Why we educate and certify:
Energy comes at a very high price, and it is measured in ways that go beyond simple finances. It has become a political, ecological, and ethical issue that can finally be resolved by individuals in their own homes and businesses. Installing a solar thermal system is the most effective way someone can change how they cope with the prices that they pay for energy. As a result, an entirely new market has been born. One that currently has little to no standards, requirements, or rules. Seemingly anyone can be hired to install these systems. Considering the massive potential energy that these advanced systems can produce, as well as the dangers associated with working on roofs, or in commercial and industrial spaces, this isn't a career for just anyone. Many of the associated skills that are required to be considered a safe and competent solar thermal expert require years of work in associated fields. Unfortunately, as this expanded industry is still in it's infancy, it is almost impossible for home and business owners to know if the people that they have hired are trade professionals that understand solar thermal technologies or not. That is where ISTI Education and Certification comes in.
Fields of Study
The renewable energy sector is a new and exciting place to work, it is also a confusing and potentially dangerous place to work as well. If one were to investigate this field they would find that there are basically two disciplines of alternative energy generation technology: Power and heat.
Power generation technologies focus on the type of equipment that is used to generate electricity, mainly photovoltaics and wind. Both of which have proven to be potentially expensive, and in some cases unfeasible in certain locations. While there is a tremendous amount of growth in the PV and wind job sectors, experience has shown that the market for these products is relatively small due to the increased costs, poor performance efficiencies, and potentially extensive payback timeframes.
Heat generation technologies focus on the type of equipment that is used to generate heat. This heat is then used to raise the temperature of our domestic hot water, pools and spas, and in some cases even our homes. Examples of this type of technology are: solar thermal, geothermal, and air to air, or air to water heat pumps.
While geothermal and heat pump technology is viable in some locations, it is still considered to be prohibitive by many due to cost and site viability. Once installed, many people discover that the operational and service costs associated with these technologies may be more expensive than the energy saved.
Solar thermal technology is extremely viable, and is universally considered by renewable energy experts to be the most practical of all of the alternative energy supplies. PV and wind power generation have long paybacks. Geothermal and heat pumps use large amounts of electricity. Solar thermal can be exceedingly cost effective, as it has little operational costs, provides a demanded resource, and the energy supply is in essence "free."
Solar thermal technology provides immediate consumer protection from fluctuating fossil fuel prices and availability. It is also capable of reclaiming local carbon emission output and reduces the owner's "carbon footprint". Newer technologies and methodologies are making solar thermal viable in northern climatic regions, broadening the scope and viability of the technology and the trade.
As more and more consumers become aware of solar thermal technology, demand for it's use will increase, and we will be faced with a new problem. That problem is inadequate education in the sales, design, installation, inspection, and service of these cutting edge, but soon to be the norm, systems. We don't just need installers, we need competent builders, architects, engineers, and code enforcement officials.
We need a solar thermal workforce!
The systems today can no longer be compared to those of the past. They are bigger, more efficient, and have the potential to be extremely dangerous. If incorrectly designed or installed, just like their fossil fueled counterparts, they have the potential to literally become lethal. As demand for products increase, so will the demand for a competent workforce. Many states and municipalities have attempted to offer installer education and certification, or have decided to default to other existing installer certifications.
Unfortunately, neither of these solutions are the right answer. Municipalities will find it near impossible to develop relevant education and training, and other certifications refuse to personally offer the materials required for the education that is needed to pass their tests. The sad result is that many unqualified people are entering the solar thermal workforce, and have endangered the public as a result.
ISTI Education and Certification works to overcome these issues by:
-only offering it's certification to qualified licensed members of associated trades within each state.
The general public may attend our classes, but they will not be able to obtain certification without an associated trade license. If trade licensure does not exist in that state, then ISTI will default to requirements that an applicant must have been practicing the associated trade as an insured primary business for a consecutive period of 4 years, and that they adhere to all local codes and laws.
-providing more than just a test.
ISTI utilizes the most advanced training methodologies available today to deliver a locally taught, regionally based, advanced solar thermal educational course. This is then followed by a proctored exam and certification. Other third party certifications only provide a test and a list of required study topics. This can not in any way prepare a tradesperson or code enforcement officer for the industry, as they are then forced to seek training and education from a list of unrelated training providers. The course materials are in no way coordinated from one provider to the other, and is is virtually impossible to offer an assurance that the required material is being taught in an unbiased way. This is not the case with IST Education and Certification. ISTI delivers everything from the syllabus and the materials to teach it, all the way out to follow-up re-certification notices two years later. This is all done in a manner that assures that it is non-branded and unbiased toward a particular technology or product. If someone is interested in obtaining other types of solar thermal installer certifications, an ISTI Education and Certification is the best way to prepare them for the test, as we do it in the most advanced, unbiased, and complete method possible.
-customizing the training and test requirements for each state.
ISTI works with the local governments and licensure boards to ensure that the proper people are being trained and certified. We help write legislation. We help utilities and governments develop rebate programs. We collaborate local laws, rules, and issues into each course. We go beyond contractor certification, as we include architects, engineers, and code enforcement officials. ISTI's goal is to provide a uniformly educated and certified professional solar thermal workforce that maintains the health and safety of the general public, while reducing the costs associated with burning fossil fuels, for every state in the nation.
Only ISTI's Education and Certification services can provide all levels of the public with an assurance that solar thermal system designers, installers, and inspectors have been carefully instructed with the latest in equipment competency, code requirements, and best practices. It alone assures state and federal level entities that everyone involved is well informed, and that the technology is being installed by someone who is aware of how to do it in a safe and reliable manner. ISTI is the only recognized solar thermal certification that can provide an assurance that the person holding it is a member in good standing of an associated trade. When you see a service truck or office window decal, or a service tech's arm patch featuring the ISTI certified logo, you can rest assured you are dealing with the best.
Supporters of ISTI Education and Certification include:
Contractors support ISTI Education and Certification because they recognize the need for training and differentiation in this emerging field. It seems that anyone with a truck and some wrenches is eligible to install a solar thermal system, which in this day and age is dangerous. These newer technology systems can hurt, or even kill people if they aren't installed correctly. ISTI certifications are only awarded to people who hold existing trade licenses. This means that only by hiring an ISTI Certified contractor can a consumer be assured that they are dealing with the right people.
-Manufacturers and Distributors
The last solar boom produced a lot of fly-by-night manufacturing companies that were looking for overnight success. All of them failed. An incompetent and unknowledgeable sales, design, installation, and service workforce was one of the key reasons for the industry collapse. Modern solar thermal manufactures and distributors support ISTI Education and Certification because they know that the work force that they rely on to sell and install their products will have a solid understanding of the industry and how to succeed in it. The end result will be that these companies not only will survive, but will also witness higher profits and greater market share as warranty claims and in-house technical support requirements decrease.
-Educators and Trainers
Everyone is looking to teach or certify solar thermal technology, unfortunately the majority of the existing curriculum information available is irrelevant. It is either too old, or may not be appropriate for the local climate. Even if a curriculum is settled upon and developed, many don't really know how to deliver the material, let alone answer the complex questions that may be presented to an instructor in class. ISTI is a recognized leader in overcoming all of these market barriers. Not only does ISTI provide the latest in advanced curriculum delivery, it does so with instantaneous support during training. By utilizing live web based video conferencing during the course delivery, it is just like having an ISTI solar thermal expert in the room.
We stream continuously updated curriculum presentations directly to the classroom from our secure servers. From there, the ISTI trained course instructor stands before the class and presents the information provided at whatever speed and depth the class requires. We encourage questions to be asked, and invite class room discussion. If a question arises that is beyond the scope of the instructor, a live ISTI teacher's aid (that's right, a human industry expert) will appear live on the presentation screen via web conferencing technology. We can take over and provide greater in depth answers, including if needed, live white board illustrations. All done in real time, right there in the classroom. Try getting that from a static presentation or textbook.
-Utilities and Government entities
Rebates, refunds, and tax credits for solar thermal installations are available from various local, state, and federal utilities and government entities. Nobody likes to see good money spent needlessly or carelessly, and that is exactly what an improper solar thermal installation does. Only by specifying and utilizing the ISTI Educated and Certified workforce can utilities and governments ensure that the rate and taxpayer dollar has been invested wisely, and is sure to show a return on investment.
The world we live in can be a scary place for a home or business owner. Fuel availability and prices will continue to fluctuate, causing unnecessary stress to finances and resources. Only by hiring ISTI Educated and Certified designers and installers can home and business owners know that their hard earned money has been spent wisely. ISTI Education and Certification provides an assurance that the people that you have hired to work on your project have been trained and tested with the most up to date information available.