Team USC has produced their final video walkthrough of fluxHome, their entry in the 2013 Solar Decathlon - check it out!
My favorite bit - that they managed to work in a shot of an Enphase microinverter on top of the solar panels. Good that they had a spare!
Oh, and in case you want to see the very latest progress, check out the Live Feed. Fight on!
We have been alluding to our upcoming book - Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step - for quite some time, but with the completion of cover art and the receipt of our Foreword, the end is in sight!
While we don’t have an actual publication date (yet), we thought we would share with you our groovy cover art with its photo courtesy of the wonderful Andrea Bricco and composition by that amazing Solar Kid, Julia. Our Foreword, excerpted on the back cover, is from our friend and solar industry wizard, Boaz Soifer from Focused Energy. Here it is:
Watch this space - we will have publication info soon!
We saw two news reports about an impressive, 2.3 MW solar array powered by Enphase Microinverters - one at the Enphase Blog and the other over at Renewable Energy World. Interestingly, the two stories had somewhat different spins. Here’s our take.
First, and not surprisingly, the folks at Enphase are rightfully crowing over this development, and why shouldn’t they? An installation this large - the biggest PV project so far under the Ontario (Canada) feed-in tariff program - would be a feather in the cap of any inverter manufacturer. But for a microinverter company, a project of this size is huge as it shatters the ceiling on appropriate system size for microinverter projects.
Enphase notes that the usual drivers for microinverter adoption - increased yield in shade conditions, safety given the lack of energized DC runs and enhanced monitoring - all played a role in the decision to use microinverters on this project.
Meanwhile over at REW, the spin is a bit different with much of the piece - Microinverters Make a Move on Multi-MW Solar Power Installations by Tildy Bayer - devoted to discussing an analysis of the market for microinverters by IHS Research. It is that analysis that we found puzzling.
Take this excerpt for example:
The U.S. accounted for nearly 75 percent of [microinverter] shipments IHS recorded prior to 2013, but in many states the residential market for microinverters is approaching saturation. It will be increasingly important, said Gilligan, that microinverters are used by the third-party/solar lease companies which are very active in the country. While solar lease companies such as Vivint Solar and Sunrun have used microinverters in limited numbers, other large companies like SolarCity have preferred to stick with string inverters as the more proven technology, he said. IHS does forecast that microinverters will be used in greater numbers by solar lease suppliers in the coming years as the technology improves and new models are released.
Really? What states would that be? Certainly not in market-leader California where sales of Enphase microinverters are growing rapidly and show no signs of slowing down, let alone saturation. Indeed, our analysis of the commercial inverter market here in Southern California showed Enphase in the No. 1 spot, increasing its market share by 9% year-over-year. We should all be so saturated.
And does anyone really believe that SolarCity has avoided Enphase because they aren’t the “proven technology” - or is it simply that they can get lower prices by going with string inverters?
If SolarCity wanted to install products based on the quality of the technology, they would be using Unirac Solarmount Evolution for their racking, LG solar modules - and they would be using Enphase microinverters. But then they wouldn’t be SolarCity - they would be Run on Sun.
A group of solar advocates have received a cease and desist letter from Southern California Edison over a satirical video that dares to claim that SCE “is committed to rooftop solar - and by committed we mean committed to keeping it off your roof!" Proof that SCE lacks both a sense of humor and common sense. (H/t Chris Clark at the ReWire blog on KCET.org)
The three groups threatened - presente.org, the Sierra Club (really!) and The Other 98% - have a website titled Save Rooftop Solar where the video was originally displayed. On their website they make the case that rooftop solar is good for the Latino community. That seems like a fair message to be communicating, but it is the group’s attack on SCE’s lobbying efforts that drew the IOU’s ire. Here’s the video that SCE doesn’t want anyone to see:
Now this is clearly satire, and no reasonable person viewing this would believe that SCE produced this video. Moreover, in highlighting an issue of public interest - namely SCE’s lobbying campaign directed at Latino politicians (no doubt part of their faux “equity” argument) - the use of otherwise protected symbols and logos is certainly “fair use” and thus protected. But that didn’t prevent SCE’s thin-skinned legal department, in this case Ms. Janet Combs, from sending a short-sighted nastygram:
It has come to our attention that presente.org has funded and posted a video on its website and on YouTube that infringes the Southern California Edison and Edison International (Edison) name and logo and makes false and misleading statements regarding Edison.
Specifically, the video, entitled Edison Hates Rooftop Solar, misrepresents itself as an Edison video and claims that Edison wants to “keep solar panels” off customers’ roofs through a “business plan” to “force” customers to buy “dirty energy” from “dirty power plants” that “poison poor communities.” The video claims that Edison is “spending big on Latino politicians” to make installing solar panels on customers’ roofs more expensive and discourage customers from installing solar panels.
These statements, and similar statements in the video, constitute false and misleading advertising under state and federal law. Moreover, the video’s use of the Southern California Edison and Edison International marks constitutes both federal and state trademark infringement and violates both the federal and state laws against unfair competition.
Here’s the thing - first of all, the assertion that SCE has legal claims against the producers of this video is laughable. But beyond that, when a video that practically no one has ever seen goes up on YouTube accusing you of being an evil corporation that is trying to (literally) squash your opponents, you do not counter that argument by sending C&D letters that threaten to squash your opponents. (See also, the Streisand Effect.)
Let’s hope that these groups get lots of press over this and SCE is sufficiently humiliated over their strong-arm tactics. Well, a guy can dream, can’t he?
We’ve written before about the problems with solar roofing tiles on homes built by Centex, one of the nation’s largest home builders. Now we have heard that they are suspending their repair program, leaving homeowners with no recourse but to shut down their systems. Here’s our update.
Last December we wrote about how Centex was dragging its feet on repairing faulty solar roof tile systems in “solar homes” that they built. Despite a mandated recall from the Consumer Products Safety Commission, Centex was demanding that homeowners sign an overreaching release form before they would begin repairs. In the meantime, homeowners had been advised to turn their systems off to avoid a possible risk of fire. Here was the release language that concerned us:
Release. In consideration of completion of the CPSC Repair [i.e., repair of the solar tiles] owner releases and fully discharges Centex Homes from any and all liabilities, claims, causes of action, or damages of whatever nature, character, type or description, which Owner may have or may incur in the future, arising out of, or in any way connected with component parts, being replaced/added under the CPSC Repair.
We wrote then that it seemed unfair to make an innocent homeowner either release all of their rights regarding future problems or be denied the “benefit of their bargain” regarding owning a solar powered home.
Now we are getting word from affected homeowners that Centex has completely suspended its repair program in light of new fires that have occurred in allegedly repaired homes. Here is a copy of an email that Centex sent out to homeowners in July:
Dear Centex Homeowner:
Thank you for taking the time to read this update regarding your solar panels.
As you are aware, after months of working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Suntech, Eagle Solar, and Sonoran Roofing, recall protocol repairs involving OE-34 solar panels began November of 2012. Once repairs are completed by Sonoran Roofing on a home pursuant to the Consumer Product Safety Commission protocol, and required testing has occurred, homeowners have been turning their systems back on. The vast majority of homes repaired have had no issue after the recall repair was performed. Recently, however, two homeowners have experienced fires at some point after turning their systems on.
In late March of this year we were contacted by a homeowner who had a fire start at one of their solar panels. Upon completion of expert investigation by independent inspectors it was determined the fire originated at a single defective panel. The fire was not linked to the recall repair performed earlier on that home; rather, it was due to a defective tile manufactured by the solar panel company.
We were recently contacted by another homeowner who had a fire start at their solar panels earlier this month. We are currently working with independent inspectors from multiple companies to determine the cause of this recent fire. It is imperative that we know whether the cause was another defective panel or some other issue.
Until such time as we determine the cause of this fire and are confident that repairs can safely continue we are suspending all repairs. We expect to have the results of the investigation in the next 4-6 weeks. Once we have those results we will contact you again to advise you of the findings and the status of future repairs.
It is our direction, based on that fact that there have now been two reported fires involving these particular solar panels, that you shut your solar power system down immediately until further notice if your system is currently running. We advise you to keep your system off until notified otherwise.
Again, please make sure your solar power system is completely shut off until further notice.
If you have an urgent issue, please contact our office at Norcal@Centex.com. Otherwise, we will update you as soon as we have any new information. Please be assured that we want these repairs completed as quickly as possible, but we will not sacrifice safety for speed. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Centex Homes Northern California Division
(Underlining in the original; other emphasis added.)
Now we have no complaint with not wanting to “sacrifice safety for speed", but it seem that at least so far, Centex has provided neither. One of the homeowners who contacted us indicated that a neighbor’s house had also suffered a fire in their roof as well - bringing the total to at least three fires associated with these systems, since the Centex repair program began.
The existence of these fires makes the pernicious release that Centex was trying to extract from homeowners even more disturbing. Based on the language above, if a Centex customer had signed that release, allowed Centex to send in its repair team, and then suffered a fire caused by the solar roofing tile system, Centex would have no liability or obligation toward that customer at all.
We contacted Centex at the email above last week seeking comment but aside from an automated reply we have not received any response from the company.
As always, we welcome any comments from affected readers and if we hear back from Centex we will update this post.
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