The PV Associate is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners’ (also known as NABCEP – pronounced NAB-cəp – not with each letter spelled out) entry-level credential. It is intended for folks newer to the solar industry, students in renewable energy programs, or job seekers looking to get into the solar industry.

It’s a great way to show potential or current solar employers that credential holders have taken the time, energy, and focus to build a solid foundation of the fundamental principles of application, design, installation, and operation of solar PV systems. 

To obtain the PVA credential, candidates must pass a standardized exam based on industry validated learning objectives. 

Let’s go through some of the most commonly asked questions.

How can you qualify? 

There are two main pathways to sit for the NABCEP Associate exam:

Education Pathway – Take a training course with a NABCEP Associate Registered Training Provider like HeatSpring’s Solar PV Boot Camp + NABCEP PV Associate Exam Prep.

  • The Solar PV Boot Camp + NABCEP PV Associate Exam Prep course includes nearly 20 hours of video lectures, an active discussion board, plus tons of quizzes and practice problems to get you exam-ready.
  • The course is taught by solar expert Sean White, who’s written several books about solar fundamentals, code, and more. His book, Solar Photovoltaic Basics, is an accompaniment to the course. He loves interacting with students and answers course discussion posts every single day. 
  • Upon completion of the course, students in Solar PV Boot Camp + NABCEP PV Associate Exam Prep will apply to take the PVA exam and pay their $150 exam fee directly through HeatSpring.
  • HeatSpring is confident that you’ll pass your PVA exam after taking our prep course. So confident that we will cover your retesting fee, in the unlikely event you should need it.

Experience Pathway – Working full-time for at least six months in the solar industry

  • Candidates will submit a Verification of Work Experience Form directly to NABCEP along with a letter on company letterhead from their employer which describes their job duties and their length of employment.
  • Candidates will pay their testing fees directly to NABCEP as well.

What’s covered on the PVA exam?

The PVA exam is written by volunteer industry Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) under the guidance of testing specialists. The PVA Job Task Analysis comes directly from NABCEP and and provides a blueprint for the exam. 

Here are the primary content domains covered by the PV Associate:

What can I expect with the PVA exam?

The PVA exam can be taken in a Meazure Learning test site or at any location via live remote proctoring. Candidates get up to 2 hours to complete the PVA exam. 

The PVA exam consists of 70 multiple choice questions, with 4 choices per question. Sixty of the questions are scored and 10 of the questions are un-scored pilot questions. A total scaled score is used to determine if a candidate passed or failed and ranges from 0-99. A scaled score of 65 is required to pass the PVA exam. 

All of your exam paperwork must match your valid government-issued identification, so make sure to not use nicknames or abbreviated names.

What is needed to renew the PV Associate?

The PVA needs to be renewed every 3 years. The first cycle starts on the day of initial credentialing and will expire 3 years later. You can find the date on your certificate or within your myNABCEP account.

To renew, you must complete 12 hours of approved continuing education. You can see all the courses that HeatSpring offers to renew in the Approved NABCEP CEU Hours chart found here on the PV Associate page. There is a column titled “Recertification CEU Hours” that shows how much each course counts toward renewing the PVA. 

What if I want to advance and take a NABCEP professional certification exam?

That’s great news! Having an active PV Associate credential counts as 18 hours of advanced training for the PV Installation Professional and PV Technical Sales certification exams. Both of those require a total of 58 hours of advanced training, so currently holding a PV Associate credential will count as 18 hours out of 58 hours. 

Note that the PV Associate credential does not count towards any training hours for the NABCEP PV Design Specialist, PV Commissioning and Maintenance Specialist, nor the PV Installation Specialist certifications.

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NABCEP Associate Handbook – V.2 2018.2

NABCEP PV Associate Job Task Analysis – September 2017