Green-Collar Heroes: Solar Fabrication Technicians

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Don't be fooled by the fancy title.  Solar Fabrication Technicians are essentially specialized construction workers for the rapidly growing green economy.  These are the people who build and erect the solar panels of sun farms.


istock_000003739661xxlargeIt is important to point out this is an industrial, not residential, construction job.  Being a residential Solar Fabrication Technician (usually referred to as Solar Installer-Roofers) requires a slightly different skill set.  Residential solar fabrication involves a lot of retrofitting solar power systems into existing buildings.  This most commonly involves setting up solar panels on the roof and wiring them into the building's electrical power grid.  Consequently, residential Solar Fabrication Technicians are a combination of carpenter, roofer, and electrician.  Industrial Solar Fabrication Technicians, in contrast, work more with metal, concrete, and heavy construction equipment.


Being an industrial Solar Fabrication Technician involves a slightly different set of trade skills than residential technicians.  It involves less carpentry and more metalworking.  Furthermore, on an industrial scale, construction positions are more specialized.  Industrial Solar Fabrication Technicians build and erect freestanding solar collectors and can leave the wiring to the electricians.


Solar Fabrication Technicians need to be proficient in working with metal sheeting and tubing, usually steel and copper.  You must be able to cut, bend, file, drill, rivet, weld, and paint metal, using machine shop equipment such as jigsaws and band saws, drill presses, power brakes, pneumatic drills, and rivet guns.


Requirements for Becoming a Solar Fabrication Technician


A Solar Fabrication Technician is one of the careers in the green power segment that doesn't necessarily require a college degree.  Work experience and training in construction and the trades are more that sufficient.  You'll need to complete either a vocational school program, or a trade apprenticeship program in an area such as metalworking or pipefitting.  Even if you haven't completed such a program, enough years of work experience in the trades may be enough to qualify you for a position as a Solar Fabrication Technician.


That being said, an academic degree certainly doesn't hurt.  In some sun farms, the solar panels are mobile, designed to be able to tilt and rotate to follow the sun across the sky to collect the most direct sunlight.  In such cases, Solar Fabrication Technician positions might require varying degrees of mechanical aptitude as well and trade skills. An Associate's or even Bachelor's degree in engineering or material science would certainly increase your chances of landing a Solar Fabrication Technician position at such a sun farm.  It would also help you get promoted to foreman or other supervisory positions.


If you are looking for a job in the green economy, keep in mind that a Solar Fabrication Technician job is mostly a construction position.  If you take pride in your craft, are willing and able to perform sometimes strenuous manual labor, and don't mind working outdoors in potentially very hot weather (most sun farms are located in California and the Southwestern deserts for obvious reasons), then you'd be a good fit for the Solar Fabrication Technician job.



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