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The rise of the solar professional

According to reports, sun has always provided energy, now it is providing jobs. The country has built a base of 2,632 MW of installed solar capacity but it is only the preamble to the story. By all accounts, the ‘rooftop revolution’ is widely believed to be inevitable and when that happens, the country will face a shortage of one critical input—skilled manpower.

Perhaps nobody knows this better than Sudeep Jain, the Chairman and Managing Director of Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA), which is onto ambitious 5-year programme to install 300,000 home and 100,000 street solar lighting systems.

“We are finding it extremely difficult to get manpower to maintain,” Jain said at a press conference here today. He spoke of the “struggle” to get enough people for causing “a few thousand installations every week”.

Against this backdrop, TEDA, which is holding its annual renewable energy event, Renergy, between June 12 and 14 in Chennai, has taken care to give sufficient focus on the aspect of ‘training’ for solar energy development.

The exhibition part of Renergy 2014 will have a separate pavilion on training where, for example, a student could get a view of where and what kind of training he could get to become a solar professional.

While the idea of a B.Tech (Solar) might be far-fetched at the moment, there are lots to teach in this area. Ramakrishnan Karthik, CEO of iAcharya Silicon Ltd, a Chennai-based company that also provides solar training notes that it is crucial for the industry to have an ecosystem for solar-specific training in aspects such as feasibility studies, technical detailed project report, technology selection, design and operation and maintenance.

“Many large solar installations are underperforming because they have been badly designed,” says Karthik. He notes that people buy best of modules and inverters but fail in other areas such as ‘mounting structures’.

At a lower end, there is scope and need for training electricians, ITI students in plant assembly, operation and maintenance. Narasimhan Santhanam, Director, Energy Alternatives India, a solar consultancy, points to the fact that the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has estimated that 100,000 solar engineers would be required to meet the National Solar Mission target of 20,000 MW by 2020.

Even educational institutions have to be sensitised about the market for offering solar courses and accordingly, Renergy 2014 will provide exposure to academics as to what kind of skills they would need to provide students, says Sudeep Jain.

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