The shortage of qualified installers triggers the wait to place solar panels

The 'boom' of self-consumption of photovoltaic energy, like any other, has caught off guard an offer that now sees as not enough. The skyrocketing price of energy has been the main cause of the excessive demand to place solar panels both in private homes and, now, in neighborhood communities, and to which the different municipal, regional, state and European aid have also contributed to these facilities. This has caused the templates of qualified installers of the companies to be overwhelmed by such interest on the part of the public and, if we add to this that many of the necessary materials are taking time to arrive, due to scenarios such as the war in Ukraine, The result is that consumers have to wait up to two, three and four months to have solar panels on their roofs, when before it was solved in a matter of a week.

Just look at the numbers to realize the magnitude of the issue. Until August 31 of this year, 3,190 new photovoltaic installations were installed in the province of Tarragona, almost twice as many as all those installed during the entire past year, 1,784, and far from the 504 of 2020. From 2013 to In 2018, only 30 solar panel installations were placed in the demarcation.

Josep Miró, president of the Gremi d'Instal·ladors del Tarragonès and the Federation of Gremis d'Instal·ladors of the Province of Tarragona (FIPTA), recalls that when the guild began to introduce photovoltaic installations for self-consumption there was demand, “but it was not exaggerated”, and he links the current 'boom' directly to the increase in the price of energy. In this sense, he regrets that companies cannot cope for two reasons. One of them is the lack of electronic components, mainly the inverters, which are the heart of the photovoltaic installation, since they are responsible for converting the energy generated by the solar panels into energy that can be used. And on the other hand, he points out the lack of qualified installers, "because these are not simple installations that anyone can do, you have to be prepared and trained."

At the same time, Miró denounced the slowness of the administrations when issuing permits: «The bureaucracy is very slow, it takes a long time to process and obtain permits, the administration is collapsed. In these, small companies, with four or five workers, are forced to hire another person to handle these administrative issues and cease to be competitive, seeing how large corporations now join the business, making large stockpiles of materials, and leaving the little ones in a corner.

However, the representative of the Tarragona installers, who points out that they have to repeat editions of the photovoltaic courses organized by the Gremi because the companies require qualified professionals, calculates that between the lack of material and operators the waiting of the clients can currently reach 120 days. "If you have to wait between four and eight weeks for the investors and the material to arrive, and you have seven or eight works pending, you go to two, three or four months of waiting," he concludes.

Two months, and with a large template

One of the many companies whose work has multiplied in recent months is Sun Systems Group, whose head of the Àrea d'Autoconsum in the Catalonia delegation, Òscar Aduà, points out that "we now have a waiting list eight weeks away, and because we have a large workforce, otherwise it would take more time ». Aduà works at the company's branch in Tarragona, and remembers that before the demand was triggered «our response was immediate, in the same week that we closed the agreement we already installed the plates. We took the days it took for the materials to arrive, which were very few.

Aduà recalls that the 'boom' for solar panels has occurred for various reasons. «Overnight they repealed the tax on the sun, photovoltaic energy was put on everyone's lips, being an already known technology, it was nothing new, and it has caught us all at once, everyone wants it and for tomorrow» , says the head of the company. And the current demand has run into an offer tailored to the previous one, which has translated, on the one hand, into the few human resources necessary to face it. "It costs us sweat and tears to find qualified professionals, because many young people who leave school have no experience and those who have spent years, on many occasions, are going to work on their own," laments Aduà. There are currently 35 workers on the staff, most of them installers, and he explains that they are constantly incorporating operators who, although they do not have experience in the sector, are teaching and training the rest of the company's professionals.

The Installers Guild is forced to repeat photovoltaic courses due to the high interest

On the other hand, Aduà, who estimates that right now they have around 100 pending installations, says that the lack of materials has also extended the waiting time to place panels. “Many manufacturers have caught their fingers. There has been the microchip crisis, a shortage of raw materials, factories that have had to stop their activity and have stopped supplying, etc.» points out Aduà, who recalls that "at the beginning we had problems with stocking but today we have already solved it, we have been raffling it and we even have courtesy inverters that we leave to customers while they wait for the final component to arrive".

All in all, the person in charge of the Àrea d'Autoconsum of Sun Systems Group affirms that currently there is no other better product in which to invest than photovoltaic energy: "Right now it has many advantages, because while it's sunny you don't consume energy from the electricity company" . And he insists: «There is a lot of aid, in Tarragona they are giving a bonus of 50% of the IBI for five years, for example, among other regional and state subsidies. In addition, the investment ranges between 5,000 and 8,000 euros, and in three and a half or four years it is amortized ».

Another of the companies in the sector that has seen how its work has multiplied in recent months is Solargest Renovables, located in Reus. Its manager, Gerard Pagès, exemplifies it with the number of workers: "A couple of years ago we were 10 or 12 on staff, and currently we are around 50." That does not mean that they also suffer from the problem of a lack of qualified personnel: "For the volume of work that we have today, we would need about 15 or 20 more operators," he acknowledges.

The slowness to receive permits also increases the wait for the installation of panels

On the other hand, he regrets that for various reasons the suppliers take a long time to send materials such as the plates themselves, but also batteries, although he highlights that the installation can be done and that it starts working without the latter, "although you will not be able to accumulate surpluses". Likewise, on the question of the lack of qualified personnel, he points out that "these are installations on roofs, at a great height, and therefore not just any worker can do it". For all these reasons, Pagès assures that the waiting time in his case has multiplied by three: «Before we closed the operations in less than a week, and now it takes three, especially because we have stockpiled a lot of material. And we try to expand the staff of operators little by little to make an outlet for all the work we have. The head of Solargest Renovables says that they currently have four teams doing industrial installations and eight doing residential installations, most of them in the province of Tarragona, but also some in Barcelona.

To all this, it must be taken into account that the Generalitat cannot cope with the avalanche of requests to benefit from the aid to install solar panels. Currently they have 40,000 requests still to be resolved and those who make them now will not receive the money until 2023, if they end up receiving it, because it will be necessary to see if the budget is extended with more money or not.

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