08/06/17

  02:48:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 165 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Climate Change

100 Years of Global Warming in 35 Seconds!

As regular readers of this blog know, we are major “data geeks” here at Run on Sun, and there is hardly anything that lights our fires more than a brilliantly executed data visualization!  Well Antti Lipponen, a researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, has just published what may be one of the greatest data visualizations ever, demonstrating 100 years of global warming in a mesmerizing 35 seconds! (H/T Yale Environment 360.)

Check it out…

Using temperature data from the world’s 191 countries, Lipponen’s stunning video turns a boring dataset into a compelling image of the rapid change that we are experiencing.  Using both color (warmer temperatures appear in warmer colors) and height (the length of each country’s bar is its departure from the averaged baseline), you can almost feel the pulse of the ever-warming Earth.

This visualization brings vividly home that we have a lot of work ahead of us, and such is the power of data used properly.  Congratulations, Mr. Lipponen, you are our new favorite data geek!

07/31/17

  08:42:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 494 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting

SE Takes the Leap, Highlighting Enphase's Superior Product - UPDATE!

UPDATE: The court has denied SolarEdge’s motion - read about it here.

In an earlier life I was a big firm lawyer, mostly handling hi-tech and intellectual property litigation.  Every now and then a client would get steamed over what they thought a competitor was doing, and would demand that we sue them - even though there was no merit in the case.  The competitor had a legal right to do what they were doing, even if it annoyed our client. 

Calmly, we would try to talk them down off the ledge less they draw more attention to the issue by suing than the activity ever would have on its own.  Apparently the folks at SolarEdge never got such advice as they have filed a frivolous lawsuit against competitor Enphase Energy over the video below.  Here’s our take…

SE is complaining that this video is “false and misleading” since it doesn’t illustrate the installation comparison that SE thinks is proper.  But that isn’t the standard.  Enphase says that they are comparing the install time on the roof between an Enphase-LG AC module and a SE optimizer system with separate modules.  Does that comparison exist in the real world of solar installations?  Of course.  In fact, if a solar installer wanted to use LG modules with SE, this is exactly the comparison that would be at issue! To suggest that such a comparison is false and misleading is to simply ignore real-world conditions. 

If SE wants to highlight a different, equally factual comparison, they are free to produce that ad, but that doesn’t give them the right to enjoin the factually accurate comparison that Enphase chose to highlight.

(SE also complains about the use of their logo in the video, but this is equally frivolous - that would be like saying that you couldn’t show a Pepsi can in a Coke ad.  Good luck with that.)

So far the court has not been too impressed with SE’s claim, denying a motion for a Temporary Restraining Order ("TRO"), saying:

Preliminary injunctive relief, whether in the form of a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, is an “extraordinary and drastic remedy,” that is never awarded as of right.  In order to obtain such relief, a plaintiff must establish four factors: (1) he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of  preliminary relief; (3) the balance of equities tips in his favor; and (4) an injunction is in the public interest.
Here, with respect to the request for a temporary restraining order in advance of a hearing for a preliminary injunction, plaintiffs have wholly failed to establish a likelihood of immediate irreparable harm to justify the issuance of a temporary restraining order at this time.

Apparently SE is afraid that Enphase will show the ad during SPI.  But thanks to this ill-begotten lawsuit, probably everyone who would have seen it at SPI, will see it now!  Way to take the leap, SE, nicely done.

07/18/17

  10:17:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 459 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, SCE, Residential Solar, Net Metering

NEM 2.0 is Here - Now What?

Net Energy Metering 2.0, or NEM 2.0 for short, is now the law of the land, at least in SCE territory.  So what does that really mean for potential solar clients?  Here’s the scoop…

NEM 2.0 brings three changes to how new solar clients will be treated by SCE (customers of PWP, LADWP, or any other muni utility are unaffected).  Let’s take a quick run through each one:

  • A one-time application fee - new solar clients will be charged $75 as part of the interconnection application process.  (In the past there was no charge.)  Not a big deal, just another annoyance from SCE.
  • Switch to Time of Use rates - this is a much bigger deal.  Most residential customers are on a two-tiered rate structure with a “penalty” tier for users who exceed 4x baseline allocation.  Under that rate structure the maximum cost for energy is 31.224¢/kWh.
    Going forward, new solar customers will be charged based on when they use energy, not how much energy they use, with a Summer, on-peak energy cost of 44.665¢/kWh!  Ouch!  Peak hours are weekdays (holidays excepted) from 2-8 p.m.
  • Non-Bypassable Charges - Under the old rules, energy that was imported from the grid could be entirely offset by energy exported onto the grid.  Now, for every kilowatt hour imported, regardless of exports, the customer will pay a small (for now) non-bypassable charge of 2.25¢/kWh.  Again, the utilities were pressing for this to be a much higher number, but for now this is a relatively minor surcharge.

So what does this all mean?  The answer is, it varies.  For some clients, particularly those with west-facing roofs, they may actually do better under TOU rates than they would have staying on the old, tiered rate plan.  But to answer that question requires a proper analysis, and this is where potential solar clients need to do their homework and look closely at their solar bids. 

EnergyToolbase screenshot

Here’s what to look for.  Your potential installer should be requesting that you provide them with SCE’s “interval data” for your home.  This hour-by-hour data for the entire year allows for a proper analysis of your usage, and makes it possible to compare that historical usage with the modeled output of your proposed PV system.  If they aren’t asking for interval data, they are taking shortcuts with their savings analysis - likely in ways that inflate your potential savings on paper, only to result in disappointment down the road.

Run on Sun uses UtilityAPI to access SCE data securely, and we employ EnergyToolbase (pictured above) to do our analysis of your potential savings - two of the most highly respected and sophisticated tools in the solar industry.  We have the tools and the expertise to give you the most accurate projection of your future savings from solar - so let’s get started!

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06/28/17

  12:08:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 786 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Energy Storage, Solar Storage

From 'Glut' to Glory - Making Storage Work! ACTION NEEDED!

On Sunday we wrote about a growing problem in California: as we have increased the role of solar generation in our electric mix, we have found ourselves in the awkward position of having to occasionally curtail that production, or worse yet, pay neighboring states like Arizona to take our excess!  This is clearly not sustainable, but fortunately there is a fix in the works in the form of Senate Bill 700, and it just needs the support of the solar community to make it happen.  Here’s our take…

The Glut

Solar power output bell curveAs everyone knows, the production of a solar power system peaks at solar noon - on a cloudless day providing a nice “bell curve” for power output, like in this illustration from an actual, Run on Sun solar installation.  The problem is that the peak demand for electricity does not align with solar’s peak; rather, peak demand occurs much later in the day when folks come home from school and work and crank up the electrical devices that define modern living - giving rise to the dreaded “Duck Curve“.  If only - as our friend Carter Lavin ruminated the other day - there were a way to shift that energy in time from the solar peak to the demand peak!

Of course, there is such a way.  It is called energy storage.  Storage could provide that time-shift needed to make the most of our abundant solar energy.  So why aren’t we using it?

In a word - cost.  Today, energy storage systems are just too expensive, and the existing rebate system for storage systems, known as SGIP, is a joke.  The SGIP process, which is essentially a lottery, is no way to run a rebate program.  As we have argued in the past, for a rebate program to be meaningful, it has to be stable and predictable.  SGIP is neither.

The Glory

But this isn’t rocket science, and we have a relevant case study right before us - the California Solar Initiative (CSI) rebate program.  When CSI began, back in 2007, its 10-year mission was to dramatically grow the PV market in California and, in so doing, drive down the costs of solar.  Back when it began, Run on Sun was installing systems for $8.47/Watt.  By 2014, after CSI ran its course, our install price was down to $4.13/Watt - a reduction of 52% in just seven years!  CSI (along with the muni-rebate programs) helped to achieve that cost reduction by providing transparency and predictability that a lottery program cannot replicate.  Moreover, the CSI program was easy for even the smallest contractors to navigate, making the program available to all.  This is what is needed to bring storage prices down, drive exponential growth (and the local jobs that go with that growth), and stop the madness induced by our present power glut.

So how do we get there, if SGIP is not the way?

Glad you asked - enter SB 700 (Weiner, D-San Francisco), the Energy Storage Initiative (ESI) that would create a 10-year, $1.4 Billion rebate program along the lines of CSI, but for energy storage systems.  Here’s how CALSEIA describes the bill:

SB 700 would create a 10-year rebate program designed to grow the California local storage market and make storage more affordable for consumers. The rebates would step down as more storage systems are installed and economies of scale are achieved, thereby driving down the installed cost of the systems. Local energy storage enables the integration of large amounts of renewable energy, creates value for consumers by helping them save money on energy bills, and increases grid reliability.

“Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Scott Wiener, Californians are one step closer to taking control of their clean energy future,” said Laura Gray, energy storage policy advisor with the California Solar Energy Industries Association. “This bill would allow homes, businesses, schools and public buildings to use solar and renewable energy at all hours of the day and night. Using a combination of solar and storage, consumers will make the sun shine at night.”

The bill has already passed the California Senate (sadly, on a straight party-line vote), but it faces an important vote as early as July 5th in the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee, Chaired by Pasadena’s own, Chris Holden.  This bill should have bi-partisan support given the urgent need to move to an all-renewables future, but for that to happen, Committee members (and the Assembly as a whole) need to hear from their constituents. 

If you are in Chairman Holden’s district (which includes all of Pasadena and Altadena) you can reach his office at: 916-319-2041 and urge him to support SB700

Otherwise, you can find out your member of the Assembly by doing a search here.

Together we can get this bill over the hump - watch this space!

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.

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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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