06/20/16

  11:06:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 110 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar News

Solar Plane Crossing the Atlantic! - UPDATED!

UPDATE - 6/23/2016 - SI 2 has arrived safely in Seville, Spain, and did so in just 71 hours, 8 minutes (of the planned 90-hour duration).  Read more on the SI2 blog page.


Solar Impulse 2- that amazing solar-only powered aircraft - is in the air again, this time undertaking a predicted 90-hour flight from New York City’s JFK airport to Seville airport in Spain!

You can see how its systems are performing - solar cells charging the plane’s batteries and powering its ascent during the day, and the batteries propelling the plane during the night as it descends - by following the very cool charts embedded below.  (You can read some of our earlier coverage of Solar Impulse 2 here.)

06/14/16

  07:32:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 237 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, PWP Rebates

PWP Rebates Fall August 1!

PasadenaBad news for Pasadena Water and Power customers - we have just learned that PWP’s solar rebates will be dropping by 1/3 effective August 1st!  Here are the details…

As we have noted many times in the past, Pasadena has one of the best solar rebate programs around - decent rebates, a well managed program, and good communications.  Consistent with that approach we have just learned that the solar rebates are going to be reduced effective August 1st.  That means that rebate applications submitted prior to then, and which are deemed complete when submitted, will qualify for the current rebate. Once the rebate is reserved, you would then have a year to complete the project.

Here are the current and upcoming rebate rates:

Customer Type

Current Incentives

Incentives Effective
Aug 1, 2016

EPBB
($/Watt)

PBI
($/kWh)

EPBB
($/Watt)

PBI
($/kWh)

Residential $0.45 $0.144 $0.30 $0.096
Commercial $0.45 $0.144 $0.30 $0.096
Non-Profit/Gov’t $0.90 $0.288 $0.60 $0.192
Income-Qualified $1.80 $0.576 $1.20 $0.384

Potential residential or commercial clients, your rebate will drop from 45¢/Watt to 30¢/Watt. That means that for a typical residential project of 5 kW, the rebate will drop from $2,250 to $1,500.

Non-profits will leave even more money on the table if they miss the August 1 deadline.  For a typical 40 kW school project, the rebate will drop from $36,000 to $24,000!  Ouch!

If past is prologue, this drop in the rebate amount will create a stampede as folks try to lock in the current rebate rate before it steps down.  If you are in PWP’s service area, please don’t wait, give us a call today!

06/13/16

  10:02:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1208 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Ranting

Scared of Solar?

Advocates of solar, such as the crew at Run on Sun, take it for granted that going solar is win-win for our clients, such as the folks at Chandler School.  But sometimes we forget that non-adopters have real concerns about putting solar on their roofs.  In this, our last cut on the data that we received from NREL (read our two earlier posts on who chooses Run on Sun and what generally keeps people away from solar), we wanted to address the greatest concerns that people have so that they don’t need to be scared of solar.

First off, here’s our last chart:

scared of solar - points of concern

Let’s take these concerns one at a time.

Cost concerns

Perhaps the greatest overall concern turns on cost and its counterpart, value.

Affordability

The greatest concern expressed was over the affordability of going solar.  The good news is that solar has never been more affordable.  Back in 2007 when we were first doing installations, solar systems cost more than $8/Watt installed.  Today we are at half of that cost, and even though most rebate programs have ended, the federal tax credit is still at 30%, meaning that more and more people can now afford to go solar!

Bang for the buck

Still, some consumers are concerned about getting enough bang for their buck - they wonder if solar really provides value commensurate with its cost.  To that we reply - it depends.  It depends on the quality of the equipment that you choose and the quality of the installer who puts that equipment on your home.  But how can a consumer know if they are getting quality?  It starts by taking the time to do your research - get multiple bids so you have a basis for comparison.  Be wary of low-ball bids - prices below market are a clear sign that there will either be nasty surprises by way of change orders down the road, or that your contractor is cutting corners. 

As to the quality of the contractor doing the work, ask for references and check them.  In California, look at the Contractors State License Board website to see if there are complaints against the contractor, and see if they are certified by NABCEP, the gold-standard for quality in the solar industry.  Review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List can also help.

Taking on debt or signing a lease

Going solar is a significant financial investment and it should be treated as such.  We have written at great length about the problems with solar leases, but even a favorable loan, like a home equity line of credit, carries costs.  Ideally, savings from your lower electric bill should offset the cost of financing the system, and once the system is paid off, you will continue to derive those savings for the lifetime of the system.

When you get a proposal for going solar, it should clearly spell out what your savings will be in Year 1, and provide a reasonable projection for your payback period over time.  But be careful about proposals with overly rosy projections based on unrealistic assumptions (like energy costs going up 7% each year for 25 years), or ones that don’t disclose their assumptions at all!

Reliability & Maintenance

Another general area of concern turns on how well a solar power system will hold up over time, and what it will cost you to maintain it.

Equipment quality and reliability

In solar, like most everything else, you get what you pay for, if you’re lucky!  Every day we get emails inviting us to purchase cut-rate panels at a fraction of the price we pay for top-of-the-line panels from LG.  We delete those emails without a second thought because we have no interest in dealing with junk.  But someone is buying those panels, and they are ending up on the homes of consumers.  Again, get multiple bids and do your research.  Selecting quality products from established manufacturers is your best assurance that you will have reliable equipment that will last.  (We install LG panels and Enphase microinverters because we believe that they are the best value for our clients.)

Performing regular maintenance

We are always a bit baffled by this one, since a solar power system is largely maintenance free.  We think this concern arose because leasing companies promised to perform all maintenance needed for the system, but this is a hollow promise since there is really nothing to do!  At Run on Sun we provide a ten-year warranty on our work, and we support the manufacturer’s warranties for the parts - so if something does go wrong, it will be fixed with no hassle for our clients.

Harm to your home

Properly flashed solar penetrations

The final category of concerns centers around harm to your most valuable asset, your home.  Solar, when done right, will improve that value, but that is not guaranteed.

Damaging the roof

One obvious point of concern has to do with damage to your roof.  After all, a solar array on a pitched roof is held in place by lag bolts driven into the roof rafters so that means lots of holes being put into your roof.  However, when done correctly, as shown in the photo on the right, all of those penetrations are covered by a flashing that guarantees that water cannot penetrate. 

The other issue to consider is the status of your roof - if it is nearing the end of its usable life you will want to re-roof before you put solar on it! 

Detract from curb appeal

Ugly solar

Image from the very cool Solar Hall of Shame page by
Green Sun Energy Services, LLC. (Used w/permission)

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder and we love seeing solar on a home.  (Although not when it is installed like the bozos did in the photo on the left!)

Still, not everyone wants to see solar panels, and many of our installations are done so as to make the installation as inconspicuous as possible.  (In the photo below the only way to see that lovely layout is to go up on the roof.)  A properly designed and installed system should look clean and neat.  We take pride in our craftsmanship and we work very hard to make our systems as visually appealing as they are economically beneficial.

Make it harder to sell

Beautiful solar curb appeal

Finally, there is the concern that adding solar will make it harder to sell your home, which can be true if you have leased the system since the new owner has to assume that lease as part of the deal. We have written at length about the perils of solar leases, and  making it harder to sell your home is just one of many reasons to give them a wide berth.

But if you were smart enough to avoid a lease, the latest research indicates that having a solar power system installed increases the value of your home.  How much?  Roughly $4.00/Watt for a typical installation - which pretty much means that the cost of the system is offset by the increase in resale value!  Try doing that with granite countertops!

Fear Not!

Consumers need not be scared of solar, provided that they choose a reputable installer and pay for quality equipment.  At Run on Sun we specialize in both, so give us a call today!

06/10/16

  02:56:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 142 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Pasadena Solar, Ranting

Happy Birthday Pasadena... and Run on Sun!

Everyone knows that when it comes to Pasadena, Run on Sun is the premier installer of solar PV systems for residential, commercial, and non-profit clients (if you doubt it, just ask us!).  But we have one other cool thing in common - we are both marking milestone birthdays this year!

Happy Birthday, Pasadena!

While our hometown is turning 130, Run on Sun is turning 10 years old this year!  (Which, if you think about it, is nearly 130 in solar-installer years!)  So when we heard that the folks at Pasadena Weekly were looking to feature ads that wished the City a Happy Birthday, we just had to get into the act!  (If you are in the Pasadena area, you will find the ad - with art work by that Solar Kid Julia who will soon be a college sophomore - on page 42.)

Happy Birthday to us both, and many happy returns!

06/09/16

  03:09:00 pm, by Laurel Hamilton, Projects Coordinator, Run on Sun   , 745 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Non-profit solar, Westridge PAC Project, Chandler School

Video Release: Making the world better...one roof at a time

Its not every day that we get to unveil a beautifully crafted video showcasing just what it is that makes Run on Sun tick. Happily today is different! Our fabulous distributor, Baywa r.e., has partnered with us to create our very own professional marketing video:

Baywa r.e. has been more than just a products distributor for Run on Sun. We began our partnership with Baywa, formerly Focused Energy, back in 2009 when we found them to be a much more detail oriented operation than their competitors. They proved to us they could translate what happens on the roof to ensuring we got all the pieces necessary to make installations run smoothly. Now, our primary reason for continuing to partner with Baywa r.e. has evolved. Their management and staff all share our vision for a solar industry that is better. One that operates with the highest degree of ethics and transparency and a mission to help consumers save money while reducing our impact on the environment. They have supported us, and other small installers, in many ways far beyond the normal functions of a distributor. Case in point is this video which they produced to help us share our message with our community.

I’d also like to point out a few details on the installations featured in this video: 

LAWC Reservoir

Lincoln Avenue Water Company Reservoir Project: 

This was our second project with Lincoln Avenue after helping their administrative office go solar in 2011. The 2015 Reservoir project was in partnership with Baja Construction building the ground mount structure to support the 246 LG280 watt panels and Enphase M250 microinverters. Run on Sun installed the solar system to utilize otherwise unused land below the reservoir offsetting nearly 50% of the energy required to run their pumphouse.  

Westridge School for Girls:

Westridge School for Girls

While we didn’t end up shooting video at Westridge we really wanted to be sure to include this project as it is near and dear to our hearts. As Run on Sun’s first school installation and Jim Jenal’s (Founder and CEO) daughter’s alma mater we really enjoyed helping them go solar. In 2012 we installed a solar array on their Performing Arts Center consisting of 216 LG250 watt solar panels which were the cream of the crop back then! Working with Westridge School for Girls was a wonderful experience which included our very own Jim Jenal leading a science class tracking a solar eclipse using the Enphase microinverter data! We believe solar at schools offer such great added benefits providing a resource for students to learn about renewable energy as well as math, engineering, environmental issues and more! 

Chandler School Solar Installation

Chandler School:

In the Fall of 2015 we completed the installation of 147 LG300 watt solar panels on the gym at Chandler School. Chandler was also a fantastic partner to work with partially because we share their values in environmental stewardship. We hope that growing up in an educational environment where solar power is the norm will help students navigate a future where sustainable clean solutions will be the only way forward. We would also like to give a huge shout out to the amazing Trevor Spicer, Director of Operations and Information Technology, for the off-the-cuff cameo and kind words in the video. 

Residential 14kW Project:

Residential Installation

This was the most recent Run on Sun installation featured in the video, where a lot of the dialogue with Jim Jenal takes place. This is the second home these particular clients have installed solar with Run on Sun as they recently moved into this beautiful Altadena mid-century modern home. Their roof was a perfect slate for a solar array, and we wouldn’t be surprised if this particular feature was one reason they chose the property! Owning electric vehicles and wanting to offset as much of their electricity as possible we maxed out the space with 44 LG320’s, top of the line panels today! It didn’t hurt that the view from the roof was one to die for, spanning much of the valley with Los Angeles skyscrapers in the distance. Of course, as evidenced by one of the shots in the video, we could also see the smog levels each day we worked at this site further enhancing our resolve to continue to get more solar out there!

Thanks for reading as we share some of the projects we are most proud of. And of course, let us know if you’d like to get a free quote today and share in our commitment towards the belief that the world can be better one roof at a time!

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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.
Laurel Hamilton is Run on Sun's Projects Coordinator, and together they author this blog.
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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