02/10/18

  03:15:00 pm, by Sara Pavey   , 358 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting

Cinematic Solar is Bad - Run on Sun is Here to Help!

We live and work in a town full of interesting architecture. Perhaps you’ve heard of Greene & Greene? And, if you aren’t local, you may not realize that we are this close to Hollywood, which really means Burbank, and that means we are frequently hosting film crews for TV and movies.

On any given day we can expect to pass a small to large encampment of unmarked white box trucks, yellow and black signs, and the trailer of port-a-potties that look much nicer than what you see on a construction site.

This gives us ample opportunity to muse about the next award-winning masterpiece filming in our backyard. Sometimes we pass someone on the sidewalk and realize, belatedly (being not-so-good at facial recognition), that we just passed so-and-so, that actress who is in everything! Neat! And then we wonder, “is Solar being accurately represented in this project?”

Well, look no further for advice on that topic. How should you incorporate solar into your dystopian post-apocalyptic nightmare drama movie show?

  1. Point the panels toward the sun. Yes. They need sunlight. Point them south if you can.
  2. Put them where it is sunny, which means not under a tree.
  3. Put them up high, not on the ground. The higher they are, the fewer shadows they have to deal with.
  4. Don’t put them on cars. It’s bad math. Bad electromechanical bad engineering bad math. Not smart. Someone at Run on Sun has run the numbers. Trust us.

Why does it matter? Because the solar industry has grown like crazy and solar geeks are watching your shows. And we are pointing at the TV and saying “nope!”

This is not the way to feature solar!Someone at Run on Sun felt that The Walking Dead took some gross artistic liberties with distantly-spaced panels sitting on the ground in Woodbury. Too much shade, and the voltage drop would make the solar almost not worth the trouble. Also, they never seemed to be getting direct sunlight. What is happening here?

So, to that end, we are here to help. If you want us to come to your award-winning awesome amazing filming location and give you a few pointers, we are at your service. 

02/06/18

  10:51:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 474 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, CALSSA

A Rose by any other Name: CALSEIA becomes CALSSA!

CALSSA logo

Readers of this blog know that Run on Sun is a proud member of the California Solar Energy Industry Association or CALSEIA.  Headed by the incredible Bernadette Del Chiaro, and supported by a brilliant cast of characters (including Carter Lavin, Laura Gray, Kelly Knutsen, Brad Heavner, Meghan Vincent-Jones, and Josh Buswell-Charkow), CALSEIA is making a positive difference in California’s solar industry. 

But these days, just advocating for solar is not enough, as the future for solar, indeed the future for renewables, is to include energy storage into the mix.  Hence the need for the name change, as CALSEIA becomes CALSSA - the California Solar & Storage Association!

Of course, one doesn’t change the name of a forty-year old organization lightly.  Here’s how Bernadette explained the reasoning behind the name change:

Reflection of reality. The new name simply better captures the rising importance of energy storage in the marketplace and paves the way for the integration of a whole suite of new customer-facing energy products. Interestingly, over 70% of the storage systems installed in California in 2017 were installed (and in many cases manufactured) by existing members of the Association.
 
Big tent. Former Board President Rick Reed likes to remind me that this association has always taken a “big tent” approach. The solar hot water industry (the original solar energy storage device!) made room for the photovoltaic industry that, in turn, is making room for energy storage. The job of a business association is to create the environment within which all businesses can compete and thrive. And, to quote our current Board President Ed Murray, “We have been installing storage devices for decades. This new name is as much a nod to our past as it is a reflection of our bullish outlook on the future.”
 
Can’t get there from here without it. Without a rapid deployment of energy storage, along with other energy management tools, California will be unable to integrate high levels of renewable energy as well as electric vehicles onto the grid. We need to be able to deliver clean power whenever the consumer and/or the grid need it. We simply can’t let the sun set on solar.
 
The “internet of things” is revolutionizing energy. The question isn’t so much if this change happens but when and who benefits from it. Giving our consumers the tools they need to meet their energy needs while lowering costs is what we have always been about. As the most successful business people among us will point out, we don’t sell solar panels so much as we sell energy independence, savings, and clean air. Making the sun shine at night and giving our consumers that much more freedom, savings and clean energy is and has always been this Association’s purpose at its core.  

Here’s to another 40 years of success as the California Solar & Storage Association.

To which we say, Right On!

01/30/18

  04:28:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 689 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar

Solar Tariffs - What Does this Mean for You?

After months of discussion, the Trump administration imposed 30% tariffs on imported solar cells and completed solar modules (like the LG modules that we use exclusively). The news made a pretty big splash, but it has mostly left potential solar clients confused about what it really means. We are still sorting through this ourselves, but here are our preliminary thoughts.

How did we get here?

Last April, bankrupt panel manufacturer Suniva—operating out of Georgia, but actually a subsidiary of China’s Shunfeng International—filed a trade case claiming it was damaged by the “dumping” of inexpensive solar modules from China and elsewhere.  They sought trade protection in the form of tariffs to drive up the cost of competitor’s products, so that their panels would be cheap enough for people to purchase.  We wrote at length about this at the time: Suniva - the Tail Wagging the Dog

Shortly thereafter, SolarWorld—another manufacturer operating in Oregon, but German owned—joined the case.  The irony here is that some of the modules targeted by this trade case - like our LG modules - are already considerably more expensive than those made by Suniva or SolarWorld!

Moreover, solar module manufacturing tends to be highly automated, meaning there just aren’t that many jobs at issue; whereas rising prices could seriously impact solar installation jobs, which are far more numerous (and which can’t be outsourced, for that matter!). 

Despite all of that, the Administration imposed tariffs in the name of protecting American jobs.

What will this do to the cost of solar?

Which brings us to the obvious question of what will this cost consumers.  First and foremost, for our clients, if you have signed a contract with us, your cost will not change at all.  Indeed, our pricing changes on February 7, so contracts signed before then will be unaffected as well.

But we aren’t going to see a full 30% price increase on modules because prices have been mostly flat for the past six months.  That means that the normal price decreases we have grown accustomed to haven’t happened while LG, and every other manufacturer, waited to see what would happen.  In fact, it looks like our most popular module, the LG 335’s, will only increase in price by 13%.  Moreover, module costs are no longer the driving number in our solar installs, accounting for between 20 and 25% of the total system cost.  That means that a module increase of 13% translates into something like a 3-4% overall increase.  A useless waste of money to be sure - but not a game changer.

Exempt Me!

LG makes a premium product that is substantially different than the product offerings from either Suniva or SolarWorld.  For example, the LG 335’s that we have been installing lately are N-type modules, compared to the P-type modules sold by Suniva.  Beyond that, the LG 360’s that we are installing are back contact N-type modules, making them doubly more sophisticated that what the complainants offer.  These are premium products that do not directly compete with the more standard, commodity offerings that they are accused of harming.  Bottom line - people choose the LG modules that we are offering because they are a clearly superior product, albeit at a premium price.

While I’m no expert here, it is my understanding that a manufacturer can petition to be exempted from the tariffs if they can demonstrate that they do not directly compete with the complainants’ products.  LG is pressing that point, and it is possible that they will prevail in their argument and be exempted entirely from the tariff, although we won’t know that for some time.

Stay Calm - and Go Solar!

The bottom line here is that as short-sighted and ham-handed as this decision was, it will not radically change what we do and how our clients will be charged.  If you were considering going solar, there will be little economic impact to the value of going forward due to this new tariff. 

So let’s all take a breath, stay calm, and continue to do what we’ve been doing for more than a decade - helping people by putting the highest-value solar systems on their roofs, providing them with clean, affordable energy for years to come.

01/28/18

  10:07:00 am, by admin   , 180 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Pasadena Solar

Run on Sun Founder & CEO, Jim Jenal, Profiled in VoyageLA

Here at Run on Sun, we place great emphasis on being a local company - both Sara and Jim live in Pasadena, and it is not uncommon for us to run into a client at the grocery store or post office. We believe that because we are so local—and support local institutions like the great NPR station, KPCC—that it informs how we approach our work. It isn’t like we can build a project and disappear!

So we also believe in working with local publications to spread our story.  (For example, you may soon receive a copy of Neighbor2Neighbor in your mailbox, highlighting hand-picked local companies, where Run on Sun will be appearing for the second year in a row.)  We like the idea of a local company supporting other local companies!

Which makes us really pleased to highlight the recent profile of Jim in VoyageLA, an online publication that seeks to tell LA’s stories.  Under the headline,  Meet Jim Jenal of Run on Sun in Pasadena,  you can learn Jim’s backstory, and the founding of Run on Sun. Check it out!

Jim Jenal, Founder & CEO

11/21/17

  10:20:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 491 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Ranting

How NOT to Advertise for Solar

We see lots of ads for solar companies - most banal, some clever, some downright fraudulent.  Sadly, it is the last of those three that concerns us today.  Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t try to get us to sign on to their lead generation campaign, and we tell them we don’t buy leads.  Here’s why…

Consider this ad that we came across on Facebook:

Misleading solar facebook ad

There is so much wrong with this that it is hard to know where to begin.  This is a sponsored post, which means that it is an advertisement - but for whom?  They have a Facebook page, and a link to a website, but no information about who they are, or where they are located.  As of this writing they have 744 reviews, 723 are 5 star, but oddly the bulk of those came on the same day!  

But moving on, let’s check out the lede: “Attention CA Homeowners: There’s a new 2018 policy your energy provider does not want you to know!”

No, actually, there is no such “new ” policy in  2018, at least as it relates to solar.

Then the ad veers into making claims about Tesla’s (not really a product) Solar Roof, so the reader would be forgiven if they assumed that this was a Tesla/SolarCity ad - but it is not.  (And the weird picture next to a Tesla PowerWall has nothing to do with the (not really a product) Solar Roof, so why is it there, other than to get the name Tesla before the reader.)

But here’s the real tease: “First 300 Qualified Applicants Even Have FREE Install. Click to see if qualify!"  Well, who doesn’t love free?  Boy, I wonder if I can qualify?  Let’s click and see…

Do you qualify?

Okay, kinda creepy that it knows I’m in Pasadena, but I wonder what that Solar Panel Program might be?  How about this gem of mangled syntax: “California Government has categorized the Solar Energy in one of its key campaigns, and now you can reap the benefits."  What does that even mean?

In case your sense of urgency is not high enough, they’ve got this incentive:

“Solar programs are so popular that the California resident-only fund is running out of money.”

Let’s be perfectly clear - there is no such “California resident-only fund” for solar. 

Everything about this ad is misleading, and intentionally so.  What happens if you finally click to “See if you qualify?"  They harvest your contact information and sell it to solar companies who purchase scammy leads like this.  And then your phone will start ringing, from both real people and robocallers, trying to convince you to buy solar from a company whose ethics are so sketchy that they agree to do business with these folks.

If you are thinking about going solar, please avoid traps like these.  They are plenty of real, honest, local solar companies that would love to help and not rip you off.  And hey, if you are here, you’ve already found one!

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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