Category: "Residential Solar"

07/09/18

  09:08:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 623 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar

I've Got Solar, So Why am I Suffering in this Blackout?

Our recent heatwave is a potent reminder of a sad solar fact: generally speaking, if you have a solar power system and the grid goes down, or even just drops really low as it did in Altadena this past weekend, your solar power will also go out, leaving you sweltering in the heat with everyone else. 

Even the Sun is sad when your solar goes down!

But why?  And what can you do about it?

Anti-Islanding

Every system that Run on Sun has installed is what is known as grid-tied.  Those systems are designed to shut down when the grid goes departs from a fairly narrow range of voltage and/or frequency.  The reason for this is simple - safety.  Imagine this scenario: a tree snaps in the wind and takes down a power line.  What does the utility do?  They shut off power in that area - causing any grid-tied solar systems to shut off -  and then they send a crew out to restring the line.  Once that is done, they restore power to the area and all is well.  The grid-tied systems sense the restored grid and turn back on automagically.

But now consider this - what if your solar system didn’t shut off when the grid failed?  Well you might be happy because your A/C would still be running, but what about that excess energy that your system is feeding back to the grid?  It is possible that you would energize the very line that the utility workers are coming to repair.  Your solar system is now its own “island” of energy production, and it could pose an extreme hazard to the unwitting linespeople.  And that would be bad.

Thus the need for “anti-islanding” - the intelligence built into your inverter to keep workers safe.

Comfort is just a Microgrid Away!

So what can you do about it?  How can you keep your solar investment running even when the grid fails?  The answer is in a microgrid which requires two key features: isolation and self-starting.  The isolation follows from the anti-islanding discussion above - you need to make sure that your system cannot export power back to the grid.  This is generally handled by installing a “transfer switch” which can be either manual or automatic.  

The second step is harder - you need something to emulate the grid.  In off-grid systems that involves a bank of batteries and a special battery inverter that can use the power of the battery bank to start-up and create what appears to be a grid.  Now the solar system “sees” what looks like a stable grid and can come back online.  That sounds pretty easy, but there are complications.  In particular, the inverter that forms the grid must also be able to match the output of the solar system precisely to the needs of the house.  Remember, there is no grid out there to absorb excess energy, so you need a way to throttle the output of the array up and down to avoid over production.  

Storage is generally a key component here, as it can absorb excess power (at least until the battery is full) and help smooth out the energy flow.  All of which has historically made for an expensive addition to a solar system just to hedge against an infrequent occurrence.

Perhaps this past weekend’s outages will cause some folks to reconsider.

Cue Intersolar

Which makes the timing of this year’s Intersolar trade show ideal.  Running Tuesday-Thursday of this week (in cool San Francisco, thank you!), Intersolar is bringing together solar and storage manufacturers as they demonstrate their latest and greatest gear.  Finding a cost-effective microgrid solution is our number one mission this week, and we will be pressing our friends at Enphase for as many details as possible about their approach to solving this problem - watch this space!

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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.

05/30/18

  02:52:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 321 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, SCE, Energy Efficiency, Residential Solar, Ranting, Solar Policy

Solar Policy: A Victory and a Challenge

As a reader of this blog, you care about solar policy making, and are no doubt aware that the utilities are constantly trying to erode the value of solar.  Recently we notched a big win, but at the same time the need for vigilance is ever greater.  Here’s our take…

An Historic Win

First the win - as you have no doubt heard, starting in 2020, California will require that all new single-family homes include a solar power system.  (At present, about one in five new homes has solar added when built.)  This will help California meet its ambitious goals regarding greenhouse gas emissions, and will continue California’s leadership in home energy efficiency.

An Ongoing Challenge

As exciting as that news was, it makes it far to easy to overlook the constant, ongoing efforts of utilities, particularly the Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs), like SCE, to erode the value of solar.  Case in point, SCE has a rate case before the California Public Utilities Commission that attempts to create rate structures that are blatantly hostile to solar power systems.  That means that SCE customers who installed solar in good faith, could see the value of their investment diminished thanks to a concerted effort by SCE to do just that!

Solar Rights Alliance

Fortunately you don’t have to take this lying down.  The Solar Rights Alliance (formerly known as Solar Citisuns) is working to organize solar system owners into a potent political force to push back against the army of lobbyists employed by the IOUs.  There are over 700,000 solar system owners in California - that is an interest group that needs to be heard.  By joining the Solar Rights Alliance you will help to make sure that your interests are being heard by legislators and regulators alike.

It is easy to join: just follow this link to become an active member of the Solar Rights Alliance.  The IOUs have the lobbyists, but we have the people!  Be heard - join today!

05/21/18

  08:59:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 172 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Residential Solar

LG Expands Warranty to Full 25 Years!

LG expands warranty to 25 years

Readers of this blog know that Run on Sun has been exclusively an
LG Solar shop for our clients’ solar module needs for almost as long as we have used Enphase Energy microinverters.
(We are nothing if not loyal!)

Well our friends at LG have done it again, announcing that all of their A5 modules, including the 330N1C-A5, 335N1C-A5, 360Q1C-A5, and 365Q1C-A5 modules now come with a complete, 25-year warranty including labor cost reimbursement!  Moreover, the change in warranty—from 15 to 25 years on workmanship—covers all LG modules shipped this year! That means that for all of our clients’ installs so far this year, your LG solar module warranty just got extended by ten additional years!  Now that’s value!

Of course a warranty is only as good as the company behind it—which is yet another reason to go with LG—and it helps confirm our commitment to work with LG to bring our clients the greatest value in the solar industry.

We anticipate more exciting announcements from LG in the coming months; watch this space!

05/01/18

  01:28:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 232 words  
Categories: Residential Solar

Support KPCC and Get a Great Deal on Going Solar! - UPDATED!!!

KPCC

UPDATE - We are very pleased to announce that our two gift certificates were sold during the auction, netting KPCC $260!  Overall 97% of the donated items had bids, and the auction raised a cool $95,351 to support our favorite NPR station!  Congrats to all the winners, especially the winners of our two gift certificates, we look forward to helping you go solar soon!


Readers of this blog know that we are big fans of Public Radio in general, and our own, local NPR affiliate, KPCC.  So it will come as no surprise that we have teamed up once again to support KPCC’s Annual Spring Online Auction going on right now!

Here’s the drill: if you are in the market for a solar project on your home, head over to the auction site and enter your bid.  The lucky winner will get $500 off of their installation!  There are a couple of important limitations: the system size must be 4 kW or larger, and you must live within 20 miles of KPCC’s studios here in Pasadena.

We have donated two separate gift certificates, so if one is too high, you can bid on the other!  

You know you want solar for your home, and you know that you love KPCC - so what are you waiting for?  Bidding ends Saturday, May 5 at 1:00 p.m. so get to it!  And good luck!

Run on Sun means Pasadena solar!

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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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