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LA: Where Good News goes to Die

01/28/14

  09:52:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 437 words  
Categories: LADWP, Safety, Ranting

LA: Where Good News goes to Die

Enphase M215 with integrated groundingOur friends over at Enphase Energy had a significant announcement a week or so ago, touting how their tried-and-true M215 microinverter had just been improved by redesigning it to feature integrated grounding, just like its bigger sibling, the new M250’s.  We wrote about the value of integrated grounding last year when the M250’s were introduced, and it is a really great development, cutting install time, reducing hazards on the roof, and making the installed system safer for everyone.  Enphase has even created a dedicated webpage to explain the benefits of integrated grounding.  What’s not to love?

Unless, that is, you are the City of Los Angeles.  You see, the Building and Safety department of Los Angeles is a universe unto itself, a universe where good news goes to die.  To LA, it doesn’t matter that the M250 and the new M215 have been independently tested and found compliant with all of the relevant standards for inverters.  No, LA doesn’t care—they insist that these products be submitted to LA for its own testing.

Now just who does this help? Well, presumably the folks who work in LA’s lab get to stay employed but somehow the permitting process shouldn’t be a jobs program.  No, all this does is add cost (directly to Enphase who has to jump through these hoops, indirectly to everyone else) and delay into the process.  We have sold projects that are delayed in LA while we wait for this nonsense to get resolved.  Indeed, it is just this sort of abuse of the process that causes us to have a 7 kW threshold for projects in LA—anything smaller is just not worth the agitation.

To be clear, it doesn’t have to be this way.  We have already installed projects in Pasadena and surrounding cities without difficulty using integrated grounding. No one else has had a problem—the units are appropriately listed so you are good to go.  But not so in LA.

Everyone talks about how reducing “soft costs” is the key to making solar viable in a post-subsidy world.  If so, here’s a prime example of a soft cost that offers zero value to the process and needs to be eliminated—but it is far from an isolated example. 

We suspect that the Garcetti Administration could make this go away tomorrow—so why don’t they?  Given the Mayor’s claim to green cred, why not call a meeting with appropriate stakeholders: installers (including small installers), manufacturers, and department heads and lets cut through this unnecessary nonsense and make it easier to install rooftop solar in the biggest city in the biggest solar market in the country.  It’s about 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.
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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