Prospective Students: Build Your Solar Career

A Day in the Life of a Solar Installer

Willie Artis started as a solar installer for Strata Solar in June 2019 after working for a number of years in the construction industry. He was recruited by Aerotek on behalf of Strata and has been in the solar industry for almost 9 months. SHINE had the opportunity to speak with Willie about his experience as a solar installer. SHINE was able to gain some insight into what it’s like being an installer and what a typical day would look like:

 

Q: What is your current role at Strata Solar, how long have you been in that role, and what are your responsibilities?

 

A: I currently work as a Quality Assurance/Quality Control Technician and have been doing so for the past 3 months. I make sure the quality of the work on our projects is excellent by monitoring and examining the work being done. I mostly focus on the wiring to make sure it’s up to par and that everything is where it needs to be.

 

Q: How many solar projects have you worked on in your time as an installer?

 

A: I’m currently working on my 2nd solar project.

 

Q: What got you interested in working in the solar industry initially?

 

A: One of my friends started working as an installer and told me all about it, so I applied. I have always liked to learn new things and the idea of acquiring a new set of skills in the solar industry was very intriguing. I used to work construction and solar seemed like a good opportunity to apply my experience while also getting to learn new things.

 

Q: What were your responsibilities when you first started working for Strata?

 

A: I mostly installed the pipes in the ground for the racking of the panels and then once the rest of the racking was set up by other installers, I installed the panels. I also installed the tracking systems on the racking that helped to rotate the panels throughout the day to follow the sun.

 

Q: Could you take me through a typical day when you were working on your first project?

 

A: We would usually work 12-hour days and everyone needed to be at the job site at 6:30 or 7:00 AM, depending on the day. We would work either installing the panels or the racking and get a 10 minute break every 2 hours until lunch time when we would get an hour for lunch in the middle of the shift.

 

Q: Have you received any promotions in your time as an installer? If so, how long did it take to get those promotions?

 

A: I’ve been promoted 2 times by Strata so far. I was promoted first after working there for a month and then again about 6 months after starting. I’ve stayed in the QA/QC Technician for the past 3 or so months. If you work hard, they will notice and reward you.

 

Q: How long have you been in your current position?

A: I’ve been in the Quality Assurance/Quality Control Technician position for almost 3 months now.

Q: From your perspective, what are some pros and cons of working in the solar industry?

 

A: So the pros definitely outweigh the cons for me, but I would say the pros are:

  • The starting pay is great and increases quickly

  • The work is consistent and it feels like the industry is continuing to grow,

  • I feel like I’m doing something to help the local community as well as the greater good

  • The people are friendly and helpful

  • The work environment is accommodating and very supportive

 

The only cons I would say are in the nature of the job. It can be physically demanding with the weather conditions being hot or cold and it can be a lot of walking, especially on larger projects.

 

Q: What would you say are the biggest challenges related to being a solar installer?

A: Like I said before, it really comes down to the conditions outside. It doesn’t get too cold in Virginia, but the heat can really be exhausting when you are out there, especially because there’s not many places to escape the sun. You need to stay hydrated and be aware of heat exhaustion, but Strata does a great job of checking in to make sure we’re ok. They make our well-being their top priority.

Thank you to Willie for his time and to Strata Solar and Aerotek for continuing to support SHINE!

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