My job involves managing the site and doing physical installations of racking systems, panels and wiring.
We do small-scale systems for off-grid customers who use solar arrays or wind installations with battery backup for wintertime use. We also do solar hot-water heating and large-scale solar installations that are grid-tied so the customer sells energy back to the grid.
I have a bachelor of commerce from McMaster University and did a certificate program in arboriculture. Later, when I travelled in South America, I saw a bit of green building on a farm where I worked. At home, that stuck in my mind, so I found Fleming's sustainable building design and construction program.
General construction knowledge is probably the best way school prepared me. We do a lot of roof penetrations, and we have to understand the way buildings work when we start cutting into them, doing wiring and securing structures to the ground.
I think my employer sought out a graduate of the program because it's well rounded, though it's not necessarily the best preparation for the electrical side of what I do, which I learned mainly on site from my employer.
Inclement weather is the worst part of my job. It's hard to be patient and communicate effectively when everyone is uncomfortable.
In the Fleming program, 20 of us from varying backgrounds worked together, so we ran into a lot of personalities. You have to get along with the people you're working with. The program gave us two weeks of studying theory related to the building as a system and design basics and then sent us to a site to complete a building from start to finish for a client.
You have to be reasonably physically fit to be a renewable energy installer. You can't have a fear of heights and need the ability to work hard and communicate, as well as hands-on skills. A construction background certainly helps.