Northbrook, Ill.-based Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recently introduced a a new program to train and certify installers of photovoltaic (PV) products and systems. The program, available beginning July 2010 through UL University (ULU), represents the first of many the organization will provide for practitioners across a wide range of industries and professions.

The PV System Installer certification program was created to meet and exceed existing industry requirements through a working cooperation with leading PV industry stakeholders, NGOs and professional associations. The new offering from ULU, geared toward licensed electricians, aims to satisfy a need to improve the safety and performance of PV systems through a more qualified workforce. With solar power expected to generate 10% of the world’s total electricity by 2035, the safety of installed systems will become even more important.

"ULU will offer hands-on training that will be closely aligned with the knowledge and skills required for practitioners to perform safely and effectively," says Patrick Boyle, president of ULU. "By increasing the number of qualified installers, UL is augmenting its 116-year-old commitment to public safety and helping the PV industry position itself to keep up with burgeoning demand and safely provide clean-energy solutions to the public."

Worldwide in 2009, PV installations reached a record high 7.3GW, representing growth of 20% over the previous year. To help sustain this growth, industry personnel can be trained to meet a comprehensive standard that outlines proper guidelines for everything from PV systems installation to the safe manufacture of the product itself. ULU's new PV installer program will increase the competence of personnel across the board and allow UL to engage its safety arm starting with equipment and extend it through to the actual installation, performance and safety of the end-user.

In mid-summer 2010, ULU will unveil a new, full-service facility to support its venture into personnel certification. Located at UL's RTP laboratories in Raleigh, N.C., the campus will offer training and personnel certification programs in categories like general laboratory technology, PV testing, food safety, National Electric Code, electric vehicles, and fire safety.