05/04/17

  05:11:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 497 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, SCE, Residential Solar, Ranting, Net Metering

NEM 2.0 is Coming - But Not Before July 1

As a solar installer working in SCE’s territory, we get messages from them on a regular basis, including those regarding the upcoming transition to NEM 2.0.  But the email we received today (actually two copies of it!) was a bit, how shall we say, high-strung?  Here’s our take.

NEM 2.0 will occur when the first of two events occurs: SCE interconnects enough residential and commercial solar projects to reach 5.0% of its total aggregate power demand, or July 1.  We have written before that SCE will never get to the 5% beforehand, so the deadline is 23:59:59 on June 30. 

So we were a tad perplexed to see this email today - here’s a sample:

417 MWs Remaining in NEM 1.0

As SCE gets closer to its Net Energy Metering (NEM) 1.0 Cap, we want to remind everyone of the importance of submitting complete and accurate interconnection request(s) (IRs). You should be receiving similar notifications within the online application system (i.e., PowerClerk).

Why is the 417 MWs remaining important?

For those applicants and customers with an existing IR moving through the interconnection process, we are sharing this information so that you may plan accordingly as SCE approaches its NEM 1.0 Cap. Once the cap is reached, the existing NEM tariff will close to new customers and the NEM 2.0 (NEM Successor) tariff will become available. With approximately 417 MWs remaining in the NEM 1.0 cap, this is a friendly reminder to please submit all documentation necessary for receiving service under NEM 1.0 and do so as soon as possible.

(Emphasis in the original.)

Wow - you would think that this might happen any day now, based on that language.  Except that it won’t - not even close.

Here are the underlying numbers:  SCE’s total cap is 2,240 MWs - a target it has been building toward since 2007!  As of today, in SCE’s territory, 1,823 MWs has been installed.  That means it has taken roughly  3,595 days to install that capacity, which works out to roughly half a Megawatt per day.  With 417 MWs left under the cap, and just under 58 days before July 1, we would have to be installing at the rate of 7.2 MWs/day!  Uh, no.  Just Not Going To Happen!

(If you would like to see exactly how much time we have before we hit the actual deadline, check out the Doomsday Clock on our Residential Solar page.)

However, the reality of that deadline does have consequences.  For potential commercial clients, sorry, but you are out of luck - there is just not enough time to get a new commercial project designed, permitted, constructed, and approved before July 1.

Potential residential clients are in a slightly better position, but only slightly as your window of opportunity is rapidly closing.  For example, we are already booked solid for the entire month of May with just SCE projects (we have pushed everyone else back to try and help as many as possible in SCE territory meet the deadline), and we can only guarantee an approved interconnection for NEM 1.0 by mid-June.  If you’ve been thinking about solar in SCE-land, please don’t wait, call or email us today!

04/30/17

  01:01:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 656 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Ranting

Suniva - the Tail Wagging the Dog

Prices for solar modules have been dropping for years at the same time that their efficiency and overall quality has continued to improve.  This has made solar more affordable for not only residential solar system owners, but also for utility scale solar projects that can now produce electricity at prices that are helping to put dirty, coal-fired power plants out of business.  This is a win-win for all - cheaper, cleaner electricity is just a good thing for everyone.

Unless, that is, you are Suniva.

Who is Suniva, you ask?  Really good question.  Suniva is a Georgia-based solar module manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy earlier this month and then, on April 26th filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission calling for protectionist tariffs on imported solar cells and modules from the rest of the world.  If granted, the tariffs would add $0.40/Watt on imported cells and put a floor of $0.78/Watt on modules. 

Stephen Lacey over at Greentech Media has a nice summary of the proposed tariffs.  From his article:

The company filed a Section 201 petition under the 1974 Trade Act – a tool that could allow the president to implement tariffs, minimum prices or quotas on solar products from anywhere in the world if “serious injury” is proven. It was last used by the steel industry in 2002, which resulted in a three-year tariff schedule on steel products from a number of countries.

If anti-dumping and countervailing duties investigations at the Commerce Department are a scalpel, then Section 201 is a hammer. It is a comparatively swift, blunt instrument. After a petition is filed, the U.S. International Trade Commission has 120 days to review. And if it decides that the industry is facing serious injury, it has another month or two to issue recommendations. The president then has the authority to follow the recommendations – or potentially act on his own.

Trump’s camp specifically cited Section 201 on the campaign trail. Although solar doesn’t seem to be on the president’s mind, this could be a potential win for his trade agenda.

Great.  Suniva is essentially begging the President to blunt the growth of the entire solar industry so that they can “compete".

Which made us wonder, how big a player is Suniva anyway?

Well judging from the California solar market, not so much.  We pulled the NEM Currently Interconnected dataset from the California Distributed Generation Statistics page.  This dataset has entries for all net metered solar installations in the territories of California’s three IOU’s: PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E.  The dataset spans from 1998 through January 31, 2017, and contains 603,000 entries. 

One of the things captured in the data is the manufacturer of the solar modules being used, and the number being installed.  Creating a pivot table from the raw data - and some scrupulous merging of the data to account for creative variations in how the manufacturer’s name was recorded (for example, SunPower was listed 8 different ways) - allows us to see the market share for module manufacturers based on total number of modules installed.  Here’s what that graph looks like:

Module market share

There are sixteen module manufacturers on that graph, and Suniva is tail-end Charlie, having less than 10% of the installed base that market leader, SunPower, has.  Curiously, SunPower is a premium (i.e., expensive) module that is also made in the U.S. 

Square in the middle of that chart is our panel maker of choice, LG, and no one could suggest that they are “dumping” panels on the market. Yet despite entering the US market years after Suniva was founded, LG has outsold them nearly 4 to 1.

What makes Suniva’s pitch even more disingenuous is that it is actually a subsidiary of Shunfeng International Clean Energy, headquartered in Hong Kong!

The solar industry does not need more protectionist trade policies, we need to keep building as much clean energy as we can, as fast as we can.  We shouldn’t let a foreign-owned manufacturer derail that progress under the guise of patriotism, but really just for their own gain.

04/29/17

  12:25:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1208 words  
Categories: SCE, LADWP, Ranting, Chandler School

Knock, Knock - Who's There?

When you create a website, and beyond that, a blog, you sometime wonder - who is reading this? (Assuming that *someone* is reading it at all!) Capturing site visit data provides you a rough insight into who those folks might be, if you are willing to slog through the data. But heck, you know we love digging into data, so come along and let’s see who is out there!

The raw data, courtesy of Google Analytics, lists the service provider for every visit to the website (including this blog).  For this analysis we looked at data for the first 100 days of this year, a total of 9,983 visits from 7,398 distinct visitors who collectively looked at 12,607 pages.  Some 1,372 different service providers are listed in that data, but they are not categorized in any way - that is a process that must be done manually (ouch!).  The vast majority of the service providers are either not identified at all (39% of the total) or appear to be generic ISPs, such as “time warner cable internet llc".  Without anyway to get behind that lack of information, there is little to be learned from those entries, so we will exclude them and see what we can glean from the rest.

Filtered in that way leaves us with 526 different sources that accounted for roughly half of our visits, 4,845.  Our analysis broke these out into five categories: Company, School, Government, Non-Profit, and Other.  Here’s what that looked like:

sources of visits to Run on Sun

Far and away the largest category of sources are visits from other companies, making up 49% of our sources.  That is encouraging since we provide solar installations to companies, it is nice to know that they are coming to our site!

The next largest source is schools - again, a major target for our marketing efforts - although we were surprised at the number of schools, particularly colleges, that visited.  (We always felt that we had a very educated readership and that would tend to prove that out!)

We have to admit that we were surprised at the large number of government sources, and frankly some of them have us a bit creeped out!  (More on that in a moment.)

The non-profit category was surprisingly small, given the number of phone calls and emails that we get from non-profits across the country.  Apparently there is very little on the internet about solar for non-profits, so lots of folks from far-flung corners of the country find their way to our solar for non-profits page.  Unfortunately we have to tell them that we are a local company and really cannot help them install solar on their church in Peoria!  (But we do point them to the NABCEP website!)

Let’s dig into these categories a bit more and see what we find!

The Company We Keep

There are all manner of companies represented in the data, from 3 Day Blinds to Amazon, Bloomberg, Facebook, Hubspot, Intel, Kaiser, Microsoft, Navigant, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Rolls-Royce (I don’t think they make an EV!), to Yogurtland - and dozens and dozens more in between.

There are two interesting sub-categories: Utilities and other Solar companies.  First utilities - there are 15 of them represented in the data including LADWP, SCE and SoCal Gas.  But there are also utilities from across the country including Duke Energy, Dominion (Virginia) Power, and even the Electric Power Research Institute, which is the think tank for the electric utility industry.

But there are even more solar companies checking us out - certainly a complement of sorts - 16 in all.  Some of these are manufacturers, including Canadian Solar, Hanwha, and even SolarEdge!  Some are distributors, like Krannich, but most are competitors, ranging from nationals like Vivint to regional players like Sullivan Solar Power.  Hey guys, don’t be shy, feel free to leave a comment!

Somebody’s Watching Me…

Remember that song?  Looking into the Government category turned up a few, kinda creepy, surprises.  For example, we got visits from a number of military-affiliated sources like the 754th Electronic Systems Group which is located at the Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts, and has the following mission statement:

Deliver integrated information driving war winning decisions by shaping, acquiring, and sustaining warfighting IT capabilities through responsive, adaptive and cost-effective logistics, enterprise services and infrastructure solutions—to fly and fight in air, space and cyberspace.

Yikes!  Not sure what that has to do with a website about PV in SoCal, but they visited three different times! Or there is the DoD Network Information Center (four visits, Google them if you are into conspiracy theories!), the Navy Network Information Center (five visits), and the Headquarters USAISC (two visits).

There were also some really cool government sites including CERN, NREL, NASA (though NASA’s may have been my daughter!), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - even one hit from the U.S. Senate (welcome to D.C., Senator Harris!).

The largest government category, however are various municipalities, with 27 different towns, cities and counties dropping by, including locals like Pasadena, LA (city and county), Santa Monica, Anaheim, etc.  But also some from far away like Boston, San Francisco, and Westchester County. 

Various states stopped by as well, including: Washington, D.C. (I know, it’s not a state, but it should be, so there), Maine, Maryland, New York, New Mexico, and Utah, to name a few.  Fun!

No Profit Here

The non-profit category was very small, but interesting.  While there were a handful of churches, including my favorite, Yosemite Church - the setting alone should be inspiring! - the more interesting fact was that the largest sub-category was related to medicals services, including six hospitals!  Hey we’ve never put solar on a hospital, but we would love to help you out!

School Me

Which brings us to our final category, schools.  99 of our sources were categorized as school related, with sub-categories of school districts, elementary schools, and colleges.  There was only one elementary school in the mix, our client, Chandler School.  Interestingly, there were 27 school districts in the data from all over the country ranging from LAUSD to the Cambridge Public Schools.

Our connection to colleges, however, was truly amazing with 70 different schools showing up.  Lots of famous names in this list including our neighbor Caltech, USC, UCLA (along with roughly half of the overall UC system!), Stanford, American University (Go Eagles!), Duke, Johns Hopkins, LMU (my alma mater), NYU, Princeton, Rutgers, Notre Dame, University of Utah (my second alma mater!), even Oxford!  Wow, I feel smarter already.

Most of these sources provided just one visit - they hit a given page and then left.  But some sources were more, shall we say, studious.  For example, we only got one hit from Azusa Pacific University (located at the very end of the Gold Line), but they looked at 11 different pages in the three minutes that they were on the site.  (Average duration on the site overall was 55 seconds.)  The winners for most time on site were Notre Dame (one visit, seven pages, more than 20 minutes) and Colorado State (one visit, five pages, 18 minutes).  It is quite rewarding to see that the resource that we have created can have real value for people, especially (we presume here) students. 

So that’s it - thanks to all who visit this site, we appreciate your time and interest.  We hope we will continue to provide a resource that brings you back - well, except for the creepy ones!

04/17/17

  01:54:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 205 words  
Categories: Commercial Solar

A Tale of Two Roofs

We were talking with our favorite distributor - BayWa r.e. - the other day about their  new Southern California warehouse location and so, like any Google-Earth-obsessed type we immediately loaded in the address to see what we could see.  It’s pretty impressive, check it out:

What is wrong with this roof?

That’s a pretty impressive space, with tons of truck docks (though most were empty) and dozens and dozens of skylights.

But heck, we are a solar company and we couldn’t help but note that boy do they need solar on that building!  And it isn’t like that is an original thought for one of these enormous distribution centers out in the Inland Empire.  In fact, there’s one just like it up the road - check this out:

Now that's how you do it!

Wow!  Now that’s how you do it!  A ton of solar, dancing around the skylights!  (And see how successful adding solar made them - look at all of those trucks!)

Don’t know who did that job, but we tip our cap to them.  Every warehouse/distribution center/enormous flat roof should be covered in solar panels  If you own such a building and it is presently looking sad like the first roof, give us a call!  We’d be happy to help you put that space to a profitable use!

03/28/17

  03:22:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1002 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Residential Solar, Energy Storage

Solar + Storage = $avings!

We have been waiting a long time for this moment, when we could finally say that we can offer a solar plus smart storage solution for our residential clients.  Well the wait is over, and if you act fast, there is even a sweet rebate available!  It is a complicated picture, so stick with us as we break this down.

Introducing the Enphase Energy AC Battery

Four Enphase Energy AC batteries installed

Four Enphase Energy AC Batteries

Regular readers of this blog know that we are big fans of Enphase Energy and have been installing their microinverters for years.  Given our history with the company, we were excited to be approached by Enphase to participate in their AC Battery “beta” install program, one of just a handful of selected installers in the U.S.  We selected the site of one of our largest residential projects for the beta, knowing that would give us great data to study over time (and you know how we love data!).  We really like the way the install turned out, nice and neat!

Let’s be clear about what this system is, and is not.  It is not a battery backup system.  It will not keep the lights on if the grid goes down.  It is an energy arbitrage system - it stores energy from your PV array for use later in the day when your rates are highest.  That means that this system isn’t for everyone; it is for folks who have a PV system (or want to install one!) and are subject to time-of-use (TOU) rates, which mostly means just some folks who are SCE customers.  (Important note to SCE customers - if you install solar after July 1st, you will be forced onto time-of-use rates.)

Each battery stores 1.2 kWh of energy and can discharge that energy at 280 Watts, giving a discharge time of 4.3 hours.  The beta install shown above is a total of 4.8 kWh and a discharge of 1.12 kW.

So how does this work? Consider SCE’s TOU rates - the cheapest energy (13.1¢/kWh) is from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.  The next cheapest energy (16.6¢/kWh) is from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.   The really expensive energy (a whopping 33.5¢/kWh!) is from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. - precisely when most people are coming home from work or school, turning on the A/C, and lights, and the TV and on and on.  Ouch! 

But note that the peak time does not coincide well with the output from the PV array, meaning energy exported onto the grid during the day is worth half of what that same energy would be worth later in the day.

That problem is exactly what the Enphase AC Battery is designed to solve.  Each morning when the PV array “wakes up” it starts to power the local loads of the house.  As the system produces more power, excess power is routed to charging the batteries (instead of exporting onto the grid).  Once the batteries are fully charged, any excess power is then exported and the homeowner gets a net metering credit for that energy.  But now when we get to 2 p.m. and the energy rate kicks into high gear, any energy needs that cannot be met by the PV array is supplied by the energy stored in the batteries, thereby limiting the amount of really expensive energy that has to be purchased from the grid.

Here’s a recent day’s performance of the beta system (I told you the data was cool!):

Enphase AC Battery usage

The bright blue is energy from the array, the orange represents energy loads - pale orange is entirely offset, bright orange is drawn from the grid.  The green at the bottom shows the percentage of battery charge - sloping up between 8 a.m. and noon, constant until needed starting around 6 p.m., and then discharging to offset the household loads. 

At the top we see snapshot data from the 8-8:15 p.m. interval.  No power is available from the array (duh, it’s night!), but the house is consuming 533 Watt-hours of energy, with slightly more than half coming from the batteries.  (Hint - the system is entirely modular, so we could easily double the size of the system to completely cover those loads.)

Bottom line: if you are on a TOU rate, storage can really improve the value of your existing PV system.  (And because the Enphase storage system is “AC-coupled” it can be installed with any existing PV system!)

The SGIP Rebate Program

Which brings us to the Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) rebates.  Starting in April, rebate applications can be submitted for energy storage systems.  Much as the CSI rebate program had multiple steps over time, SGIP has five incentive level steps and how fast it steps down is tied to how large is the demand for rebates.  (We anticipate that the highest rebate level will be paid out almost immediately after the program formally opens on May 1.)  At this highest rebate level we would expect the rebate for each Enphase AC Battery to be roughly $430.

The competition for these rebates will be pretty fierce.  Fortunately, there is a dedicated carve-out of money for small residential storage systems, so all the money won’t be gobbled up by a few, super-large projects.  (Interestingly, priority will be given to folks living in what is known as the Western LA Basin Local Reliability Area - you can check to see if your zip code, which includes pretty much all of the Run on Sun service territory - is included by clicking here.)

The rebate is not limited to SCE customers; folks who are SoCal Gas customers (that means you, PWP and LADWP folks!) can also participate.

Go with the Pros!

Properly sizing a battery system to go with your solar array is a complicated process that requires technical savvy.  Dealing with the SGIP bureaucracy requires a sophisticated team that can deal with the program’s many twists and turns.  If adding storage - specifically the Enphase AC Battery - to your present or planned PV system sounds like a good idea, give us call, we’re ready to bring our expertise to bear to help you get this right!

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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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