Hi Kimberly - thanks for taking the time to comment, and your kind words. I agree completely with your observations (with the exception of the value of the lease model - there we will simply have to agree to disagree!) We also provide a similar “Owner’s Manual” with all of our projects - it collects everything in one, attractive binder for future reference.
I think long-term maintenance issues are important - it is one reason that we like microinverters as down-the-road panel substitutions (for a defective panel) should be easier. Fodder for a future post…
Excellent article, Jim!
The distinction between ‘equipment warranty’ and ‘installers’ warranty’ should also be clear. If something goes wrong, we really don’t want the customer wandering around up there.
I developed a “Users Manual” for our solar projects - residential leases and commercial PPAs - which addressed safety, maintenance, when to call your installer, etc. The manual was custom to each customer and included spec sheets of the panels, inverters, and racking. We found the generic template and excellent marketing tool, as it put minds at ease as to how the thing worked and what would happen if something went wrong. (We were also able to customize for maintenance in very dusty areas like AZ, or snowy ones like VT.)
With the extent of Chapter 11/13 and M&A going on in the solar manufacturing - as well as contractor - space, it is fair to wonder what the Plan B is.
And that leads me to defend the lease model if working with an established, reputable solar company: Prices have indeed come down dramatically, and the end of the cash-grant 1603 makes investor financing for small DG projects less common. But it can be a great way of financing your system - the Fair Market Value purchase option at the end of the lease period means you then own your system with FREE power afterwards!
Hi Tom - we try really hard to give people the most straight-forward info we can provide. Solar is a great investment, but not every seller of solar has the client’s best interests at heart.
I have not been able to learn anything more about this case, or any other litigation against Sunrun. But I am very concerned that such litigation is sure to come, given how some of these programs have been sold to consumers.
Reading all the comments on SunRun, did anyone actually come up with someone who is pursuing this issue? I did some research and it looks like the original class action lawsuit by Reed, is dead in the water. Interesting enough we are trying to sell my mother-in-laws house and are having a BIG problem with potential buyers not wanting to assume the lease. Apparently this is becoming quite an issue in the real estate community. There are apparently many sellers who find themselves in the same position. Your site is the only one I have come across that is not a PR site for solar installation.
William - the only claim that I made was that Enphase eliminates the single point of failure that is present with Solar Edge. That is a fact, not an opinion. In my opinion, that makes the Enphase approach more reliable from a system availability perspective.
Thanks for taking the time to write.
I to got duped into Sunrun, On my electric bill it shows that I owe SEC around $ 15.00 for electricity. But what they are not telling you is there is about $130.00 in generation and delivery charges, which makes my bill including Sunrun part $345.00. I have never had an electric bill over $300.00 before.
Boy did I get ripped.
Well I quoted his statement in full, as you can verify from the video link. The truth is, Elon provided none of the explanation or limitation you are offering. He has to live with what he actually said, not what he (or his lawyers) might wish he had said.
Moreover, if he had nuanced his comments as you are suggesting, he would not have garnered the gasps and applause he got from his audience, and he wouldn’t have had tens of thousands of people signing up for what I’m sure *they* think is the chance to go off grid for an extra $3,500.
Elon’s statement about living off grid for $3,500 is entirely out of context. His statement wasn’t meant to mean you could go off grid for the price of one powerwall. He simply meant that you could go off grid with a system comprised of solar and powerwall arrays, and then he was revealing the price of a single powerwall.
SunRun is the worst option in solar. Completely deceptive sales and it is a bad deal. The power company buys your electricity for .o4 cents and charges you retail. You also have to pay sunrun high tier price for electricity that you can get cheaper from the power company. The power company and sunrun make out and you the customer are left holding the bag. Read every word of a contract and run from SunRun.
Google did something like that to me. I had close to 30 five star reviews. They chopped off 20 leaving me with 10. This was right after one of their sales agents after an hours presentation was not able to convince me to do PPC. I complained and they said it was a glitch and somehow the 20 or so were now lost. A week later and the remaining 10 were also “lost". It seems all review sites can do as they please. So now I do screen captures and place then on my own website. You might want to take this into your own hands in a similar way and ask the customer to change the wording.
John - that is a very good point - if the slabs of the building are in danger of collapse that would make it too dangerous for the fire fighters. But of course, that could be a risk in every tilt-up slab building out there, not just those with solar.
Odd that nearly 2 years later and we haven’t heard anything about the cause of the fire.
I understand also that there was concern of collapse due to the buildings tilt slab construction. There are a number of photographs taken that seem to indicate that tilt slab collapse did occur due to the collapse of the supporting (bracing) roof assembly. A 40 Foot tilt slab dictates a minimum 60 foot collapse zone. I agree with Chief Holt a firefighters life is not worth jeopardizes over property with the numerous hazards at this facility.
got solar panels for my house in san Francisco and east Oakland. the installation and hook up in san Francisco with solar city took two months. the installation and hook up in east Oakland taking two years and counting? same company different result. why? not sure. maybe the utilities don’t want the people in the ghetto to go solar and cut out pg and e. their delays in processing this simple thing is unbelievable. looking for a class action lawyer to take my case against pg ande. Vincent chang.
Just try to re-roof a project in Los Angeles County for a residential project. Roofer contractor will not be allowed to pull a permit until solar installer takes a permit for re-installation. Solar Installer has to go thru the process as a brand new solar installation with wet stamp from structural engineer and electrical engineer. If the project was installed 2-3 years ago when central feed solar was allowed, now it is not permitted anymore, and you have to change also the main electrical panel. They ask you for the original approved plans but also they don’t have a copy, and they can’t provide it.
I agree both roof and solar system have to be inspected but to see the solar system as a brand new installation it is a very long and costly way.
Anna - that is really shocking and I’m sorry you experienced such boorish behavior as part of the solar industry. You will be pleased to know that they are the exception, not the rule. Thanks for taking the time to write.
Regarding price - Enphase usually wins that comparison. A 5,000W string inverter runs about $2,000 to $4,000 depending on quality and guarantee (and it will be replaced at least once over the 25 year life of the panels so $4,000 to $8,000. 20 M250 Enphase micro-inverters runs about $3,000. So less money, more production, longer life, better warranty - what’s not to like? (Now if you add in the DC optimizers the price difference gets even larger.)
Hi! I worked for one day at Intersolar in Munich with this Company! First they wanted that the cat women in the cages would wear only bra with leggings, no one wanted it, then they gave us also bodies to Cover naked Skin. Those who refused to work in the cage was told to not come to work anymore. I have Never been treated this way at work! It was horrible and downgrading!
I also see that someone forgot to research the inverter clearance requirements. The first inverter is immediately next to the AC panelboard, without the required 8″ spacing. This is an issue for proper inverter ventilation.
I came at this from a different perspective, and went SolarEdge.
1) SolarEdge has one point of failure on the ground where it is accessible, versus multiple points of failure on the roof with Enphase. This was based on my belief that roof optimizers by themselves were more reliable (fewer parts) than inverters.
2) For my particular setup (with no shading other than when it snows), my calculations showed the SolarEdge inverter would come on faster. Your mileage may vary however, and if I had shading I’d look harder at Enphase.
3) SolarEdge’s software was far better and I was able to pinpoint some panels that were not the wattage they should have been (but there software does have areas needing improvement too).
Now, that being said, a month after install I had the SolarEdge inverter go out, and there are burn marks inside the DC cutoff switch. We are yet to hear what that issue was or the resolution, and how SolarEdge deals with it. That is costing me a few days of sunshine and I’m not too happy with SolarEdge at the moment on that score.
Anyway … I’m somewhat non-biased other than having made a decision.
Much needed content on the state of affairs for solar permitting & inspections in LA. Thanks for taking the time to write this. Hope that the county and the other AHJs take further steps to understanding the technology, installation process, and the issues at stake.
Glad to hear that the problems are not acute with Resi at LA County, but in my role with SEAC, I will be addressing both res and non-res, so the issue that prompted this blog post is still of interest to me. Let me know if you would be free to talk via phone so I can be prepared to address your issue next week.
Hi Jeff -
Generally speaking, on resi projects County has only been something of an annoyance (for example, discounting wind tunnel testing results for ballast systems or not excluding live loads from the area beneath the array) but not a major cost factor. For the project described here, the impact was thousands of dollars - a result that neither I nor my client found reasonable.
THe issue of bonding and grounding is indeed a challenging one, has been for years. I too have run into difficulties, most recently on metal shingle roofs where the permitting official required that every metal shingle be bonded to ground. This is impractical/impossible, so I contacted LA County and explained that metal shingles deserve the same consideration as “metal accessories) in section 9.1 of UL 2703 that allows accessories to not be grounded if the system meets 4 requirements #1 non separately derived, #2 points of grounding marked, #3 using listed wire management devices, and #4 sufficient wire management that would prevent conductive components contacting the metal accessories in the event of an accidental fault. After explaining this to the chief electrical inspector, LA county determined that solar could be installed on metal shingle roofs as long as these conditions were met.
There are a number of thorny UL 2703 issues being address by LA County and based upon the review of our Quick Rack system, I feel their review is fair, and their requested supplements, edits, and changes to our listing are perfectly valid. While there will be some bumps along the way, I have found their review fair and reasonable.
I promise to represent your concerns at next weeks SEAC meeting, but would appreciate more specific info on the UL 2703 listing for Everest to better understand why the problems exist with LA county. Feel free to call me at your convenience to discuss.
Hi Jeff -
Nope, I’m not mixed up. LA DWP is the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and they are the muni for the City of LA. My post is not addressed to them (although they are another whole can of worms).
No, I’m talking about the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works - one and the same entity that has created this SEAC. I agree that this is (potentially) a positive step. My only point was, before they go casting about to identify the causes of PV challenges, they should remove the plank from their own eye!
LA DPW is the municipal utility for LA City not LA County.
The County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works has recently established the Solar Energy Action Committee to address the more vexing issues relating to codes, standards, permitting and inspection for solar installations in cities that fall under LA County’s is attempting to get LA City (DPW) to participate in the Solar Energy Action Committee.
I recently joined SEAC and serve as the representative for the solar manufacturers group. I believe SEAC is a positive step to help bridge the communication gap between building officials and the solar community.
If you have any issues with LA county (not LA City/DPW) please do bring them to me and I will go to work with SEAC to address them.
I like that this is a way to work with the commission but is there a way that we can take this to the Californian people that care about solar as a way to provide cleaner energy?
Is it possible to enable a transition from utility run power line maintenance to solar power company run maintenance? Could solar city and other solar companies bid against the utility company for a specific municipality? This would make the companies compete on service, price and innovation. Imagine a municipal battery bank that allowed for storage for night use. It would reduce the power transmission, loss and more efficiently use the power produced in a city.
By contrast for cities that don’t make these investments they can continue to use traditional means or buy electricity from the neighboring city at market rate. This is to say that there is no loss to these city that chose not to invest in solar.
If there’s an economist out there I’d love to see what the models predict would happen at a macro scale. Would the loss or disruption of the utilities have a negative or positive effect? Would it result in a more efficient use of resources and make the population better off? Could the solar companies actually compete with the utilities?
Thanks, Jeff - but credit for this piece goes to our awesome Projects Coordinator, Laurel Hamilton. You’ll get to meet her at InterSolar next month! (And we will both be needing Battle of the Bands tickets - hint, hint!)
Bravo Jim! I hope more solar installers start following this ethic of advocating re-roofing before solar is installed. The long term cost benefit of starting with a new roof under the array are almost always a great ROI.
ncbill - I don’t disagree with your comments about what a typical off-grid system owner would/could do. My objection is that isn’t at all what Musk was saying, and as a result, he created a huge set of expectations amongst the public that cannot be met. He didn’t say you would need to supplement your Powerwall with a gas-powered generator, indeed, a big part of his spiel was about getting away from fossil fuels altogether.
I am in no way opposed to the concept of the Powerwall, but I am very opposed to people over-promising and then under-delivering. Musk’s comments guarantee precisely that.
Sorry, I don’t understand your objections.
This is an inexpensive, compact, and most importantly standardized way to add expandable storage.
Right now, if you want to add storage, every install is essentially reinventing the wheel, e.g.
1. do I go cheap with 6V golf cart batteries (3-5 year lifespan), or
2. pay through the nose for a bulky battery bank built on 2V cells that is still high-maintenance (e.g. power ventilation is needed for hydrogen emitted during frequent equalization charges).
Even with the more expensive lead-acid bank you don’t dare cycle it below 50% if you want it to last 10 years - and you won’t be hanging a 20kWh lead-acid battery bank on the wall.
It’s also specious to demand that it be able to power a central A/C - off-grid homeowners fire up the generator if they want that, or to use an electric oven, they don’t try to do either with a battery bank!
It does allow me to eliminate the half-dozen UPS units I already have, and will run my gas furnace just fine when the ice storm cuts power at 3am (I can hook up a portable generator to recharge it at my leisure the next day).
Paul - exactly! We focused on just one issue - overall capacity/autonomy - but peak power demand, both from the battery and the inverter(s) is an equally significant concern - and one which Musk simply glossed over. Jim
Having seen hundreds of bills on both the east and west coast, that number is reasonable. That said, one of the other technological issues with this is inverter sizing. I would love to know what commercially available inverter is going to be capable of starting and running an ac unit. Oh, and at the same time, allow you to cook on an electric stove… And have lights on, T.V., etc. No Way!
SageBrush - You say their reliability record is spotty, but that hasn’t been our experience at all. In fact we have dozens of SMA inverters in the field and thousands of Enphase microinverters. We have replaced the same number of each type of inverter - four. (Our earliest SMA install is 2007, our earliest Enphase install is 2009.)
As to the second point, I don’t know of anyone charging their EV via DC - while you could do it that way, that’s not how the overwhelming number of EV chargers are configured - so that idea is not really relevant to how people use these things.
Assuming Enphase can deliver on their storage product later this year, you will have a truly AC-integrated solution.
Two reasons would tempt me away from Enphase these days:
1. Their reliability record is spotty. While the hardware is warrantied for a long time, labor is not included.
2. I like the idea of a DC system that can feed DC appliances like a Tesla PW or an *EV and only shunt what is needed to the inverter.
Great article and comments, had to read all comments even. With a man like Musk, you need to consider that he thinks in futuristic terms and is probably counting on many advancements such as our energy efficient roofing systems to help his claims become a reality.
Our company is introducing a new roofing system that combines insulation on the roof deck(eliminating the traditional thermal mass), BIPV and light weight curb appeal. This new roofing technology dramatically transforms the thermodynamics of the structure making it much more likely that off grid requirements for existing housing stock can be met for the most part. Some applications would require emergency backup generation powered by natural gas, diesel or gasoline. Our energy efficient roof can offset HVAC loads by as much as 70%.
Keep the excellent critiques coming.
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.