12 August 2008
So I've been studying off and on for my state of Nevada photovoltaic installer license. I knew I had to take the exam sometime before September but after all the unyielding bullshit from the first 6 months of the year trying to graduate from my apprenticeship, I was simply worn out. It's a physical and mental thing, really, being drained like this, its not sheer laziness.
As August came upon me I realised I didn't have much time. Then recently I found that its actually criminal to install or maintain a photovoltaic system without a license, and I got so nervous and freaked out I couldn't sleep. Literally. I spent hours upon hours scouring all my PV textbooks and making hundreds of flashcards: definitions, formulas, installation tips and tricks, review information...I think I actually got nearly 350 flashcards made and I was so overwhelmed I began so get pretty depressed over it. I found OSHA's number in Vegas and gave a call to schedule my exam. That was Friday, nearly 17h00, so I got the voicemail but I left a message anyway.
I spoke to Vicki yesterday and she told me I could take the exam as a walk-in. I told her I'd be in sometime in the next week, then I got the brilliant idea that if I took it, and failed, I'd be able to get a better idea of what I need to study. After making certain there wasn't a waiting time between failing a test and retaking it, I decided to go in yesterday after work.
It was explained to me that the exam took, on average, about an hour or so. I received my exam, the instructions, a pencil, and was left alone. I knew about 75% of the exam with no issue and that took me about ten minutes. The final 15 or so questions got me nervous: some I knew I had read about, some were just oddly worded, some I hadn't come across at all. I worked another 10 minutes and then buzzed the intercom, letting them know I was finished. I figured it was okay if I failed since I knew what I had to work on as far as studying went.
It was graded, and I passed. I was shocked and elated at the same time. I paid $25 for my license and waited while it was printed for me on the spot, all the while completely amazed. It was deceptively simple...which worries me, a bit: Nevada Revised Statutes don't require a licensed PV installer to be an electrician. In fact, of the 50 exam questions, only 3 were based on the National Electrical Code. A roofer could take this exam and be licensed. I swear I'm not being biased because I'm an electrician and I want that work. I just worry for all the electrical knowledge and formulas necessary to install an array correctly. Simple things like knowing a module has a potential for voltage the moment sunlight hits it, whether or not it's connected to anything else, may not occur to those in other trades. To me, it's a safety issue.
Nonetheless, I walked into the office on 2.5 today and handed my PV installer's license and my Clark County journeyman license over to be copied and faxed to the main office. Everyone was a little surprised; I hadn't told anyone I was taking the exam since honestly, I had expected to fail it. But they seemed happy for me at least, in a professional way. Now I'm just waiting for those solar jobs to begin.