Something has really changed for the worst with Unirac! I have been an installer in the California for over 6 years and recently I have seen a shift in there business model. I suggest looking for another racking system. Unirac’s business model is cheap products with sub-par service. The only thing going for them was this SM-e product line. I will not use them anymore!
MY APOLOGIES. I Previously ENTERED THE WRONG email address. This one is correct.
I agree! We see many DIY’ers lamenting they wished they had at least hired a solar energy consultant to guide them through. Much more costly to go back and fix the problems with proper equipment selection, wiring, design-engineering, layout, ROI IRR. I find no problem with wanting to curb costs, but knowledge, and safety cannot be compromised. Some may say that they simply can’t afford to hire a consultant. However, I encourage DIY’ers to be creative and think about what professional talents they have to offer a solar energy consultant as a sort of “barter". If you’re a marketing professional, then offer some free marketing consulting to the solar consultant. But please do not short cut your pocketbook, safety or the performance of your solar energy system.
Congrats to all my fellow women in solar leaders. I hope I will make the list next year! I invite all of you to connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to pick your brains on better ways to get women get more excited about solar. Although my company has made great strides in this area in our targeted marketing campaigns, I would love to see improvements and advice is welcome. Here is my LinkedIn address: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laureenpeck
Laureen Peck, Vice President of Marketing & Director of Inside Sales
Solar Energy World
They are significantly higher, and in most cases, the benefits do not outweigh that cost premium.
But it does highlight the spot that LG is putting its most loyal customers - it’s installers - in not providing us with a reliable supply of their flagship products. We don’t compete in a vacuum, and someone else is always looking to swipe our lunch!
Great list Jim!! It’s nice to have women recognized in this wonderful solar world! GO GREEN! I would have to mention the wonderful Christina Danenhower, Co-Owner and Marketing mastermind for The Solar Company! She is wonderful to work with and is passionate about all things solar!!!
Holy Moly! Blush!
AND how about all these astonishing women in the IREC family (our bench of solar women is deeeeeeeeeep):
Jane Weissman, Pat Fox, Laure-Jeanne Davignon, Kristen Ferguson, Laurel Passera, Sky Stanfield, Erica Schroeder McConnell, Mary Lawrence, Sara Baldwin Auck, MT Colello, Michelle Barrett, Diane DePuydt, Ruth Fein, Barbara Martin, Cheri Olf, Louise Urgo.
But wait…here are a few more:
Vicki Colello, NYSERDA
Adele Ferranti, NYSERDA
Deep bows of gratitude to all.
Holy Moly! I’m ineffably honored. Our bench of solar women is deep. Here are a few more IREC women to thank:
Jane Weissman, Sky Stanfield, Erica Schroeder McConnell, Pat Fox, Laure-Jeanne Davignon, Mary Lawrence, Ruth Fein, Kristen Ferguson, Cheri Olf, Michelle Barrett, Chelsea Barnes, Laurel Passera, Sara Baldwin Auck, Barbara Martin, Louise Urgo, Diane DePuydt, MT Colello
Vicki Colello, NYSERDA
Adele Ferranti, NYSERDA
Deep bows of gratitude to all women in solar.
David - I am sorry to hear about your experience.
Leases and PPAs make sense for large-scale commercial operations, but they are a poor fit for residential clients like you.
The solar industry really needs standardized disclosures so that all consumers can fairly evaluate what is being offered to them and properly compare one proposal against another.
Hi I have to comment on sunrun. I have sunrun panels on my roof. When sunrun came to my door I told the rep that we wernt interested because we herd all about people getting stuck in a lease agreement. The rep assured us there were no lease agreement. He also told us that if we were not happy we just tell sunrun to get the system off our house. He also told us if we wanted more panels all we had to do is call them. I asked him if we were to sell the house what would happen to the panels. He told us if we sold the house they would count on the new owners wanting to save money and turn the system back on. There was no catch or strings. The rep told us that sunrun would maintain the panels for 15 years. I asked him if I still had the house what would happen to the panels after fifteen years and he told me the panels would be mine they wouldnt want them because technology would have got better. We signed everything had them installed and right to the end he assured us we would not be stuck in a lease or anything like it. Over the last week I have had solar companys call me and asked me who I had and what kind of agreement I had and I told them everything I just said. They told me I needed to call sunrun because they thought I was in a power purchase whicth they said was the same as a lease. I called sun run and they said I was responsible for 20 years and if I wanted more panels then I would have to have a whole new system put on my roof. After I found that out I started looking on line and found out I wasnt the only one lied too. Sunrun reps told other people the same line. I contacted a lawer and he said I was already part of the law suit against sun run for the same thing. I dont want to be stuck with these panels for 20 years. The receipt shows they only cost 15 to 16 thousand dollars. These big companies keep taking advantage of people they got whats coming to them. Thank you
I guess the question for Caddy is whether they really want to self-identify with that degree of “brash Americanism". Or more to the point, whether anyone who would actually consider buying a Caddy wants to?
The Caddy commercial is about challenging the euro-luxe brands that stole their market over the last 30 years. How else are you going to take down MB & BMW other than through sheer brash Americanism?
Which is not to steal anything away from Ford for the shrewd countermove.
But let’s be honest with ourselves… it’s a battle out there in the auto industry, and we should applaud both these brands for fighting.
Dr. Lewis - For the most part, DWP did a good job of bringing the FiT to the market. However, their failure to get projects farther along is very troubling and this delay in considering the proposed “tweaks” is perplexing.
it appears that you LADW is about as organised (NOT) as our UK government when it comes to renewable energy and feed in tarrifs. Forever ambiguous and always out of tune with the market.
Have a nice day
Dr. Terence Lewis. MSc.BSc.
We certainly do not need to exchange our present utilities for another (i.e., leasing companies) - which is why Run on Sun has never bought into the residential leasing programs. It is also why we are pleased to be offering two different loan programs to our clients which will save them thousands of dollars over what their savings would be from leasing. (See our solar financing page for more details.)
But that said, we still need to protect net metering, unless and until rate schedules are completely redesigned to properly account for the residential solar client’s contributions to the grid. As a statewide FiT is not in the cards anytime soon, this is the only game in town and we need to protect it.
We do not need to exchange One Utility for Another ( Solar Leasing Company ) Net Metering has allowed Middleman to take away your Earnings and Savings.
“The High Cost of a Solar Middleman
If there’s no such thing as a free lunch, then how can Americans get solar on their roof with “zero money down” and lower their electric bill? Solar leasing, as it’s often called, is a clever market solution to poor federal and state policy design that otherwise requires Americans to do financial acrobatics to power their home or business with solar.
But solar leasing adds significantly to the cost of solar energy.
New data from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources published last year suggests that state taxpayers that will pay (a lot) more to make solar easy to install for individuals and businesses, and to make solar energy lucrative for solar leasing companies.
The report estimates the necessary production based incentive (in dollars per megawatt-hour of electricity produced) to support the development of solar. Specifically, the researchers priced a “10-year levelized incentive…that allows system owners to achieve their target economic rate of return.” The analysis notably focused on ownership structures, either 3rd party ownership (solar leasing) or host ownership (owned by the home or business owner). The following chart shows the difference in state incentives necessary to support a small-scale (15 kW or less) solar array that is either owned by a 3rd party or the actual electric customer.
host v 3rd party ownership solar incentive mass
The bottom line is that leased solar arrays require more than double the incentive needed to support customer-owned solar arrays. Not only do leasing companies require more revenue, but customers of leasing companies get less than solar owners, because they presumably sign contracts for electricity that are less than the net metering they would receive in owning a solar array.
Why does solar leasing cost more ?
In the words of the report authors, “These transactions often require attracting additional tax-motivated parties to the project financing, and at considerable expense for transaction and capital.” How much more expensive? A host-owned solar array is expected to get financing at 4% interest and have a return on equity expectation of 4%. A solar leasing company is expected to pay 6% interest on shorter-term debt and to require 15% return on equity.
It might seem convenient to blame solar leasing companies for this problem, but they’re merely opportunists in a poor policy environment.
Making your money back on solar in America is complicated. It requires a combination of tax savvy, skilled navigation of state bureaucracies, persistence at a local permitting office and limited options for low-cost financing. Compared to Germany, with a simple, non-nonsense long-term contract that permits low financing costs and broad participation, America’s solar market is a joke (and the installed cost of solar is much higher as a result).
Furthermore, big banks have also played a role in inflating solar leasing costs to taxpayers, using a legal loophole to collect tax incentives based on (higher) estimated costs of solar installations instead of actual costs.
Leasing company SolarCity was notable targeted by the Treasury Department for its participation in the practice.
In other words, we pay twice for bad solar policy in America. Complicated tax incentive, interconnection, and contract policy makes solar cost more to install than in mature markets like Germany. Solar leasing middlemen simplify the complications, but at a price premium to (complicated) individual ownership.
Even though sunshine is free, no kind of solar power is a free lunch.” John Farrell
We All need as much roof top solar (& other local solar) possible. It saves habitat from large installations that take away nesting, feeding and other habitat for birds & animals (desert tortoise is a favorite of mine) and requires no huge transmission lines. Let’s encourage more local solar in all ways possible. It’s clean, it uses space already dedicated to housing or business & it gets shared locally when there’s more power generated than the solar owner can use at any moment! Everyone benefits when each individual installs and uses rooftop solar. The idea that solar owners are getting a free ride is misinformation perpetrated by those hoping to keep fossil interests in power.
Since EPBB rebates are paid based on the CSI data submitted - subject to possible field inspection/verification - there would be no reason to indicate the combinations you are describing unless that was what was actually built. No way to know for sure just from the data, but I do imagine that there are some systems being built with really bad orientations. Perhaps the consumer is properly advised, but perhaps the installer just takes advantage of the uninformed consumer.
As for limits, I would build a 270 system. I would build a system with part of the array at 90 (but not the entire array). The key is to make sure that the consumer understands the tradeoffs and that lower performing array faces will have a lower ROI.
Question on the CSI database. I was looking at the data describing system azimuth and it appears the numbers don’t make sense. About 30% of the reported systems are installed at an azimuth of 180 - due south. That much makes sense. The systems that don’t make sense are the ones with an azimuth of less than 90 and greater than 270. I’m confused? I suppose if the systems are flat enough you don’t care but these systems that have weird azimuths are not flat. Do you think is a simple issue of misreporting or are systems really built with an azimuth of 330 and a tilt of 30? Can you offer any practical upper and lower limits for system azimuth? I’m only trying to do some big picture screening of the CSI data and you’re one of the experts on this topic.
Appreciate any help. Merry Christmas.
Thanks for the kind words.
Of course, a major reason that the “empowering women” meme was so powerful at SPI is attributable to you, and Raina - and certainly Julia who has been walking the walk for a long time now. It is a great trend and I hope the hallways are filled with “powerful” women at SPI next year! (And wild horses will be needed to keep me away!)
Noticed Julia Hamm asked for feedback on the show. I attended and have talked with several folks post event. The consensus is the show was very productive for those attending. I for one was very pleased to see all the data points around empowering women with the industry and a call for more diversity. The general session on Tuesday morning which featured industry solar installation, utility and regulator representatives “switching hats” and speaking from each other’s point of view was one of the best sessions I’ve attended in 5 SPI’s.
Keep up the great work covering the industry, Jim!
Hi Julia -
I feel a bit awkward making a post based on a conference I wasn’t able to attend - much easier to do a preview than a review of same - but maybe what I can do is go down the same set of points and add my thoughts and links to some of the fine summaries by folks like Tom Cheyney and others.
ps - glad to see that you read the blog!
Jim - thanks for posting this blog. Now that SPI has come to a close, I’d love to see a response (based on what you’ve heard since you couldn’t make it) about how it measured up in the areas you highlighted. I am of course biased, but all of the feedback I’ve heard has been extremely positive, with many people commenting that this was the best SPI since 2010 for a whole variety of reasons.
Hi Carter -
Those are both good points. However, the exhibit floor is really directed toward installers and having the show outside of the largest solar market in the country for three years means that those installers aren’t seeing what those exhibitors have to offer. I suspect that is why the number of exhibitors is off whereas it grew every year that it was in the “Sunshine State"!
But I’m all for anything that improves our political clout!
In terms of the “why Chicago” question. This is a thing a lot of folks have been talking about since it was announced- and it’s important to keep 2 things in mind.
1) SPI is a political tool. The Governor of Illinois and the Mayor of Chicago along with a host of other politicians will visit the conference and see the strength of the solar industry. Bringing it to different cities helps increase the overall political support and action for solar. Plus it educates a deep bench of political figures in an area.
2) There are a ton of solar-related manufacturers in the Midwest. The fastest way to grow the solar industry’s clout and political power is to expand our tent and bring in a lot more solar-related companies. SEIA just did a big report about top brands that use solar- if those companies became SEIA members or political influence will grow a lot faster.
Here’s a map of solar companies in the Chicago area> https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151603934021324&set=a.10150311342766324.334182.96055281323&type=1
The amazing thing is Homeboy Industries (and other charities Everybody Solar helps) will be saving $3,000+ each year. That’s over $75k total savings - probably more with rate inflation!
Great blog post!
Read more at:
Hi Spiffy -
Thanks very much for the kind words - I really appreciate it.
As I understand it, an arc fault occurs when you have two faults on a PV string, the second of which is on the leg that is set to detect ground faults. When the second fault occurs, the inverter is isolated from the string (due to the GFDI circuitry) but because you have two faults, you can have a complete circuit w/in the array. That could be in a single string, or it could be downstream from a combiner in which case you will have a much bigger issue on your hands. It is my understanding that it was such a double fault situation that created the arc fault that lead to the fire discussed here:
Interestingly, the new Enphase microinverter - the M250 - should prevent arc faults since it can detect a fault on either leg of the DC connection. Of course, microinverters are far less of a concern for a dangerous arc fault since the DC “string” is only one module. (The earlier models, most notably the M215, had a more conventional GFDI circuit which could only detect a fault on one leg.) I discussed this benefit of the new M250 in this post:
It seems that the Australians are ahead of us on this, or at least they make is sound like they are.
Could you comment on arc fault protection and it’s use in fire prevention and safety? It is my understanding that micro-inverters are not necessarily immune from arcing and that nothing will ever completely eliminate the threat, except maybe something at the level of every single module.
As you know, my solar business does deal with this issue from a preventative standpoint, however, I don’t need to be an expert (nor will I ever be), but I’d love to be able to direct my customers, particularly residential installers, somewhere.
Thanks for the in-depth report. Your content is like non elsewhere, and you are providing a real service to the industry.
P.S. I happened upon this, for those who really want and need to check into the issue in depth. http://bit.ly/18q37nb
Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
In addition, Run on Sun offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.