Category: "Ranting"

07/30/18

  08:45:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 500 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Residential Solar, Ranting

Think Your Solar Investment is Safe? Think Again!

Those of us involved in solar in sunny Southern California generally think that we have it pretty good.  The climate is just about perfect for solar - and by that I mean the political climate, every bit as much as our abundant sunshine.  From the Governor, to the legislature, to the CPUC and the CEC, generally those forces support the growth of not just solar power in general, but distributed, on your own rooftop solar in particular.  But we become complacent at our peril - both to the jobs of those in the industry as well as the investment value of all of those solar installations out there.

A recent story from Columbia, South Carolina brought this peril to mind.  As portions of the state edged closer to the existing 2% cap on net metering installations, the legislature was working on a compromise to lift the cap,  allowing more residents the opportunity to install solar and take advantage of net metering.  The utilities had other ideas - from the Greenville News:

Deep-pocketed power companies outspent the solar industry nearly $3 to $1 as part of an intensive lobbying effort during an S.C. legislative session that included efforts to curb rooftop solar’s expansion in the state.
Electric utilities spent nearly $523,000 from January through May to hire more than three dozen lobbyists to advocate for them at the State House as lawmakers decided what to do about solar incentives.

Yikes.

The result of all that lobbying?  The effort to lift the net metering cap was defeated - and local solar companies are going to be laying off employees (if not closing altogether) while affected residents will either have to forego solar, or find it far less financially viable.

Solar Rights AllianceWe delude ourselves if we think that it can’t happen here.  Utility lobbyists are in Sacramento just as they are in Columbia, and the recent forced change to net metering 2.0 in SCE territory is a reminder that our progress is not guaranteed.

Which brings me to the Solar Rights AllianceWe have written about this important organization before, and will do so in the future.  But I wanted to use this post to show how we are putting our money where our mouth is.  Starting today, we are modifying our solar installation contracts to provide an opt-in checkbox for new clients to be signed up for the Solar Rights Alliance, with Run on Sun making a donation in their name to help support the important work of organizing solar clients statewide.

We are never going to be able to match the money coming from the utilities and their allies.  But what we do have is tens of thousands of happy solar owners all across the state.  If we can organize even a fraction of them, we will be able to speak directly to policy makers and let them know that the value of installed solar power systems must be protected.  That is a fight that we need to take on, and the Solar Rights Alliance (along with our wonderful trade association, CALSSA) is key to winning that fight.

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07/24/18

  09:52:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 306 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Ranting

Order Restored: Run on Sun Rejoins Top Solar Contractors List for 2018

2018 Top Solar Contractors ListAfter a narrow miss last year, Run on Sun has rejoined the ranks of Solar Power World’s Top Solar Contractors list for 2018.  This is our fifth appearance on the list in the last six years.  Talk about punching above your weight!

The Top Solar Contractors list was developed by Solar Power World to recognize the work completed by solar contractors across the United States. Produced annually, the Top Solar Contractors list celebrates the achievements of U.S. solar developers, subcontractors and installers within the utility, commercial and residential markets, and ranks contractors by kilowatts installed in the previous year. The 2018 list was released on July 24.

Solar Power World is very excited about the 2018 class of Top Solar Contractors,” said Kelly Pickerel, editor in chief of Solar Power World. "Our 2017 list showed impressive installation numbers after 2016’s huge rush to meet ITC requirements, and many companies were hesitant to show unavoidable installation dips after last year’s high. We’re happy to feature a strong group of thriving U.S. solar installers on the 2018 Top Solar Contractors list. These companies truly are at the top of their markets.”

Two things stand out in my mind as I look back on these past six years.  First is the incredible dedication, passion, and plain hard work that has been provided by the Run on Sun team.  We may be small, but together we are mighty!

The second, and ultimately more important (to say nothing about humbling), thing is the trust that our clients have placed with us. Every kilowatt installed represents a client’s belief that we will fulfill our promises to them.  Every referral demonstrates that we have met that challenge.  I know that the RoS crew is working hard every day (even in this heat!) to meet our commitments, and to help our clients move forward with a clean, solar-powered future.

Now bring on the Gala!

07/06/18

  10:18:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 349 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting

What do members of Greenpeace and the NRA have in common?

These days we tend to think of our country as polarized as never before. All issues seem to be “hot-button issues,” and common ground has become increasingly difficult to find. Which made a new survey all the more welcome, showing once again, that support for solar power crosses all ideological boundaries.

The study of 1,000 consumers in the U.S. found that 73% of “Red” state residents and 74% of “Blue” state residents believe that there isn’t enough being done to reduce the effects of climate change.  They were united in their views about what to do about it: 92% believe that the world’s future depends on increasing the use of renewable energy (either very important or somewhat important), and 81% believe that solar power is the most important form of renewable energy.  (We agree!)

There were some more interesting facts to ponder:

  • 77% of “Red” state residents and 80% of “Blue” state residents believe that the government should offer incentives, such as tax credits, for businesses that go solar.
  • Three quarters of both Greenpeace and NRA members believe that businesses should be rewarded for going solar.
  • Speaking of the NRA, some 38% of its members report having solar, more than twice the rate (17%) of respondents overall.
  • More than 90% of Gen Z believe that businesses should take responsibility for reducing the world’s carbon footprint, up from 74% for Millennials.

Among those who would like to go solar, 48% are doing it for the financial benefit, while 37% would do so to reduce their environmental impact, which seems consistent with what our clients tell us: they care about improving the environment, but they want it to pencil out.

Oh, and one more nugget: 92% said that they would be more willing to go solar, if they could combine it with affordable storage to protect them in the event of an outage.  Again, that is consistent with what our clients are telling us. 

Next week is Intersolar in San Francisco (where the temps are mild compared to the 110+ we  are presently experiencing!), and we will be looking to nail down that ideal storage solution while we are there.

Watch this space!

06/30/18

  06:03:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 529 words  
Categories: Residential Solar, Ranting

Dropping the Ball - CPUC & CSLB Punt Disclosure Document Deadline

Frustrating solar contractsCalifornia law requires that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) publish a new, “Solar Energy System Disclosure Document” for solar contractors to provide to clients as of July 1, 2018.  We just learned that the CPUC is yet to act on the SESDD draft, and isn’t expected to for months.  Moreover, the draft that we have seen falls far short of what the public really needs to protect them from those Shady Solar Contractors.

We received an email yesterday from the CSLB advising us of the delay in finalizing the SESDD, and highlighting the law’s requirements.  Frankly they are pretty meager:

  • The SESDD has to be provided to the client “prior to completing a sale, financing, or lease of a solar energy system to be installed on a residential building” - presumably as part of the contract itself.  Gee, what about disclosures as part of the sales proposal?  (More on that below.)
  • The SESDD has to be in the same language as the sales proposal - and you might say “yeah, duh!” but we have heard of companies targeting Spanish-speaking consumers with the proposal in Spanish, but the contract in English!
  • If PACE financing is used, then the PACE-specific proposal should be provided.

Interestingly, those are the only requirements called out in the CSLB email.  Unstated, but a part of the bill, is the discretion granted to the CSLB under the law to add any additional requirements that it deems “appropriate or useful in furthering the directive described” in the law.  Apparently CSLB doesn’t see a need to go any farther.

The CSLB has a draft document on its website, and if that is all that is mandated, this whole exercise will have fallen woefully short.  (You can find CSLB’s draft here.)  In a nutshell, all that one-page document discloses is the total system cost, how to contact the CSLB if you have a complaint, and your “three-day right to cancel."  Not surprisingly we have always provided all of this information in our contracts, and it is pretty shocking that some contractors have to have a mandated disclosure of how much the bloody thing costs!

So what should be here that isn’t?  How about:

  • A disclosure of the specific equipment that is going to be put on your roof. (Can we please eliminate “generic” solar systems?)
  • The proposed start date.
  • The expected duration for the project.
  • Any known contingencies or delegation of work to third parties (such as trenching, tree removal, etc.) that could delay or disrupt the project.

And while we are at it, where are the disclosure requirements for solar proposals? Such as:

  • Equipment specifics down to model numbers that can then be compared to the contract disclosures.
  • Savings analysis methodology and assumptions including:
    • Anticipated annual increase in utility costs
    • Means by which system performance was computed and annual degradation
    • Utility rate structure used to compute Year 1 savings
    • Assumed discount rate for valuing future cash flows
  • Proposed system layout on the roof.

We have a long way to go before homeowners can be assured that they are being treated fairly by solar contractors.  This delayed SESDD is but a tiny step in the right direction.

  02:34:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 276 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Ranting, Solar Policy

LG to Assemble Solar Modules in the US

LG - the exclusive solar module supplier for Run on Sun - has just announced that starting next year they will be assembling solar modules in the United States!  This is big news, here’s our take.

LG NeON 2 solar module

Cell detail of LG’s NeON 2 Solar Module

Ever since the Trump Administration imposed so-called “201 sanctions” on imported solar modules, there has been speculation that companies like LG would start assembling modules in the U.S.  This week that speculation was confirmed as LG announced that they would expand their existing facility in Huntsville, Alabama to create a module assembly plant capable of producing 500 MW of modules per year, with production to begin in “early 2019.”

LG intends to produce their 340 Watt NeON 2 series of 60-cell modules, the successor product to our current go-to, 335 Watt module.  It is not clear whether LG will produce modules with both white and black backsheets, or whether they will begin to manufacture the even higher efficiency, “rear-contact” modules in the U.S.  Given that LG is appealing the tariffs on the rear-contact modules (as they are on the AC module that they make with Enphase) on the grounds that those products do not compete against the cheaper Suniva and SolarWorld modules that are the basis for the (entirely bogus) tariff case (see, Suniva – the Tail Wagging the Dog), it seems that any decision to include their production here would turn on the outcome of that appeal. 

It remains to be seen how much cheaper this will make LG modules, but this appears to be a good development both for about 160 workers in Huntsville, and U.S. consumers.   The tariffs, meanwhile, remain an ignorant policy decision, causing substantial harm throughout the solar industry.

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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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