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Community solar - which would allow folks without usable roof space of their own to go solar - has been revived in Sacramento and is now moving through the sausage factory that is the State Legislature. If the solar industry cares to see it emerge intact, the time is now to get on board!
We wrote last year about the failed struggle to pass SB 843, the community solar bill which died under attack from the utilities. Now the coalition that pushed last year for that legislation is back with two new bills: SB 43 (Wolk) and AB 1014 (Williams). From the bill summaries:
While rooftop solar is a strong and growing business in California, at least 75% of households cannot participate because: (1) they are renters and don’t own their roofs (44% of households); (2) they do not have strong enough credit ratings to finance the installation (28-31% of households); or (3) their roof is too small or doesn’t receive enough sunlight (no estimate available). In addition, most businesses rent or lease their facilities and do not own their own roofs.
A Shared Renewables program allows all these California households and businesses to voluntarily subscribe to up to 100% renewable power from a shared facility in their utility’s territory and receive a credit on their current utility bill. SB 43 and AB 1014 are not limited to solar but rather apply to any new renewable facility up to 20 megawatts (MW) in size, for a program total of 500 MW (or 1000 MW in AB 1014).
While the technologies eligible under the Shared Renewables program are the same as those eligible under the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the resulting Renewable Energy Credits are given to the subscribers and retired for them. Projects accepted into other concurrent programs, such as the Reverse Auction Mechanism, the ReMAT Feed In Tariff, or utility-owned solar programs, are not eligible for the program. Finally, the bill asks publicly-owned utilities to consider implementing a similar program.
While we have some concerns about the present form of the legislation - particularly in that there doesn’t appear to be any carve outs to support smaller projects and smaller companies - the intent is important for broadening the base of solar customers in California.
That’s where you come in. Our friends over at Vote Solar have a sign-up campaign ongoing - you can participate by clicking here - and they need your support. If you are in the solar industry - and we know lots of you read this blog - it is imperative that you get behind this legislation. If you are a renter or a homeowner with a heavily shaded roof, this legislation is your chance to vote with your pocketbook for a cleaner, sustainable future. So please, take a moment and add your voice to the call for community solar - this time with Gusto!
We wrote back in February about the roll-out of the newest solar module from LG Electronics, the high-efficiency NeoN.
We just learned that our latest residential install - which featured those new NeoNs - was the first such installation anywhere in the World!
It didn’t start out this way.
This project was drawn up years ago when the house was undergoing a major, down-to-the-studs renovation. At the time, we were specifying Sanyo panels for such projects and this project was no different. It did, however, provide some unusual design challenges including three different roof pitches - 10° to the South, flat, and 10° to the North! Clearly Enphase was called for to merge these competing angles and shade factors into a harmonious whole.
Funny what a few years can do to a project design. Turns out the space as built wasn’t quite as planned. (Shocking, I know.) The Sanyo modules that we had spec’ed were no longer available. Instead we turned to LG and their fine Mono-X modules at 255 Watts apiece. But then we discovered something far more troubling: the flat roof section was not draining well and indeed appeared to be holding water in the winter. My roofer, a very conservative man, was not at all pleased by the prospect of putting attachments into a section of roof that was routinely subjected to standing water.
We brought the homeowner up to the roof and showed him the issue and explained our concern. As much as we hated to give away the four panels slated for that area, it just didn’t seem like a good idea to put them there.
But wait - perhaps there’s something we can do. What if we swap out the 255’s for the brand new, just-now-available, 280 Watt NeoN’s? We would maximize our yield from the remaining space and have a chance to install LG’s flagship product. The client agreed and a quick call to Buddy Fritz over at Focused Energy made it so.
Here are some pictures from the install:
Chief electrician Velvet works with Josh to get the alignment “just right".
The NeoN panels look sharp going in.
Oh, and just because this was an install in the City of the Angels, we had the privilege of installing this relatively tiny project with a #6 solid copper equipment grounding conductor! (Useful for doing chin-ups when it is not providing an amazing ground!)
So how do we know this was the first NeoN install in the world? Turns out that I met with three representatives from LG yesterday to talk about their products and to offer our feedback. Low and behold, they confirmed that Focused was the first distributor to receive a shipment of the new NeoNs and we received the first order from that first shipment! Perhaps it really is true that “all good things come to he who waits!”
We look forward to monitoring this system in the coming months to see just how the NeoN’s perform - a topic for another day. For now we will simply bask in the glory of saying - We’re #1! Worldwide!
Working as an installer in the solar industry is a wonderful job - you get to help make the world a better place and the work is never boring. But it is also dangerous, combining two of the greatest workplace hazards: falls and electrocution.
We had come across this video before, but it is worth sharing again. Please, if you are an installer, get trained on safety and once you know the rules, follow them. Don’t let that be you staring in the next video!
And for those of you who think installing solar on your roof is a fine, do-it-yourself project, please think again. (Short of getting yourself killed, there are lots of other reasons to leave this to the pros.)
As the Man used to say, “Hey - let’s be careful out there!”
We wrote previously about our chance encounter with Evyn and Stephen from the USC Solar Decathlon team at a solar tweet-up and how great it was to meet such smart, enthusiastic, and talented young professionals dedicated to advancing sustainability. It was the kind of encounter that made you want to roll up your sleeves and help them reach their goals.
Well, now we are pleased to announce that our meeting has born fruit. Thanks to our friends at Unirac, we have some great news!
Unirac has agreed to donate all of the racking gear needed for fluxHome™ - USC’s entrant in the 2013 Solar Decathlon. And not just any racking, but Unirac’s flagship product, SolarMount Evolution, which provides the most secure roof-top attachment system in the business.
Soon, this hardware will support solar panels on USC’s fluxHome™
We often write about how the solar industry is really supposed to be better than other endeavors - more focused on the future and not just profits in the present. After all, the systems that we install are supposed to last for 25 years and the reason we build them in the first place is to help create that sustainable future. So it is tremendously affirming to have a partner like Unirac that has a similar vision. (Nor is this donation an outlier for Unirac - read about their efforts to assist with the installation of a solar power system on a home for children in Haiti.)
We are proud to have played a small part in making this happen and prouder still to be associated with the USC Solar Decathlon Team and their efforts at providing lessons in sustainability for us all. Fight on!
Yesterday we wrote about how the FTC was clamping down on misleading “green” claims. Today we have a report that Underwriters Laboratory is warning that certain solar panels were fraudulently labeled as having been UL tested. Buyer beware, indeed!
According to the Public Notice issued yesterday by UL, three models of solar panels from ASP - Advanced Solar Photonics - bear counterfeit UL marks.
The models in question are:
All three of these products are on the CSI Approved Modules list under the name of ASP’s parent company, Bluechip Energy. (Curiously, the website for Bluechip Energy is a mess, with many linked pages going nowhere and the home page full of “Invalid Image” messages.)
The UL Notice points out that “The photovoltaic (solar) panels have not been evaluated by UL to the appropriate Standards for Safety and it is unknown if these photovoltaic panels comply with UL’s safety requirements for the United States or Canada." UL reports that these products are “known to be solar by SunWorks Solar” and possibly other distributors.
Searching the ASP website (clicking the link for the “Products” page goes nowhere) we discovered an intriguing and apparently related Recall Notice for these same products, but dated two months ago, on February 1. According to the ASP Recall Notice:
Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP) today announced a product recall of approximately 1000 photovoltaic (PV) modules for reasons of code compliance.
Certain photovoltaic products were mislabeled during the manufacturing process and according to Underwriters Laboratory, may contain components with unknown compliance to UL 1703 standards. Such components have not been evaluated by the laboratory for compliance with the appropriate Standards for Safety. No fires or electrical incidents have been reported in connection with ASP PV products.
Customers affected by this recall will be notified via first class mail. ASP or distributors will perform inspection or product evaluation at no charge to the owner. Upon evaluation of this product, ASP will bring this product to code compliance including replacement if deemed necessary. Detailed information is available to customers at www.advancedsolarphotonics.com/inspection and the ASP Customer Service Center at 1- 407-878-5742.
Interestingly, following that last link - yep, you guessed it - goes nowhere.
The Recall Notice goes on to describe the purpose for the recall being, “Certain ASP PV Modules did not display correct labels,” which is quite the sanitized version of what UL is claiming.
Also, ASP notes that these products were sold as far back as 2011, which made us wonder how many installs of these products we would find in the CSI data. Oddly enough, the answer appears to be zero! We cannot find any appearance of PV modules - of any model - under either the Bluechip Energy or ASP names - which seems really strange for a product that is approved for CSI and has apparently been sold for years.
We were able to find these products available for purchase online at prices ranging from $1.29/Watt to $1.50/Watt - not exactly discount prices. We saw no indication of the recall notice on any of the online retail sites.
We will update this post if/when we learn more.