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

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!

03/28/17

  03:22:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1002 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Residential Solar, Energy Storage

Solar + Storage = $avings!

We have been waiting a long time for this moment, when we could finally say that we can offer a solar plus smart storage solution for our residential clients.  Well the wait is over, and if you act fast, there is even a sweet rebate available!  It is a complicated picture, so stick with us as we break this down.

Introducing the Enphase Energy AC Battery

Four Enphase Energy AC batteries installed

Four Enphase Energy AC Batteries

Regular readers of this blog know that we are big fans of Enphase Energy and have been installing their microinverters for years.  Given our history with the company, we were excited to be approached by Enphase to participate in their AC Battery “beta” install program, one of just a handful of selected installers in the U.S.  We selected the site of one of our largest residential projects for the beta, knowing that would give us great data to study over time (and you know how we love data!).  We really like the way the install turned out, nice and neat!

Let’s be clear about what this system is, and is not.  It is not a battery backup system.  It will not keep the lights on if the grid goes down.  It is an energy arbitrage system - it stores energy from your PV array for use later in the day when your rates are highest.  That means that this system isn’t for everyone; it is for folks who have a PV system (or want to install one!) and are subject to time-of-use (TOU) rates, which mostly means just some folks who are SCE customers.  (Important note to SCE customers - if you install solar after July 1st, you will be forced onto time-of-use rates.)

Each battery stores 1.2 kWh of energy and can discharge that energy at 280 Watts, giving a discharge time of 4.3 hours.  The beta install shown above is a total of 4.8 kWh and a discharge of 1.12 kW.

So how does this work? Consider SCE’s TOU rates - the cheapest energy (13.1¢/kWh) is from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.  The next cheapest energy (16.6¢/kWh) is from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.   The really expensive energy (a whopping 33.5¢/kWh!) is from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. - precisely when most people are coming home from work or school, turning on the A/C, and lights, and the TV and on and on.  Ouch! 

But note that the peak time does not coincide well with the output from the PV array, meaning energy exported onto the grid during the day is worth half of what that same energy would be worth later in the day.

That problem is exactly what the Enphase AC Battery is designed to solve.  Each morning when the PV array “wakes up” it starts to power the local loads of the house.  As the system produces more power, excess power is routed to charging the batteries (instead of exporting onto the grid).  Once the batteries are fully charged, any excess power is then exported and the homeowner gets a net metering credit for that energy.  But now when we get to 2 p.m. and the energy rate kicks into high gear, any energy needs that cannot be met by the PV array is supplied by the energy stored in the batteries, thereby limiting the amount of really expensive energy that has to be purchased from the grid.

Here’s a recent day’s performance of the beta system (I told you the data was cool!):

Enphase AC Battery usage

The bright blue is energy from the array, the orange represents energy loads - pale orange is entirely offset, bright orange is drawn from the grid.  The green at the bottom shows the percentage of battery charge - sloping up between 8 a.m. and noon, constant until needed starting around 6 p.m., and then discharging to offset the household loads. 

At the top we see snapshot data from the 8-8:15 p.m. interval.  No power is available from the array (duh, it’s night!), but the house is consuming 533 Watt-hours of energy, with slightly more than half coming from the batteries.  (Hint - the system is entirely modular, so we could easily double the size of the system to completely cover those loads.)

Bottom line: if you are on a TOU rate, storage can really improve the value of your existing PV system.  (And because the Enphase storage system is “AC-coupled” it can be installed with any existing PV system!)

The SGIP Rebate Program

Which brings us to the Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) rebates.  Starting in April, rebate applications can be submitted for energy storage systems.  Much as the CSI rebate program had multiple steps over time, SGIP has five incentive level steps and how fast it steps down is tied to how large is the demand for rebates.  (We anticipate that the highest rebate level will be paid out almost immediately after the program formally opens on May 1.)  At this highest rebate level we would expect the rebate for each Enphase AC Battery to be roughly $430.

The competition for these rebates will be pretty fierce.  Fortunately, there is a dedicated carve-out of money for small residential storage systems, so all the money won’t be gobbled up by a few, super-large projects.  (Interestingly, priority will be given to folks living in what is known as the Western LA Basin Local Reliability Area - you can check to see if your zip code, which includes pretty much all of the Run on Sun service territory - is included by clicking here.)

The rebate is not limited to SCE customers; folks who are SoCal Gas customers (that means you, PWP and LADWP folks!) can also participate.

Go with the Pros!

Properly sizing a battery system to go with your solar array is a complicated process that requires technical savvy.  Dealing with the SGIP bureaucracy requires a sophisticated team that can deal with the program’s many twists and turns.  If adding storage - specifically the Enphase AC Battery - to your present or planned PV system sounds like a good idea, give us call, we’re ready to bring our expertise to bear to help you get this right!

03/16/17

  08:26:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 404 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power

What's Wrong with this Picture?

We occasionally encounter potential clients who have been given wildly optimistic proposals that promise amazing performance and use every square inch of the roof, regardless of the major shade issues of the site.  We recently drove by a house that suffered from this exact problem.

What is wrong with this picture?  Shade!

White picket fence, solar, and SHADE!

What you see here is a west-facing roof with an almost permanently shaded roof section. There are two large trees that completely shade the solar panels for about half of the day. And, since the panels are facing west, they are not going to produce very much energy in the morning when the sun is in the east.  As much as we love microinverters, they cannot save the day here!

After some research (gotta love online permit databases!), we determined that this is a 9.54 kW system consisting of 36 265 Watt panels. We analyzed the system’s potential performance assuming that the installer used the best products on the market (i.e., LG solar panels and Enphase microinverters).  Based on the satellite image of this property, we see that most of the roof is in full sun. The overall system has 5 panels south facing, 6 east, 10 on a flat roof, 6 west in full sun, and our suspect 9 panels on the west roof in almost full shade.

For our analysis, we used a 50% solar access value for those 9 panels (a very generous assumption). The rest of the system was assumed to have minimal shading.  Based on those assumptions, this system is likely to produce 217,875 kWh over the next 20 years. Of that, only 30,726 kWh will be produced by those 9 west-facing panels. What that means is that  25% of the system (9 panels of 36) is only going to produce 14% of the system’s energy, and that is based on a very generous assumption about how much sun actually reaches those panels.

Put another way, over the life of the system, at best, those 9 shaded panels provide half as much value to the homeowner as the rest of the array. 

What you see in that picture is the result of an installer who failed to provide their customer with enough information to make an informed decision. Instead, the customer was sold the biggest system possible to maximize the installer’s profit, not the customer’s benefit.  If you are comparing solar bids, and one company is proposing a much larger system than the others, you might want to ask, who will those extra panels benefit the most?

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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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