats equally. One contractor shared his story of getting his family business into solar in 2008 and the ups and downs they’ve had along the way. Why hasn’t it been fruitful? Ohio’s incentives have fluctuated a lot, which has made it hard to plan. An employee got NABCEP Certified, then left. His customers kick him out the door when he talks about paybacks longer than 3 years.
  4. Small guys can still win the long game. Two small contractors shared stories about solar projects they won because of longstanding customer relationships. If you have a small firm with a good reputation, here’s the model: tell all of your customers that you do solar on a consistent basis. Don’t be pushy – be consistent. Solar has a funny way of bubbling up in people’s minds and unpredictable times, and you just want to be the person they call when they’re ready.

Who Should Get the NABCEP Certification: My Summary

  • Go get the PV Entry Level Exam if you plan to stick around as an employee for a couple years and want some upward mobility.
  • Pursue the PV Installation Professional if you’re confident your business will be around for a couple years and want to be one of the best, winning competitive projects.