On the job with a solar technician in Alberta

Moni Kawtharani

Job Title: Solar PV Technician, Crew Lead
Company: SkyFire Energy
Education/Credentials: First Year Electrical Apprentice (SAIT)

Walk us through a day in the life of your job. What are some of your roles and responsibilities?

I work on both rooftop solar installations and commercial projects. On a given day, my responsibilities include various mechanical and electrical jobs on site. I’m responsible for loading and unloading tools and materials, communicating with supervisors, engineers, project managers and customers, assessing site hazards and writing reports, and measuring site aspects for installing flashing, racking and solar panel locations. Installing solar panels is really the last thing that you do. Everything that goes under and in between the panels takes three times as long to get the job done.

What attracted you to this work?

My background is in construction, cabinet making, carpentry and framing. Before I knew this career was a possibility, I was very passionate about sustainability and natural building. I want to be 100 per cent off-grid. I was always attracted to the idea of collecting and recycling water, growing my own food, living in a rammed-earth home and having a roof full of solar panels.

Solar is becoming a more promising industry in Alberta because of our access to sunshine. I was under the impression that I had to be an electrician in order to be a solar installer. When I understood that you could do this as an apprentice while starting your career in solar installation, I started applying for jobs. And luckily, I landed the best one.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

I’m five-foot-one. The smallest solar panel is taller than me. My personal biggest challenge is my reach. It’s a very physically demanding job and it can be hard on anybody, so I do a lot of stretching and yoga to make sure I keep my body in good shape.

What about the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Just by showing up to work, I get to help every living organism on the entire planet. It’s such a humbling, rewarding and satisfying feeling. I’ve never done anything in my career before that could even remotely compare to this feeling. It means a lot to me.

What advice would you give to someone interested in this career path?

Don’t take it lightly. It’s going to be physically challenging. Strength, fitness, agility and mental attitude are huge. If you’re not in the right headspace for this work, you will wear your body down a lot faster. This work is very tough, and it’s not for everyone. You have to respect that.

How do you see the solar industry changing in the next 10 years?

I think that in the next 10 years the industry is going to change at an incrementally faster pace than we’ve seen in the last decade. But I think it’s still too slow. We [humanity] are taking our sweet time to mentally, spiritually and emotionally advance and evolve. I believe that the solar industry in Canada is the same. We’re taking our sweet time, and I wish it wasn’t that way. I’m inspired by companies like SkyFire that realize this and are doing what they can to advance this important industry.

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