Categories: All About Solar Power, Electric Cars that Run on Sun, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Safety


  03:07:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 680 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Ranting

Problem Solving 101 - "I lost the map!"

At Run on Sun we like to think of ourselves as true Solar Pros - years of experience, NABCEP certified, yadda, yadda, yadda!  But this post is about doing something wrong (nicely done, Jim) and having to figure out a way to fix it (thank you, Sara!).  We recount it here because it might help some of our colleagues who just might make the same mistake!

Run on Sun is a huge Enphase shop, and one of the reasons why is the great monitoring that we get for every installation.  For installers, we can see module-level data that allows us to determine not only if there is a problem with the array, but where that problem is!  (Contrast this with a string array, where determining where a problem resides can be an error-prone and time-consuming process.) 
Check out this sample from one of our systems:

Enphase module-level monitoring

This is from a recent install using LG 360 Watt, back-contact modules with Enphase IQ6+ microinverters. As you can see this is a very consistent array with the output power ranging from 288 to 291 Watts at each module.  But you might ask yourself, how does the system know which module/microinverter is which?  The answer is easy - each microinverter has an associated serial number, and it sends that serial number to the monitoring device (called an Envoy) when it reports its performance.  When the installer “builds” the array in the cloud, she maps the serial numbers from the microinverters to the layout as installed.

To facilitate that mapping, Enphase provides a peel-off label on each microinverter.  The installer removes the sticker and places it on a map, to be pared with the online layout.  When we are doing our installs, I am often the person responsible for collecting the labels onto the map, and then later using that map to build the system online.  I’ve been doing this for years, and never had a problem.

Until the other day.

I got back to the office, ready to build out our array online, only to discover - there’s no map!  Mind you, I remember clearly creating the map, and I would have sworn I put it in the car right after doing so, but it was nowhere to be found!  Yikes!  Now what do we do?

To be sure, the serial number were still on the microinverters, but they could not be read from where they are located on the roof!  Ugh - we could remove the modules (of our otherwise operational system) but that would be a huge amount of work - there has got to be a better way!

Cue Sara - Problem Solver Extraordinaire!

Indeed there was as Project Coordinator, and problem solver extraordinaire, Sara Pavey quickly observed.  We could connect to the Envoy using a smart phone (it has a WiFi hot spot built in), and look at the data coming from the array.  If we were to shade one module at a time, we could see which microinverter’s power output went to zero, and then record the corresponding serial number!

Jim on the roof, paying dues for losing the map!

Jim paying dues on the roof for losing the map!

One module at a time, we covered a portion of the module so that we could detect it’s loss of output, and record that serial number in the proper position.  (The per-microinverter data is not instantaneous, so we had to wait until the Envoy polled each one to detect the change.  Hint to Enphase: it would be nice to be able to get that data in real time, as that would greatly speed up the process!  Maybe as part of a special, troubleshooting-for-idiots mode?)

Nevertheless, with a minimum of fuss and bother, after an hour we had mapped all twenty-six microinverters, without having to unbolt a single module.  Well done, Sara, you more than earned your keep that day!

(Oh, and we now take a picture of the map as soon as it is completed!)

So there you go folks, live and learn!  If anyone out there has faced this problem in the field, how did you resolve it?  We would love to hear from you in the comments below!


  03:14:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 347 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, SCE, Residential Solar, Net Metering

Beware SCE's Attempt to Switch Solar Customers to TOU Rates!


Attention SCE customers who installed solar before the NEM 2.0 deadline (that is, you installed solar before July 1, 2017) - we just learned that SCE is sending around notices suggesting that you switch over to a Time-of-Use rate. You do not need to make that switch, and you most likely don’t want to!
Here are the facts…

SCE customers who installed solar systems prior to the transition to Net Energy Metering 2.0 rules ("NEM 1.0 Customers") are grandfathered into their existing tiered rate structures for 20 years following their go-live date.  While the costs under that rate structure may change, the basic design - a tiered rate where you pay more the more you use, versus a time-of-use rate where what you pay is tied to when you use it - is locked in.  For most solar system owners, that is a better deal.

But we just learned that SCE is trying to convince NEM 1.0 Customers to switch to TOU rates.  (You can find their oh-so encouraging web page for the transition here.)  For the vast majority of solar system owners, such a transition is NOT IN YOUR BEST INTEREST!  The TOU rates have their highest charges either from 4-9 or 5-8, and their lowest charges between 8 a.m. and 4 or 5 p.m.  That means that any energy exported back to the grid will be compensated at the lowest rate (unless your system happens to be exporting after 4 or 5 in the evening, not very likely), whereas energy you need to use in the evening will cost you the most!  

Check out these numbers:

SCE's 4-9 p.m. TOU rate      SCE's 5-8 p.m. TOU rate
SCE’s 4-9 p.m. Time-of-Use Summer Rates   SCE’s 5-8 p.m. Time-of-Use Summer Rates

Yikes!  That’s a whopping 49¢/kWh if you select the 5-8 p.m. rate - but you will only earn 23¢/kWh for energy that you export from your solar system!  Not a good deal at all!

The good news is you don’t have to make this switch!  And if you mistakenly were convinced to switch, you have the right to switch back.  (Similar scams are underway in PG&E and SDG&E territory as well.)  If you have questions, give us a call and we will help you to sort this out.


  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. 


  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!


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!


  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

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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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