At Run on Sun we love March, in fact, its our favorite month. Part of that is that March means Spring and how can anyone not love Spring? But March is also the birthday month for Run on Sun Founder & CEO, Jim Jenal, and for this March we decided to give the presents to you!
For the entire month of March, we are putting Jim’s book, Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step on sale for the special price of just $6.50, more than 33% of the regular list price of $9.95. Plus, if you purchase the paperback version of Commercial Solar you can download the Kindle eBook for free! (Heck, you could buy the paperback, keep the Kindle eBook and gift someone else with the paperback—how’s that for gifting it forward?)
Plus - if you show us your copy of Jim’s book when we come to do your site evaluation, you will qualify for a special discount on your proposal price!
So don’t wait. Help us celebrate March and all that it holds by taking advantage of these special offers.
Because come April, the accountants take over again and the prices go back up!
Unemployment is a continuing problem in California but for one group of our neighbors it is stubbornly higher still. That group is our recent veterans—folks who volunteered to fight in our wars but when they muster out are finding anything but a grateful and welcoming work environment. Now the folks at The Solar Foundation and Operation Free are trying to highlight a potential bright spot for veteran employment: the solar industry.
First some background. According to a Washington Post article, as of last October the unemployment rate for post 9/11 vets stood at 10 percent whereas the overall U.S. unemployment rate was 7.2%. The Post story cites numerous factors driving those numbers, including the depressingly high number of disabled vets, but one reason that could be addressed by nothing more than concerted action is this: lack of civilian work experience. Think of it, many young vets went directly from school to service with no stops in the civilian work world. They may be long on life experiences, but still very short on job experience.
According to the joint report issued by The Solar Foundation and Operation Free titled, Veterans in Solar, those numbers are even more stark when you focus on vets under the age of 24. For that group, as of last December, a whopping 16% were unemployed. Not much of a “thank you” for your service.
The solar industry, by comparison, has been a source of hope. Out of an estimated workforce of roughly 143,000 people, the solar industry employs 13,192 veterans or 9.2% (this contrasts with vets making up just 7.6% of U.S. workers overall). These jobs are distributed throughout the industry as illustrated by this chart:
Clearly, while veterans are able to work in a wide variety of positions throughout the entire solar industry, installation provides the easiest entre to the field.
The folks at The Solar Foundation and Operation Free are committed to not only documenting the role of veterans in the solar industry, but in facilitating their involvement in ever growing numbers. One such example of their plans to aid veterans is the “creation of a skills transfer tool designed to help employers easily match skills obtained by veterans with those that are sought by leading solar companies.”
Here at Run on Sun, we like to think of ourselves as a “leading solar company,” and we would like to take part in this worthwhile effort. So here is our commitment: On every commercial project that we install going forward, we will hire one or more veterans to work side-by-side with our NABCEP certified team, thereby giving those veterans the opportunity to learn the skills needed to participate in this industry from some of solar’s best.
UPDATE - The podcast is now online so should you care to listen to Steven Bushong’s interview with me, you will find it here.
The folks at Solar Power World have a regular feature called “Contractors Corner” where they profile a solar power company and this month they chose Run on Sun!
We have been on a bit of a roll with Solar Power World of late. We were honored to have our small but mighty band featured as one of their top 250 solar companies around the country, and we were quoted at length in their piece on “How to Make Sure Your Business Survives the Solar Frontier."
Today’s honor takes things to a whole new level. The piece started with a phone interview (which will be turned into a podcast at some point) and from that, editor Steven Bushong created the article that is featured on both the Solar Power World website as well as their print magazine.
A point we particularly like is that they picked up on the importance of social media. Here’s the quote:
To stay current on the solar industry and help with marketing efforts, Run on Sun is plugged into social media much more than most other contractors.
“People who aren’t initiated often think it’s little more than photos of cats and dinners, but we have a well-developed Twitter and LinkedIn presence,” Jenal says. “The NABCEP LinkedIn group has some really smart people who are good at raising issues and answering questions.”
As an outbound marketing source, Run on Sun has amassed more than 20,000 followers on Twitter (@RunOnSun). Jenal says when the company releases blog posts or announcements on social media, the impact is immediate on the company website or blog.
“It’s a way to get our information out there so people can see it,” he says. “That indirectly contributes to leads coming through the door or website.”
Indeed it does - and it contributes to becoming more broadly known in the industry, as Solar Power World has demonstrated. We greatly appreciate the honor.
“Still don’t know what I was waiting for…”
Well, actually I do.
You see, it is a very daunting undertaking to redo a website that you have grown oh, so, comfortable with over the years (yes, years). When some of our strongest supporters started making veiled hints like, “Good grief, when are you going to revise your ugly old website,” well, you might start to think that maybe there was a problem. But change is hard. And the old website, it was like family.
But a few months ago we reconciled ourselves to a harsh reality—it was time to make a change, and not a minor facelift but a total redesign, starting from a clean sheet of paper.
Then something fascinating happened. As we started planning for the new website, we really got excited about the possibilities. A cleaner look and cleaner code. A modern look and modern functionality. This was not going to be just a “lipstick and rouge” job; this was about taking it down to the foundation, redoing the plumbing and electrical, and re-building to LEED Platinum.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at some before and after images, shall we? (Or you can cut to the chase and do your own exploring as the new website is now live.)
Here is the venerable old home page, RIP.
The dominant thing on the page is our logo, which is good for telling you who we are, but you probably knew that since you chose to come here.
There are three columns, a very popular design choice when made years ago, but by contemporary standards, it divides your attention and makes the page look cluttered, constrained and busy.
There are also two different locations for navigation, “important” at the top and less so on the left column.
Now here is the new home page.
The first thing you notice is that we are using the space quite differently. Gone are the three columns, replaced with a more open, single-column layout.
The logo has been trimmed down and the navigation is streamlined. There are five main pages to access from the nav bar (the home page can be returned to by clicking on the logo) and below that are in-page links to help visitors find what is of greatest interest to them on any given page.
Beyond that, however, are the much bigger main images that are found on all six of the major pages. Unlike many sites that have images cycling in a never-ending carousel, we eschewed that after reading research that such devices were conversion killers. Instead, we settled for a single image on all pages except the home page, which is treated differently. It gets four different openings, served at random. That gives me the ability to see what strikes the fancy of our visitors and tweak things accordingly. The font is larger and in a new, embedded typeface with the dominant color a rich green.
The code is HTML5/CSS3 and all of it validates against W3C. We have pulled out lots of clutter and used jQuery throughout, hopefully to good effect. We have also introduced D3 to the site which has allowed us to do some fun things which you will discover as you explore the site.
This is the old sign-up form—every web-based lead that we ever got required someone to fill out this form. There were lots of fields, divided into two sections (required and optional) and while it would have been nice to have all of that data, no one ever filled it all out—and the research suggests that the more fields you have, the fewer people will bother to fill out the form at all.
The form also has a somewhat inelegant “click to send” button and limited intelligence in preventing spammers from submitting the form with garbage data. (Odd thing that; it isn’t as if it did them any good to submit a form full of junk as no one ever saw it but me. Still, dealing with spammers is a pain…)
Here’s the new form.
Actually, this form is part of the Residential solar page—there is another one on the Commercial page and a generic one accessible from every other page.
If you enter your zip code at the top of the page, it takes you directly to this form and it looks up your zip, figures out if your zip is in our service area, and if so, populates the form with your city and puts the name of the utility in the heading.
Over on the left is a widget that lets you adjust a slider up and down to select you monthly electric bill (and get a topical message in return).
Finally, at the bottom we’ve added links to secondary pages on the site, along with a variety of social media related links and our copyright notice.
I could go on, but I would much rather you “turn to face the strain,” go exploring and see what you think. And of course, I would love to hear your reactions in the comments. But be kind… this is family now!
SCE has two rate structures commonly used by commercial customers: GS-1 and GS-2. As part of our new website roll-out, we have been exploring the use of interactive data visualizations and we decided to create one to explore the impact of demand charges under SCE’s commercial rates.
Here’s some background. SCE’s smallest commercial customers, those whose peak power demand is 20 kW or less, are assigned to the GS-1 rate. This is a rate structure very similar to what one has at home - charges are based on the total amount of energy used in a month (as measured in kWh). Moreover, this is a flat rate structure - every kWh costs the same, and does not account for when it is consumed. (NB: this is changing; over the next year SCE’s commercial customers will be moved to a time-of-use rate structure, but for now, most are not. We will have more to say about SCE’s commercial time-of-use rates later.)
The GS-2 rate structure, on the other hand, includes all commercial customers with peak power demand between 20 and 200 kW - a very large segment of the commercial customer base. For them, an additional rate component is introduced - peak power charges, better known as demand charges. While GS-2 customers pay significantly less per kWh of usage, they more than make up for it in demand charges. Indeed, during the summer months, GS-2 customers pay for demand charges twice!
The net effect of all this is that GS-2 customers generally pay significantly higher bills than they would if their rate was based on usage alone. To explore that, we created this visualization. Derived from the actual rate tariffs (which are linked to on the site), this allows you to compare what your annual bill differential would be against a variety of scenarios. Since most commercial customers have a peak demand significantly higher than their average, that is the first “knob” to adjust - as average demand becomes a smaller percentage of peak, the differential increases.
To try this for yourself, click on the image above to go to the visualization page.
We would love to hear your thoughts about this tool, as well as SCE’s commercial rates. Please let us know what you think in the comments.
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