Certification program aims to boost safety for electricians working on solar projects

CSA, NETCO unveil new program for construction electricians installing solar photovoltaic equipment

A new national certification program for construction electricians installing photovoltaic equipment has been unveiled by CSA Standards and the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO), the joint training arm of the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Stephen Brown, director, energy at CSA Standards said the new program is designed to help improve public safety and the environment.

“The program will be well-balanced to address the needs of workers, industry, regulators and the general public,” said Brown.

The program, directed at journeyperson construction electricians, aims to help ensure the safe and effective installation of solar equipment and to help reduce the risk of serious accident and injury and also to help promote energy efficiency and increased public confidence in photovoltaic (PV) installations. The personnel certification program is fully funded by NETCO on behalf of the electrical industry. They claim it is the first program in Canada to offer a certification based on the tasks that qualified journeyperson construction electricians carry out in applying their skills to the installation of solar equipment. A journeyperson is a qualified and skilled person in a trade, and is allowed to train and act as a mentor to a registered apprentice.

"The credibility of NETCO's overall National Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Strategy is enhanced by the fact that we engaged CSA Standards from the outset," said Eryl Roberts, CECA Executive Secretary and NETCO Treasurer. "This is a Made-in-Canada personnel certification program informed by the Canadian Electrical Code and the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. It is based on NETCO's assertion that solar installations should be performed by qualified electricians working for licensed contractors under electrical permits."

CSA Standards' photovoltaic personnel certification program will certify an individual's knowledge within the PV area, by conducting an assessment against objectively identified criteria and then provide formal recognition. CSA Standards' PV program will examine an individual's measurable knowledge and skill, rather than qualification based programs that consider an individual's education and general credentials.

"Through this new program, construction electricians will require only an additional 16 to 24 hours of training to safely and effectively install PV technology in its various applications," said Phil Flemming, IBEW international vice-president and NETCO president. "We are confident that training providers will see the value of CSA Standards' personnel certification program and will align their curriculum in this area with CSA to best foster success."

In 2008, world solar photovoltaic market installations recorded revenues of $37.1 billion and reached a record high of 5.95 gigawatts. Photovoltaic prices have declined an average of four per cent annually over the past 15 years.

The development of the personnel certification program for Construction Electricians-Solar PV Systems Certified is expected to be completed by the summer of 2011. CSA's approach adheres to the ISO 17024 international standard for certifying bodies and has a wide portfolio of standards related to sustainability, while also offering personnel certification for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Verifiers, and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory Quantifiers. Additionally, CSA Group significantly increased capacity to test solar photovoltaic modules to North American and international standards through new state-of-the-art solar PV module testing laboratories in Vancouver B.C. and its newest joint facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both offer the industry access to cutting-edge solar photovoltaic testing, research and development capabilities.

To learn more about CSA's personnel certification programs, visit: www.csa-america.org/personnel_certification/

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