Tell us about your solar job, part 1

By Brandon Walton on February 6, 2016
“By being selected as an installer for a solar co-op, a new solar company can demonstrate and build capacity for larger project management.”
– Hyattsville Solar Co-op Member Fran Toler

The solar industry employs workers with a range of skill sets. We thought it would be interesting to hear from them in their own words. Today we spoke with JD Elkurd of Solar Solution, Jeff Nicholson of Sigora Solar, and Ryann Coles of Altenergy Incorporated about their jobs and the solar industry.

How did you get involved in the solar industry?

JD Elkurd: I am extremely passionate about sustainability and green living, I was also seeking a rewarding career to where I would feel I was actually helping changing the world for the better.

People think of solar jobs as just being up on a roof installing panels. What other types of positions or employees do solar companies look for?

Jeff Nicholson: About two-thirds of our employees are installers or field supervisors. It takes a lot of labor to get a PV system installed. However, it takes a lot more than just an installation crew. We employ an accountant, a CAD designer, a permitter, a troubleshooter, a logistics manager, a marketing director, a product development engineer, and even a video engineer.

What skill sets do you see as most important to building a career in the solar industry?

JN: We have employees from all backgrounds. The traits they all share are an enthusiasm for what we’re doing, a dedicated work ethic, and a technically-oriented mindset.

JE: Passion for the environment and renewable energy will always come first. Second I would say is creativity in design. The rest can all be learned.

Can you describe your typical day or week on the job?

Ryann Coles: I wear many hats. I work on proposals and contracts, net metering agreements between clients and the utilities, register SREC applications, work with the USDA and grant applications, marketing, to name a few.

JE: Our construction manager meets our installation crews in the morning between 8am-9am to go over the project at the site. In the office our sales coordinators are identifying possible projects around the city and reaching out to home and business owners, our design consultants are designing systems on prospected sites and drafting up proposals, and our sales guys are going out to meet home owners and business owners to moving forward with solar PV projects.

What is the most rewarding part about your job?

JN: Beyond the beneficial effects of solar energy, installing for our customers gives them a sense of pride and excitement that they pass on to others. Solar is highly contagious.

What was the most surprising thing about your job?

JN: The most surprising thing about my job is the interesting range of questions I get asked about solar. My favorite question from someone at an educational session was: “Are these panels vulture-resistant?… My wife is a wildlife rehabilitator, and through her I’ve had a fair amount of exposure to vultures. I knew enough to be able to reassure him that our solar modules (which can withstand a truck driving on them) were 100% vulture resistant.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

RC: I love my job!

This is part one of a two-part series. For part two, click here.