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12/05/13

  10:22:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 488 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Ranting, Net Metering

ALEC Losing Support, Pivots to Attacking Solar

The right-wing policy/lobbying group, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), bleeding supporters since its advocacy for “stand your ground laws” exploded in its face after the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, has decided to tackle a new demon - solar power. We’re “freeloaders", didn’t you know?

Of course, being attacked from the Right is nothing new, as this fascinating and depressing video montage demonstrates:

But now our friends over at the Guardian are reporting that “ALEC calls for penalties on ‘freerider’ homeowners in assault on clean energy,” during the group’s three-day meeting this week in Washington, D.C. As we have described in the past, ALEC mostly acts behind the scenes to generate legislative proposals for state legislators across the country. While ALEC membership in the California legislature is very low - only 11 of 120 members belong - in some states - particularly Iowa and South Dakota - the percentage of ALEC membership is as high as 100%.

Not content with its “Electricity Freedom Act” (which would repeal a state’s renewable energy portfolio standard), ALEC is now setting its sites on individual homeowners. From the Guardian story:

Further details of Alec’s strategy were provided by John Eick, the legislative analyst for Alec’s energy, environment and agriculture program.

Eick told the Guardian the group would be looking closely in the coming year at how individual homeowners with solar panels are compensated for feeding surplus electricity back into the grid.

“This is an issue we are going to be exploring,” Eick said. He said Alec wanted to lower the rate electricity companies pay homeowners for direct power generation – and maybe even charge homeowners for feeding power into the grid.

“As it stands now, those direct generation customers are essentially freeriders on the system. They are not paying for the infrastructure they are using. In effect, all the other non direct generation customers are being penalised,” he said.

Eick dismissed the suggestion that individuals who buy and install home-based solar panels had made such investments. “How are they going to get that electricity from their solar panel to somebody else’s house?” he said. “They should be paying to distribute the surplus electricity.”

This is the same battle against net metering that we have been writing about since PG&E declared war on solar nearly a year ago. No doubt ALEC is hoping that it can reverse its funding woes by bringing in utilities from around the country with this new, and utterly cynical, campaign.

Rachel Maddow picked up the story last night with a long piece providing decades of context and concluded with an interview of one of the Guardian reporters who broke the story.

While California is largely immune from the nonsense being peddled by ALEC, other states aren’t so lucky.  In Arizona, where a bruising battle over net metering was just fought, 49% of the legislature are members of ALEC, according to ALEC internal documents made public by the Guardian (see p. 39).  Looks like that fight is just beginning.

12/02/13

  08:12:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 223 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Residential Solar

Solar Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday Sale on Solar!Cyber Monday captures the imagination of shoppers everywhere - so why not solar shoppers as well?  We know this time of year is traditionally slow for solar purchases - folks are more focused on presents for others than they are on cutting their energy bills.  That will come with the New Year and all those resolutions - after all, saving more money will be one of your resolutions next year, right?

Cyber Monday Sale on Solar!

But this year we thought we would offer you a little incentive to break that mold and get a head start on your New Year now.  So, in honor of Cyber Monday, we are offering our first ever Cyber Monday Sale on Solar!

Here’s how it works - when you click on that big, “Go Solar Now” sun on the right, enter the code “Cyber Monday” in the comments box.  Or if you call us at 626-793-6025, mention Cyber Monday on the call.  Then, if we sign a contract before the end of the year, we will take $500 off the cost of your new solar power system!

What could be better?  You save some money (heck, you could spend that extra $500 on some of those presents!) and you get a head start on fulfilling one of your upcoming New Year’s resolutions!  That just might make this the best Cyber Monday Sale ever!

11/30/13

  10:36:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 614 words  
Categories: Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting

A Word of Thanks

Thanksgiving is just behind us and it seemed like a fitting time to take a moment and offer a word of thanks to those of you kind enough to take the time to read this Newsletter. So here are some of the things for which we are grateful this year:

We qualified for the Chase Grant—We reached our goal of convincing 250 of our supporters to go online and vote for us in the Chase Bank, “Mission Main Street,” grant program. Now if you run a restaurant, getting 250 people to vote for you is easy - just set up a laptop at the counter and let people vote right there. Same if you run a gym or a bookstore, or pretty much any other brick and mortar type of enterprise.

But Run on Sun is a bit more “virtual” than that - except when we are actually installing a project, we interact with our clients mostly electronically. Nor do we operate a store front for “drop-ins” by the public. (Not yet, at least!) So we needed to reach out to folks electronically and cajole them to take a moment and visit the Chase website to vote. Yet even that wasn’t easy - since the only way to vote was to login using your Facebook account and some of our supporters don’t have Facebook accounts (?!?) and others are reluctant to trust the assurances of Chase that they will respect their privacy (we hear that). So we are truly grateful for those of you willing and able to vote.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we have won - we won’t know that until January. Watch this space!

We published our book—At the start of the year we set out to publish a book about Commercial Solar and after many months of work we were able to deliver on that goal. The book, Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step, has gotten great reviewsincluding one by none other than Tor ("Solar Fred") Valenza published over at Renewable Energy World that described it as a New Solar Sales Bible - wow!

As a result, we have sold copies of the book not only here in California, but all across the U.S. and even in Great Britain and Germany (isn’t the Internet grand?). While the book’s focus is on how building owners/managers can profitably install commercial solar, much of the text applies equally well to residential solar projects.

Oh, and we hear it makes a great Holiday Presentjust sayin’!

We have our largest project pipeline ever—As we come to the end of the year, our project pipeline is the largest we have ever seen. We are closing out 2013 strong, and we are looking forward to our best year ever in 2014!

We are well on our way to rolling out a shiny new website—Part of our excitement for the New Year ahead is the rollout of a brand new version of our website. The current websitewhich dates back to 2010has evolved over the years but the underlying design had gotten to look pretty “clunky” to quote one dismayed supporter.

The new website will feature an entirely new look with a much simpler layout and cleaner design elements. Plus, we have been hard at work applying our analytical skills (thank you, D3) to developing intriguing, and maybe even fun, functionality to delight and inform you! (For a sneak peak at one of those features, click the image below.)

new website preview

None of this would have been possible without the support of our many readers and clients. Together, you have given us the ability to make the world a better place, one rooftop at a time. You are why we do this, and we are mindful of your support every day. Thank you!

11/20/13

  10:06:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 768 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Solar News, Ranting

Aw Geez, Fox News is at it Again!

Years ago, Archie Bunker - of All in the Family fame - would look over at his daughter and son-in-law locked in an amorous embrace and bemoan, “Aw geez, they’re at it again!” Well, a recent Fox News story attacking solar has us feeling Archie’s pain.

SolarCity is NOT Solyndra

It seems that every story ever aired by those who support the fossil fuel industry will inevitably tie any solar company to Solyndra - regardless of how unrelated the two may be.  Case in point is this Fox story about questions being raised about SolarCity and its financial dealings, bearing the circuitous title: Solar firm linked to Obama donors could be ‘next Solyndra,’ top GOP Sen. warns. Wow - how about that for connecting some dots - SolarCity, linked to Obama, linked to Solyndra - a trifecta of irrelevance!  (In an interesting tell, it turns out the story is filed under “Politics” which probably tells you all you need to know.)

What is this really about?  It turns out that Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking Republican on the Senate Banking committee, sent a letter on Monday to Treasury Secretary Lew, asking some pointed questions about how SolarCity determines the value of its systems for the purpose of claiming the 30% federal investment tax credit.  Fair enough, as far as that goes, since many in the industry have raised questions about SolarCity’s practices in that regard. (Anyone who follows this blog knows that we have expressed our own concerns going back several years including this piece from 2011 and this one from 2012.)  But it is the spurious - and frankly quite tortured - connections to Obama and Solyndra that are most annoying.

First of all, as SolarCity itself was quick to point out, Solyndra failed because it bet that high silicon prices would make solar panels that were dependent on large amounts of silicon ever more expensive.  Their design required less silicon to produce comparable power output - a clever idea if the premise were to hold true.  But it didn’t - silicon prices plunged and panel prices followed.  Suddenly Solyndra’s products found themselves priced out of the market and the company failed.  As we have noted before, smart investors with political leanings on both sides of the aisle backed Solyndra.  Yet it is that very drop in prices for solar panels that has fueled the growth of the installation industry - and SolarCity with it.  Say what you will about Solyndra, but what pushed them out the door has propelled SolarCity to dramatic growth in its stock price since the start of the year, nearly quadrupling from $12 in January to $47 as this is being written.

Second, the assertion that SolarCity has lost millions despite receiving tax credits represents two accurate statements that have nothing to do with each other. They are placed together simply to suggest some sinister linkage in the reader’s mind.  SolarCity has lost money, like many other start-ups do, while it expands its business model.  Part of that model is installing solar systems and then receiving the investment tax credit - just like everyone else who installs a solar power system does.  There’s just nothing sinister there. It is the equivalent to saying that they have lost a lot of money, despite their customers having paid them millions. This is nothing more than the difference between revenue and profit.

Will SolarCity ever turn a profit?  Not at all clear, but then, lots of savvy investors think that is a bet worth making.

Finally, the reference to “Obama donors” is just plain silly.  For example, the Fox article asserts that Elon Musk - Chairman of the Board at SolarCity - donated $750 to Obama’s first presidential campaign.  Really? Seems like awfully small potatoes for a man with Musk’s money.  And of course, it isn’t accurate at all. According to the brilliant Open Secrets website operated by the Center for Responsive Politics, Mr. Musk has donated freely to both political parties, with donations of $212,750 to Democrats and $211,500 to Republicans going back to 2003.  From what we can see, he actually donated $7,300 to President Obama, but he also gave $2,000 to President George W. Bush and $5,200 to Senator Lindsey Graham. (Perhaps he should have donated something to Senator Sessions!)  Far and away his largest contribution total is to the National Republican Congressional Committee - $150,900 since 2003 with $32,400 just this year.  Seems unlikely that he made those contributions at President Obama’s behest, but Fox can’t be bothered to tell people that.

No, this is nothing more than Fox News trying to push as many buttons as it can with its base and using Sessions’ letter to attack, yet again, the value of solar energy to this country and the world.  The public deserves better.

11/07/13

  11:25:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 415 words  
Categories: Solar News, Ranting

Psst... Can We Talk?
Big Changes Coming to RunOnSun.com

Perhaps you’ve had this experience - you have an outfit that you really love.  You loved it the day you picked it out, years ago, and it remains a favorite to this day.  You wear it constantly - it is so comfortable and just putting it on reminds you of great times you’ve had wearing it.  And what’s more, when you wear it, “You. Look.  Mahvelous!

But then a close friend pulls you aside and questions whether you should maybe reconsider your fashion choice.  Shocked - and somewhat offended - you discount your friend’s concern.  Until another friend, and then another, gives you the same, sad news - your outfit, however spif it once was, is long past its prime.  It looks old and tired.  Even a little frayed at the edges.  Bottom line - it is making you look bad.  Finally, painfully, you come to realize your friends are telling you the truth.  Time for that old, beloved outfit to finds its way to the recycle bin - you need a new look!

Well, that is pretty much where things stand with our beloved (by us) website at RunOnSun.com.  It has been nearly three years since we did our last major redesign and while we’ve continued to add features, the underlying look is tired and behind the times.  Not exactly a good image for such a progressive company.

So, having heard our friends/critics concerns, we are pleased to announce that a major redesign is underway with a target go-live of Q1 next year!

In addition to incorporating a leaner, less cluttered appearance, we are also taking strides to address one of the major complaints of the existing site - it is too wordy.  (Now there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for that - we are better with words than we are with art.  So… easy to create textual, some would say verbose, content - hard to produce stunning visuals. 
But we are trying to change!)

Visualize this!

Visualize this! D3 comes to RoS!

The new site will be far more visually oriented with greater interactivity.  We are experimenting with some new technologies - most significantly D3 - that we hope will make the website as fun to explore as it is informative.

Trust us - this isn’t about dumbing down the site.  Rather, it is about making all of our information more appealing and applicable to why folks come here in the first place.

If you have thoughts about what you would like to see (or NOT see) at the new site, please let us know in the comments.

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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.
In addition, Run on Sun offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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