Benefits of professional solar training for electricians

Does a qualified electrician need a PV GreenCard?

Why does an electrician need a PV GreenCard?

That’s what you’re asking, right? You’re not alone. We speak to qualified electricians every day who tell us they don’t see the point, but they are still being told they need to “get the PV GreenCard”.

The short answer:

We know there are electrical regulations in place, which the PV GreenCard programme upholds. And we understand why you might think that there is no need for further regulations or oversight.

Solar training does not undermine or contradict your current knowledge; instead it strengthens your skillset and cements your understanding of PV and DC power, giving you the confidence to quote on, design and build systems that are effective and long-lasting.

The PV GreenCard is not an alternative to a wireman’s licence. It is a programme of training, assessment and documentation that is a seal of quality assurance where PV is concerned.

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The long answer:

When you elect to become a SAPVIA-assessed PV GreenCard installer, you are demonstrating your commitment to following best practices at every step, from the design of the system, to the selection of purpose-made quality components, to the on-site work. This is why more and more end-users, financial institutions and insurance companies are demanding proof of the endorsed solar training and assessment that forms part of the PV GreenCard programme.

Click on a topic below to learn more:

The PV GreenCard is not a piece of paper you carry around in your wallet. It is a three-part programme devised by SA’s PV Industry Association (SAPVIA) that is committed to quality assurance for clients and banks, skills development for installers and support initiatives for small businesses.

To “get a PV GreenCard” is better described as the following steps:

Step 1: Completing the recommended solar installation training covering the electrical, mechanical and structural aspects of PV systems

Step 2: Passing the PV GreenCard Assessment at an approved assessment centre like GREEN Solar Academy

Step 3: Making sure your company is registered as an electrical contractor with the DoEL

Step 4:Registering your company on the PV GreenCard database for clients to find you

Step 5: Completing a PV GreenCard As-built Report with every system you install. A CoC by an installation electrician is mandatory with every PV GreenCard As-built Report

The SAPVIA PV GreenCard Assessment is a 2-day on-site test of your theoretical and practical competency where the installation of PV solar is concerned. We offer the assessment on behalf of SAPVIA at three of our academies – Gauteng, Cape Town, Durban (Ballito) – at a cost of R5 900 ex VAT.

If you obtain the 80% required to pass the assessment, SAPVIA will issue you with a certificate in your name. If you do not pass the assessment, you will need to register to rewrite just the theory portion (a further R900 ex VAT) or the practical portion (a further R5 000 ex VAT) depending on where you lost marks.

If you fail a second time, you will not be allowed to re-take the assessment without first providing proof of professional solar training.
You can prepare yourself for the PV GreenCard Assessment by reading these guidelines issued by SAPVIA.

It is highly recommended that those without experience in the design and physical installation of solar systems completing a 5-day SAPVIA-endorsed solar training beforehand.

If you are a member of the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), you will also appreciate the 5 CPD points you receive for attending the training. And if you value professional networks, then the GREEN Network you become part of as a GREEN Alumni will hold immense attraction for you.

The training is compressed into just 5 full days, Monday to Friday. We know that our installers are busy people with businesses to run, which is why we offer short professional courses and not diplomas or degrees, which make more demands on your limited time.

Four of those days are spent in the classroom, and one day is devoted to practical instruction on our training roofs, where you will work with different mounting structures, solar modules, cabling and connectors to build a small PV system.

What can an electrician expect to learn during solar training?

We know that you take pride in your electrical work, and that you want to be sure that any system you design is going to do the job you intended. The generation of electricity using solar panels, inverters and batteries – and the mechanical and structural considerations to take into account – is a specialisation field not necessarily covered in sufficient detail during standard electrical training or apprenticeship. Globally, qualified electricians are being encourages to pursue formal solar training that adds to their current knowledge base.

So exactly what can an electrician expect to learn during the 5-day PV GreenCard training that they may not already know? Let’s take a look:

How to read datasheets
How to read product datasheets to correctly calculate the number of solar modules and batteries required to meet your client’s energy needs and useage profile, , learn when it is necessary to oversize the system, and more.

Accurate quoting
How to quote accurately including balance of system items, and work out cost per cycle to compare true investment.

Identify quality components
Solar training through GREEN also introduces you to the manufacturers and suppliers of reputable equipment.

Structural considerations
Discover how to identify whether the proposed site of the solar modules is capable of carrying the extra weight of the PV mounting structure and modules.

The importance of mounting structures
Discover why it is vital to use purpose-designed roof mounting structures, which system to choose depending on roof covering, and how to attach the components to your chosen roof.

Cabling and connections
Learn how to prevent electrical fires due to incorrect module mounting practices, incorrect cabling thickness, cable kinking, insecure module connections.

Working on site
We teach you how to handle and attach system components in a manner that is safe for you and won’t damage the equipment and void its warranty, and how to work at heights.

System simulation
Become familiar with advanced 3D solar software to predict system yields, assess the impact of shading on your modules, and generate reports complete with financial indicators.

System documentation
Understand the importance and process of documenting every step from the site visit all the way up to commissioning and handover of the system to the client.

Unlike traditional AC work, a solar system is never a “set it and forget it” endeavour. Learning to monitor, diagnose, repair and regularly maintain the system for the client is paramount. The more well-designed your system, the less frequently you will need to return to site to deal with issues that could have been avoided in the first place.

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What are the main causes of PV-related fires?

At GREEN, we believe that the best PV system is only as good as its connections – be it cables or screws. Incorrect module mounting practices, incorrect cabling thickness, cable kinking and insecure module connections are a waste of system potential and money at best, and deadly at worst. So what ARE the most frequent causes of PV-related fires?

A recent article in PV Magazine documented small-scale experiments on the behavior of smoke in PV-related fires. Researchers found that in homes featuring rooftops with a pitch of less than 45 degrees, residents only have about four minutes to safely evacuate. Take into account that nearly every residential roof in South Africa comes in at between 25 and 25 degrees – aka the ideal pitch for the generation of electricity via solar power – and we’re looking at statistics that apply to the vast majority of homes with solar.

Earth lug installed hard against the underside of the module

Cell degradation and hot spot from crack in module

Heat damage at connection point between dissimilar connectors

When you combine the findings above with other studies which catalogue the most frequent causes of solar PV fires, the scenario becomes truly troubling. For a start, it’s inevitably not the AC wiring at fault. Instead, in an inspection of 10 000 grid-connected solar PV systems over 10 years, the main causes of fire were found to be heat build-up between the roof and the modules due to incorrect mounting structures and/or build-up of debris due to lack of maintenance, water ingress into DC isolators, torque settings not followed and loose connections where it comes to cable termination, and damage to the solar module.

Considering none of the items above is covered under the checklist of a standard electrical CoC, could there indeed be a case for professional solar training that would almost certainly eliminate the dangers listed above?

What do other electricians say about the training?

“As an Installation Electrician since 1988, I can’t imagine signing off a COC without proof of solar training of some kind, and the SuperSolarSchool training I received gave me the confidence to sleep at night when signing off. It ensures a safe and correctly-installed PV system.

There’s always more to understand in the field of solar – the changing landscape of regulations, products and processes requires a regular top up of skill and knowledge. Short professional courses like those offered by GREEN provide for that need and the PV GreenCard accreditation helps to manage a rapidly expanding industry.”

Kobus Theron, Owner of Kwalitron Solar and GREEN Solar Academy Trainer

We’ve trained close on 8 000 engineers, electricians and technicians to install solar that is safe, effective and built to go the distance. Now we invite you to trust us to guide you in your journey into PV. Click on the button below to book your space at a GREEN Solar Academy close to you.

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