A little over three years ago (my how time flies), we installed a 52kW solar project at the Westridge School for Girls, here in Pasadena. At the time, the project got a fair amount of attention (including an award from the City), was featured in a video (watch it here), and was the lead story in Enphase Energy’s Summer 2012 Newsletter.
Three years down the road, the folks at Enphase decided to circle back and check-in to see how the Westridge project had performed over the years - both in terms of saving money for the school, as well as being incorporated into the curriculum (another key goal of the project).
The article, titled — Solar on the Roof, Power in the Classroom — details how the Westridge Solar system has outperformed the modeled performance, producing 105% of the expected yield. That overproduction actually benefits the school twice: most obviously by lowering the bills that much more, but secondarily, by providing a larger than expected performance-based rebate payment.
Beyond that, however, the system has also proved to be an effective teaching tool, allowing Westridge students to analyze the copious amounts of data provided by the Enphase microinverters through the Enlighten, cloud-based data reporting service. One science class, for example, was able to discover how analyzing that data could detect the occurrence of a partial solar eclipse.
We are very proud of our partnership with Westridge and we look forward to doing another project with them in the near future.
Likewise, we are grateful for partners like Enphase Energy who are as committed to producing long term solutions as we are. That is one powerful pairing!
We don’t often announce our latest projects, but one this week really stands out, and that is our upcoming project for Chandler School here in Pasadena. (Indeed, it is just down the street from where I once lived!) The 44.8 kW system will be installed this summer, in time for the 2015-16 school year.
Chandler is a special place that puts great emphasis on challenging its students. As they note in their Mission Statement:
Chandler students gain a love of learning, a means of thinking independently and an ability to work collaboratively. A Chandler education seeks to develop good character, self-reliance and a commitment to community in students as a foundation for academic and personal success.
It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that we at Run on Sun have a soft spot for non-profits, and we take great pride in working with schools and churches to expand their mission while making the world a greener, cleaner place. We understand the process involved, with its many twists and turns, and we have found that our collaborative, information-intensive brand of “selling” solar meshes well with the non-profit world.
In the case of Chandler School, the process actually moved quite quickly - spurred on, at least in part, by the rebate step down announced by Pasadena Water and Power for May 1. Once the decision was made, the design team at Run on Sun was able to move quickly and get the rebate application completed and filed in time to meet the deadline.
As noted by John Finch, Chandler’s Head of School:
As an independent school in Pasadena we have a public purpose to make our environment cleaner by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and limiting our carbon footprint.
If we want our students to be stewards of the environment in the future, schools need to be examples of best practices. The installation of solar panels on our gym roof is a best practice. I am looking forward to the learning opportunities that the project will give to our students.
We are excited to be working with this renowned Pasadena institution, and we look forward to providing the Chandler community with a wonderful asset that will both save money, and enhance the educational experience of its 450 students.
We’ve seen and written about the backlash against solar from utilities, fossil fuel interests and their allies for sometime now, but the brilliant Chris Hayes had a great segment about this on his show the other night (H/T ClimateCrocks.com). In case you missed it, here’s his piece:
There’s lots to like in this story, but one thing we really like is his guest, Nikki Silvestri from Green for All, who explains how adding solar to a neighborhood church or school really allows the technology to come home to people and educate them about the benefits of renewable energy in general, and solar in particular.
But it is precisely that educated familiarlity that has the reactionary forces so upset. While Solar Power Syndrome might be tongue-in-cheek ("ever since that solar installation went up, everything around here has been dimmer - those dang solar panels are sucking up all of the sunlight!"), the concerted attacks from ALEC and the other Conservative heavyweights [that] have [the] solar industry in their sights is painfully, and dangerously real.
In the “How cool is this?” department we have learned that the White House is seeking nominations for their Champions of Change program, but this time specifically related to Solar Deployment! Here are the details…
According to the White House website:
The White House Champions of Change program regularly highlights ordinary Americans from across the country who are doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. To celebrate the breadth of individuals who are taking action on solar deployment, we will honor “Champions of Change” to lift up entrepreneurs, innovators, legislators, affordable housing owners, community leaders, and others who are accelerating deployment.
We are asking you to help us identify standout local leaders and businesses by nominating a Champion of Change for Deployment of Solar in the Residential, Commercial, and Industrial Sectors by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 4. These champions can include:
- Community leaders working to bolster solar adoption; including participants in DOE’s “Rooftop Solar Challenge,” through which 22 teams are working to advance deployment;
- Business leaders promoting solar procurement (building supply chains and smaller organizations that provide information about the benefits of solar);
- Companies and non-profits training veterans for solar jobs;
- Multifamily housing owners, home builders/associations and organizers promoting onsite solar generation on our rooftops, and organizations providing innovative financing mechanisms to developers and homeowners;
- Utility leaders seizing solar energy’s potential by supporting and facilitating solar deployment, including through community solar; and
- Organizations working to help consumers navigate the regulations and paperwork necessary to install solar in their communities.
Click on the link below to submit your nomination (be sure to choose ‘Solar Deployment’ in the “Theme of Service” field of the nomination form).
This is a great opportunity to help give some well deserved recognition to your favorite hero in the effort to build a clean, sustainable future. You can submit more than one nomination, but the deadline is this Friday at 5 p.m. (and that’s Eastern time, so 2 p.m. here on the left coast). So don’t hesitate, get those nominations in now!
When Governor Brown signed AB327 last October, one thing was clear: net metering as we presently know it was going to go away, we just didn’t know how soon. Now, thanks to a ruling yesterday by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), we know: 20 years. Here’s the scoop.
Around the country, utilities have been pushing hard against net metering—the tariff under which solar customers receive credit for surplus energy production (say during the day when no one is home or on a weekend when a commercial facility is dormant) that offsets energy consumed from the grid (for example, at night). The solar customer’s bill reflects the “netting out” of those two quantities (total energy exported versus total energy imported from the grid) and the customer only pays for the difference. If the solar customer is a net energy producer (quite rare), the utility has to cut the customer a check for the surplus. (Unless you are an LADWP customer, sorry.) Last year’s bill sought to end the squabbling and provide certainty to solar customers.
Under the law, the CPUC is required to devise a replacement for the current net metering arrangement, but yesterday’s ruling does not disclose what that will be. Instead, the ruling establishes a sundown provision for customers who are either currently, or will become net metering customers under the current rules before July 1, 2017 (at which time the present net metering rules will be closed to new participants).
Solar system owners will be entitled to operate their systems under the net metering rules for a full 20 years from the year in which they interconnect their system. That, decided the CPUC, will provide sufficient time for solar customers to recoup their investment. However, solar customers can transition to the new rules, whatever those may turn out to be, sooner at the customer’s election. The year of interconnection is determined by the date on the Permission to Operate letter received from the utility, and the twenty-year term ends on the last day of the twentieth year.
What happens to systems that are modified after July 1, 2017? Does the new portion of the system get its own 20-year net metering extension or is it simply subsumed into the term for the original system? The CPUC split this into two possible scenarios: repairs or modifications that did not increase system capacity by more than 10% of the original design will operate under the original 20-year term, neither resetting or ending it. But system changes beyond the 10% limit will either have to be metered separately, or the entire system will have to be transitioned to the new tariff structure.
The next question to be resolved was what happens if the system is sold or relocated? After all, many solar customers purchase systems expecting it to increase the value of their home—but if the sale eliminates the net metering agreement, that added value could be lost. The utilities, of course, disdained any such concerns, arguing that the net metering term should be tied to the original owner only.
Fortunately, the CPUC sided again with solar system owners. Thus, systems will remain under net metering for the full twenty-year term, regardless of changes in ownership, as long as the system remains at the original location. However, if the system is physically moved to a new location, the CPUC deems that to be a new interconnection and the old net metering agreement would no longer apply.
The decision yesterday also took an important step in addressing the impact of adding energy storage systems to an existing solar system operating under the twenty-year net metering rule. The CPUC ruled that “to the extent that energy storage systems are considered an addition or enhancement to a renewable electrical generation facility utilizing a NEM tariff, we find that they should be treated in the same way, and subject to the same transition period, as the underlying renewable generation system to which they are connected.”
The July 1, 2017 deadline is an absolute cutoff, but the actual end of new net metering agreements can actually be reached sooner if the utility in question has reached its “net metering cap.” The CPUC previously set the cap at 5% of the utility’s “non-coincident aggregate peak load.” To allow perspective solar customers to know if their utility is going to hit that peak before the July 1, 2017 deadline, the CPUC ordered the three IOUs to report to the Commission (and on the utility’s website), on a monthly basis, their progress toward that cap.
Finally, the ruling addressed whether solar installers should be required to provide prospective clients with disclosures about the ruling, specifically as to the duration and limitations on existing net metering agreements. According to the decision, IREC and SEIA opposed such a requirement on the grounds that it exceeds the authority of the CPUC. As a legal matter, that may well be true, but SEIA’s position strikes a sour note. Frankly, the solar industry is in serious need of mandated, standardized disclosures on everything from system components, warranties, energy yield, true costs, etc., to say nothing of issues surrounding the changes to net metering. SEIA should be producing model documents for its member installer companies to use and drafting model legislation to mandate their use.
In any event, the CPUC punted the requirement issue for installers, saying:
Solar installers have a legal [citing Business & Professions Code § 17500] and ethical responsibility to disclose to their customers the terms that will apply to renewable distributed generation systems for the foreseeable future, including the applicable tariffs as well as the timing and terms for transition to a successor tariff. Such disclosures provide customers with the information that they need to make educated decisions about their future electric service. Because of this, we expect solar installers to provide honest and complete disclosures on the NEM transition, and we encourage customers to report to the appropriate authorities any misleading or fraudulent information that may be provided to them. At the same time, we require the large IOUs to post information on the NEM transition clearly on their Web sites along with other information about NEM terms, eligibility, and progress towards the statutorily mandated transition trigger level.
Of course B&P section 17500 is entirely generic and provides no guidance as to what disclosures solar companies should provide to their potential clients. Clearly this is an area that requires legislation and California, as the most mature solar market in the country, should be leading the way here.
As for Run on Sun, we will revise our Return on Investment materials to reflect a 20-year window instead of the 25-year model we have used previously. Hopefully that will provide clients with a more accurate estimate of their true ROI.