This is a controversial topic in which many people feel that they should be allowed to perform their own solar panel system installations without being told that they need licensing. It is true that as a homeowner you can do whatever you like to your property because after all it is YOUR property but when it comes to what your property is connected too outside of its boundaries then this is where utility companies and building inspectors draw the line. For the most part homeowners tend to want what is known as a grid-tie solar panel system configuration and this simply means that the home will be powered by both your solar electric panels and electric utility grid provided power where the solar energy takes precedence and is used first. However, this type of configuration is what I would refer to as a give and take configuration which requires the approval of both the homeowner and their electric utility company.
During the daylight hours while your solar panels are supplying electricity to your home there may be times when the solar is generating more energy than the home needs. It is at this time when the excess energy is actually being sent back out onto the utility grid power lines through a bi-directional electric meter. This process is more commonly known as “Net Metering” and is how a home can generate and bank electric credits with their electric utility. These same credits are then used in whole or in part during the evening hours when the solar panels can no longer generate electrical power and depending on your energy usage at night could result in there being left over credits each month. These credits are then paid out either monthly, quarterly or annually at a given rate per kilo-watt hour depending on your electric utilities payment schedule.
Considering all of this it is reasonable that the electric utility company expects the solar to have been installed by a licensed electrician who has full knowledge of all electrical codes that must be met during its installation. The fact of the matter is that any grid-tie configuration immediately goes beyond the boundaries of the homeowners property when this connection is made to the grid. So not only will your utility require this work to have been performed by a licensed installer it will also require an inspection by their personnel to ensure that all safety precautions have been taken for shutting off the solar matrix. The reasoning for this is in the event that their personnel have to conduct repairs to any part of their grid that is connected to a solar power source they can de-energize it to protect their workers from potentially lethal electrical shock.
Agencies such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) take these requirements even further by requiring solar installers to receive additional training in a mentored program which maintains their certifications through continuous training requirements. Licensed electricians are also required to maintain their licenses through on going training credits and these programs are in place to ensure that safety procedures and building regulations are adhered too always. Only through using professionally licensed personnel who abide by these program requirements is the onus of responsibility placed squarely on the installer. Homeowner’s who attempt these installations without proper training and certification or licensing are in fact opening themselves up to potential problems that could mean very expensive financial ramifications. After all, if a family member needed surgery would you actually consider performing it yourself without actually being a trained and licensed surgeon?