Category: Ranting

06/25/17

  07:19:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 403 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Utilities, Ranting

Solar Boom Devolves to Power "Glut"

The LA Times today is out with an article titled, “Energy goes to waste as state power glut grows“.  The article describes how as solar power has grown dramatically in the Golden State, it has lead to a problem that has caused the state to actually pay neighboring Arizona to take our surplus energy!  Meanwhile the IOUs are badgering the CPUC to allow them to spend billions on additional natural-gas-fired power plants!  This is crazy town, and points to the need to radically redesign the incentives provided to utilities in the state.  Here’s our take…

Utility-scale pv

Utility-scale PV in Kern County (Image: LA Times)

According to the LA Times report, as recently as 2010, solar accounted for less than 1% of the electricity produced in California.  Fast-forward to last year and solar provided 13.8% of California’s electricity, with 9.6% from utility-scale projects like the one on the right, and an estimated 4.2% from residential and commercial installations.

Surely that is a good thing, as California continues on its path to getting 50% - and ultimately 100% - of its energy from renewables. But we aren’t going to get there paying our neighbors to take our surplus energy.  And it certainly makes no sense for utilities that are already overbuilt, to be spending ratepayer money on even more fossil-fueled generation capacity.

The perverse incentive here is that the IOUs - SCE, PG&E, and SDG&E - earn their money by building stuff, whether that stuff is used or not.  So it would seem that the trick here is to get them to build The Right Stuff, which certainly isn’t another natural gas peaker plant.  Instead, the clear winner here should be storage, particularly storage at utility scale. Bring enough intelligent storage into the mix and goodbye “Duck Curve” and hello a fossil-fuel-free future.

The CPUC should be providing the same rate-making incentive to build vast amounts of storage, even if at a premium price, rather than non-renewable generation capacity.  No renewable facility should ever have its output curtailed (as has happened 31% of the time in the first few months of this year), and no renewable energy should ever be exported to a neighboring state, except when such an export serves the economic interest of California ratepayers.

California is going to get to 100% renewables, we have to, as does the world.  We can and should show the way, but we will need to change the way utilities approach the problem if we are to get there anytime soon.

05/20/17

  08:35:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 162 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, PWP Rebates, PWP, Ranting

Run on Sun is Pasadena Solar!

Run on Sun has been doing Pasadena Solar for more than 10 years, but only now have we gotten around to dedicating a webpage just to Pasadena Solar! 

Pasadena City Hall - home to Run on Sun and Pasadena SolarWho loves Pasadena Solar?

I know, kinda silly (and foolish from an SEO perspective) but we figured we were fine as we were.  But then I looked at the search results on Google for “Pasadena Solar” and it was really depressing.  I mean seriously - read some of those reviews and you know that they are fake - but still their related websites were getting better rankings than ours!  Not acceptable!!!

So now, if you want to see a webpage that proudly proclaims its love for Pasadena Solar, we’ve got you covered - complete with this iconic image!

Oh, and because we do so much work in neighboring Altadena we are hoping to do a shout-out page for them too but we need an idea for the quintessential Altadena image - if you have ideas, please let us know!

05/04/17

  05:11:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 497 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, SCE, Residential Solar, Ranting, Net Metering

NEM 2.0 is Coming - But Not Before July 1

As a solar installer working in SCE’s territory, we get messages from them on a regular basis, including those regarding the upcoming transition to NEM 2.0.  But the email we received today (actually two copies of it!) was a bit, how shall we say, high-strung?  Here’s our take.

NEM 2.0 will occur when the first of two events occurs: SCE interconnects enough residential and commercial solar projects to reach 5.0% of its total aggregate power demand, or July 1.  We have written before that SCE will never get to the 5% beforehand, so the deadline is 23:59:59 on June 30. 

So we were a tad perplexed to see this email today - here’s a sample:

417 MWs Remaining in NEM 1.0

As SCE gets closer to its Net Energy Metering (NEM) 1.0 Cap, we want to remind everyone of the importance of submitting complete and accurate interconnection request(s) (IRs). You should be receiving similar notifications within the online application system (i.e., PowerClerk).

Why is the 417 MWs remaining important?

For those applicants and customers with an existing IR moving through the interconnection process, we are sharing this information so that you may plan accordingly as SCE approaches its NEM 1.0 Cap. Once the cap is reached, the existing NEM tariff will close to new customers and the NEM 2.0 (NEM Successor) tariff will become available. With approximately 417 MWs remaining in the NEM 1.0 cap, this is a friendly reminder to please submit all documentation necessary for receiving service under NEM 1.0 and do so as soon as possible.

(Emphasis in the original.)

Wow - you would think that this might happen any day now, based on that language.  Except that it won’t - not even close.

Here are the underlying numbers:  SCE’s total cap is 2,240 MWs - a target it has been building toward since 2007!  As of today, in SCE’s territory, 1,823 MWs has been installed.  That means it has taken roughly  3,595 days to install that capacity, which works out to roughly half a Megawatt per day.  With 417 MWs left under the cap, and just under 58 days before July 1, we would have to be installing at the rate of 7.2 MWs/day!  Uh, no.  Just Not Going To Happen!

(If you would like to see exactly how much time we have before we hit the actual deadline, check out the Doomsday Clock on our Residential Solar page.)

However, the reality of that deadline does have consequences.  For potential commercial clients, sorry, but you are out of luck - there is just not enough time to get a new commercial project designed, permitted, constructed, and approved before July 1.

Potential residential clients are in a slightly better position, but only slightly as your window of opportunity is rapidly closing.  For example, we are already booked solid for the entire month of May with just SCE projects (we have pushed everyone else back to try and help as many as possible in SCE territory meet the deadline), and we can only guarantee an approved interconnection for NEM 1.0 by mid-June.  If you’ve been thinking about solar in SCE-land, please don’t wait, call or email us today!

04/30/17

  01:01:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 656 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Ranting

Suniva - the Tail Wagging the Dog

Prices for solar modules have been dropping for years at the same time that their efficiency and overall quality has continued to improve.  This has made solar more affordable for not only residential solar system owners, but also for utility scale solar projects that can now produce electricity at prices that are helping to put dirty, coal-fired power plants out of business.  This is a win-win for all - cheaper, cleaner electricity is just a good thing for everyone.

Unless, that is, you are Suniva.

Who is Suniva, you ask?  Really good question.  Suniva is a Georgia-based solar module manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy earlier this month and then, on April 26th filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission calling for protectionist tariffs on imported solar cells and modules from the rest of the world.  If granted, the tariffs would add $0.40/Watt on imported cells and put a floor of $0.78/Watt on modules. 

Stephen Lacey over at Greentech Media has a nice summary of the proposed tariffs.  From his article:

The company filed a Section 201 petition under the 1974 Trade Act – a tool that could allow the president to implement tariffs, minimum prices or quotas on solar products from anywhere in the world if “serious injury” is proven. It was last used by the steel industry in 2002, which resulted in a three-year tariff schedule on steel products from a number of countries.

If anti-dumping and countervailing duties investigations at the Commerce Department are a scalpel, then Section 201 is a hammer. It is a comparatively swift, blunt instrument. After a petition is filed, the U.S. International Trade Commission has 120 days to review. And if it decides that the industry is facing serious injury, it has another month or two to issue recommendations. The president then has the authority to follow the recommendations – or potentially act on his own.

Trump’s camp specifically cited Section 201 on the campaign trail. Although solar doesn’t seem to be on the president’s mind, this could be a potential win for his trade agenda.

Great.  Suniva is essentially begging the President to blunt the growth of the entire solar industry so that they can “compete".

Which made us wonder, how big a player is Suniva anyway?

Well judging from the California solar market, not so much.  We pulled the NEM Currently Interconnected dataset from the California Distributed Generation Statistics page.  This dataset has entries for all net metered solar installations in the territories of California’s three IOU’s: PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E.  The dataset spans from 1998 through January 31, 2017, and contains 603,000 entries. 

One of the things captured in the data is the manufacturer of the solar modules being used, and the number being installed.  Creating a pivot table from the raw data - and some scrupulous merging of the data to account for creative variations in how the manufacturer’s name was recorded (for example, SunPower was listed 8 different ways) - allows us to see the market share for module manufacturers based on total number of modules installed.  Here’s what that graph looks like:

Module market share

There are sixteen module manufacturers on that graph, and Suniva is tail-end Charlie, having less than 10% of the installed base that market leader, SunPower, has.  Curiously, SunPower is a premium (i.e., expensive) module that is also made in the U.S. 

Square in the middle of that chart is our panel maker of choice, LG, and no one could suggest that they are “dumping” panels on the market. Yet despite entering the US market years after Suniva was founded, LG has outsold them nearly 4 to 1.

What makes Suniva’s pitch even more disingenuous is that it is actually a subsidiary of Shunfeng International Clean Energy, headquartered in Hong Kong!

The solar industry does not need more protectionist trade policies, we need to keep building as much clean energy as we can, as fast as we can.  We shouldn’t let a foreign-owned manufacturer derail that progress under the guise of patriotism, but really just for their own gain.

04/29/17

  12:25:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1208 words  
Categories: SCE, LADWP, Ranting, Chandler School

Knock, Knock - Who's There?

When you create a website, and beyond that, a blog, you sometime wonder - who is reading this? (Assuming that *someone* is reading it at all!) Capturing site visit data provides you a rough insight into who those folks might be, if you are willing to slog through the data. But heck, you know we love digging into data, so come along and let’s see who is out there!

The raw data, courtesy of Google Analytics, lists the service provider for every visit to the website (including this blog).  For this analysis we looked at data for the first 100 days of this year, a total of 9,983 visits from 7,398 distinct visitors who collectively looked at 12,607 pages.  Some 1,372 different service providers are listed in that data, but they are not categorized in any way - that is a process that must be done manually (ouch!).  The vast majority of the service providers are either not identified at all (39% of the total) or appear to be generic ISPs, such as “time warner cable internet llc".  Without anyway to get behind that lack of information, there is little to be learned from those entries, so we will exclude them and see what we can glean from the rest.

Filtered in that way leaves us with 526 different sources that accounted for roughly half of our visits, 4,845.  Our analysis broke these out into five categories: Company, School, Government, Non-Profit, and Other.  Here’s what that looked like:

sources of visits to Run on Sun

Far and away the largest category of sources are visits from other companies, making up 49% of our sources.  That is encouraging since we provide solar installations to companies, it is nice to know that they are coming to our site!

The next largest source is schools - again, a major target for our marketing efforts - although we were surprised at the number of schools, particularly colleges, that visited.  (We always felt that we had a very educated readership and that would tend to prove that out!)

We have to admit that we were surprised at the large number of government sources, and frankly some of them have us a bit creeped out!  (More on that in a moment.)

The non-profit category was surprisingly small, given the number of phone calls and emails that we get from non-profits across the country.  Apparently there is very little on the internet about solar for non-profits, so lots of folks from far-flung corners of the country find their way to our solar for non-profits page.  Unfortunately we have to tell them that we are a local company and really cannot help them install solar on their church in Peoria!  (But we do point them to the NABCEP website!)

Let’s dig into these categories a bit more and see what we find!

The Company We Keep

There are all manner of companies represented in the data, from 3 Day Blinds to Amazon, Bloomberg, Facebook, Hubspot, Intel, Kaiser, Microsoft, Navigant, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Rolls-Royce (I don’t think they make an EV!), to Yogurtland - and dozens and dozens more in between.

There are two interesting sub-categories: Utilities and other Solar companies.  First utilities - there are 15 of them represented in the data including LADWP, SCE and SoCal Gas.  But there are also utilities from across the country including Duke Energy, Dominion (Virginia) Power, and even the Electric Power Research Institute, which is the think tank for the electric utility industry.

But there are even more solar companies checking us out - certainly a complement of sorts - 16 in all.  Some of these are manufacturers, including Canadian Solar, Hanwha, and even SolarEdge!  Some are distributors, like Krannich, but most are competitors, ranging from nationals like Vivint to regional players like Sullivan Solar Power.  Hey guys, don’t be shy, feel free to leave a comment!

Somebody’s Watching Me…

Remember that song?  Looking into the Government category turned up a few, kinda creepy, surprises.  For example, we got visits from a number of military-affiliated sources like the 754th Electronic Systems Group which is located at the Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts, and has the following mission statement:

Deliver integrated information driving war winning decisions by shaping, acquiring, and sustaining warfighting IT capabilities through responsive, adaptive and cost-effective logistics, enterprise services and infrastructure solutions—to fly and fight in air, space and cyberspace.

Yikes!  Not sure what that has to do with a website about PV in SoCal, but they visited three different times! Or there is the DoD Network Information Center (four visits, Google them if you are into conspiracy theories!), the Navy Network Information Center (five visits), and the Headquarters USAISC (two visits).

There were also some really cool government sites including CERN, NREL, NASA (though NASA’s may have been my daughter!), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - even one hit from the U.S. Senate (welcome to D.C., Senator Harris!).

The largest government category, however are various municipalities, with 27 different towns, cities and counties dropping by, including locals like Pasadena, LA (city and county), Santa Monica, Anaheim, etc.  But also some from far away like Boston, San Francisco, and Westchester County. 

Various states stopped by as well, including: Washington, D.C. (I know, it’s not a state, but it should be, so there), Maine, Maryland, New York, New Mexico, and Utah, to name a few.  Fun!

No Profit Here

The non-profit category was very small, but interesting.  While there were a handful of churches, including my favorite, Yosemite Church - the setting alone should be inspiring! - the more interesting fact was that the largest sub-category was related to medicals services, including six hospitals!  Hey we’ve never put solar on a hospital, but we would love to help you out!

School Me

Which brings us to our final category, schools.  99 of our sources were categorized as school related, with sub-categories of school districts, elementary schools, and colleges.  There was only one elementary school in the mix, our client, Chandler School.  Interestingly, there were 27 school districts in the data from all over the country ranging from LAUSD to the Cambridge Public Schools.

Our connection to colleges, however, was truly amazing with 70 different schools showing up.  Lots of famous names in this list including our neighbor Caltech, USC, UCLA (along with roughly half of the overall UC system!), Stanford, American University (Go Eagles!), Duke, Johns Hopkins, LMU (my alma mater), NYU, Princeton, Rutgers, Notre Dame, University of Utah (my second alma mater!), even Oxford!  Wow, I feel smarter already.

Most of these sources provided just one visit - they hit a given page and then left.  But some sources were more, shall we say, studious.  For example, we only got one hit from Azusa Pacific University (located at the very end of the Gold Line), but they looked at 11 different pages in the three minutes that they were on the site.  (Average duration on the site overall was 55 seconds.)  The winners for most time on site were Notre Dame (one visit, seven pages, more than 20 minutes) and Colorado State (one visit, five pages, 18 minutes).  It is quite rewarding to see that the resource that we have created can have real value for people, especially (we presume here) students. 

So that’s it - thanks to all who visit this site, we appreciate your time and interest.  We hope we will continue to provide a resource that brings you back - well, except for the creepy ones!

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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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