Category: "PWP Rebates"

05/04/12

  08:14:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1194 words  
Categories: PWP Rebates, PWP, Commercial Solar, Non-profit solar, Westridge PAC Project

Installing Solar at Westridge - Part 1

In November of 2011, Run on Sun was hired by Westridge School for Girls to install a 54 kW solar system on the roof of the school’s Fran Norris Scoble Performing Arts Center (the “PAC” as it is known on campus), and that project was just recently completed.  This multi-part series will document the process by which we went from a signed contract to a signed-off solar power system.  Not surprisingly, there were a few twists and turns along the way that had to be resolved before we could deliver a successful project, and this series will showcase those developments in the following five parts:

Part 1 - The Rebate Application (this post)

Part 2 - The Permit Process

Part 3 - On the Ground

Part 4 - On the Roof

Part 5 - Putting it All Together

The Rebate Application

The rebates being offered from Pasadena Water & Power (PWP) for this non-profit project were scheduled to step-down on December 1, 2011.  Indeed, this was a substantial rebate reduction - 26% - such that failure to secure the existing rebate rates would have amounted to a hit of tens of thousands of dollars for our client.  And PWP had made it very clear - unless applications were 100% complete and correct, they would be rejected and when resubmitted would be subject to the reduced rebate rates.  Clearly the pressure was on to get this right the first time!

The application package consisted of eight parts - most of which were straight-forward, but a couple required substantial work to guarantee that the application as submitted would be acceptable the first time.  Here are the parts that went into the rebate application: 1) Signed Rebate Application (PWP’s form, signed by client and Run on Sun under penalty of perjury!); 2) Single Line Diagram for the electrical components of the system (more on this below); 3) Site Plan; 4) CSI Report (as produced by the California Solar Initiative’s rebate calculator); 5) Shading Analysis (i.e., a Solar Pathfinder report to support the shading values used to create the CSI Report); 6) PWP’s Net Metering Agreement (executed by the client); PWP’s Net Metering Surplus Compensation form (for AB 920 compliance); and 8) Installation Contract between the client and Run on Sun.  Also, since this was a non-profit client, proof of non-profit status was also required.

Shading Analysis & CSI Report

Westridge pathfinder reportPWP wisely requires the submission of a shading analysis in addition to the output from the CSI rebate calculator.  Since the amount of shading at the site directly impacts the performance of the system - and hence the CSI AC Watts of the system (or the predicted annual energy output in the case of a PBI rebate) - it really doesn’t make sense for a utility to simply trust that the installer is telling the truth about shading.

The output from the Solar Pathfinder proves that the shading numbers claimed are the shading values present at the site.

Site Plan

The site plan needed for the rebate application is a much simpler plan than what will ultimately be required for the permit, really only requiring an indication of where the various components of the system will be relative to the overall site.   However, our system occupies three different areas of the PAC: the roof where the array itself is located, a ground-level storage area where our step-up transformer will be, and the utility switchgear, located on the far north end of the building.  Thus our site plan included drawings for each location.

Array layoutThe array drawing showed the three sub-arrays and the clear space allocated for fire department access.  Each sub-array consisted of three branch circuits, each of which was “center-tapped” to reduce the voltage drop in the associated branch circuits.  Each branch circuit landed at a sub-array service panel which then fed a master “solar-only” sub-panel in the transformer area.

Westridge transformerThe transformer area drawing detailed the conduits coming down off the roof (one each from each sub-array sub-panel), the master sub-panel which feeds our step-up transformer (to change the 208 VAC three-phase power coming from the roof to 480 VAC three-phase supplied by the utility service) and then a safety disconnect switch located adjacent to the transformer.  From the safety switch a fourth conduit carries the required conductors back across the roof to our service switchgear area.

Service switchgear drawingThe service panel area drawing showed the placement of our lockable PV AC Disconnect, the associated performance meter, and our circuit breaker for the system located in the existing service switchgear.

Single Line Diagram

Our most significant deliverable in the rebate application packet was the single line diagram (SLD) for the electrical circuits.   Since this diagram shows how all of the electrical components of the power generating system interconnect - including the tie into the utility’s grid - we knew that this would be the most closely scrutinized piece of the submission.  To be sure, PWP has a generic SLD that installers can use (in fact, we helped develop it!) but that drawing does not cover the use of Enphase Micro-inverters which we were featuring on this job, nor does it allow for a step-up transformer.

Single line drawing for Westridge projectFortunately, we had developed a very flexible SLD format from prior jobs that we could readily adapt for this project.  However, before we submitted it to PWP, we forwarded it to the application engineers at Enphase Energy to make sure that they were comfortable with what we had designed.  Enphase was more than accomodating - given our tight time frame they bumped us to the front of their engineering review queue and came back promplty with the good news - the design was good as we had drawn it and no revisions were needed.  Of course, that was no guarantee that the utility would agree, but it is always nice to have a P.E. on your side!

Included in the SLD preparation was a complete set of voltage drop calculations.  This was complicated by the fact that we had 9 different branch circuits, three different sub-panels and two different operating voltages!  Good design calls for limiting total voltage drop to less than 3%.  To keep our worst case scenario within that limitation (covering the branch circuit farthest from the main “solar-only” sub-panel) we ended up with 4 different gauge sizes of conductors at different legs of the run: #12 in the branch circuit cables (supplied by Enphase), #8 from branch circuit jbox to sub-array sub-panel, #2 from sub-panel to main “solar-only” sub-panel, #3/0 from that sub-panel to the transformer and then #2 from the transformer back to the service equipment area.  (One change that occurred during the install process increased the length of some of these runs - and that necessitated some wire size changes to insure that we stayed comfortably below our 3% limit.  Those will be discussed in future episodes.)

One Big Present

All of those documents, plus pages and pages of cut sheets describing all of the key products being used, were then submitted to PWP - one day before the deadline!  With no margin for error, our submission had to be perfect.  Thankfully, it was - PWP gave us their official blessing to proceed three weeks later, just three days before Christmas.  One big present, indeed.

Our first hurdle successfully surmounted, it was time to prepare for the most nerve wracking part of the process - pulling the permits!  That’s the subject of our next installment - stay tuned!

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04/13/12

  09:22:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 215 words  
Categories: PWP Rebates, Residential Solar

PWP to Slash Residential Rebates! UPDATED

We have just learned that Pasadena Water and Power (PWP) will slash its residential solar rebates by 30% effective June 1, 2012. The reduction only affects EPBB rebates and will lower the amount from $2.00 to just $1.40/Watt.  Potential clients who wish to secure a rebate under the present rates must have complete and correct rebate applications on file with PWP by May 31, 2012.  Partial or incorrect applications will be rejected and will have to be re-submitted at the lower rate.

(Interestingly, PBI rebates are not declining which would mean that for clients who can tolerate waiting to receive their rebate payments over five years, they will do much better than clients needing the lump-sum EPBB rebate after June 1.)


UPDATE - Turns out that after we wrote this, PWP decided to also slash its PBI rebates for residential customers from the current $0.302/kWh down to $0.212/kWh effective June 1. Did our previous suggestion (now in strike-out type above) contribute to this policy change?


Unaffected are commercial and government/non-profit rebate rates, which were most recently reduced as of December 1, 2011.

We always experience a crush of inquiries about possible solar projects in advance of a major rebate reduction like this one and potential clients are encouraged to act quickly to avoid the hassle of trying to get necessary paperwork completed at the last minute.

12/06/11

  04:37:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 228 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, PWP Rebates, PWP, Non-profit solar, Westridge PAC Project

Westridge Chooses Run on Sun for 54kW Solar Project

We are very pleased to report that one of the premier schools in Pasadena - or pretty much anywhere for that matter - the Westridge School for Girls has just selected Run on Sun to design and install a 54 kW solar power system on the Fran Norris Scoble Performing Arts Center.

PAC Roof - solar panels will bloom here in the spring!
Come the Spring, Solar Panels will bloom here!

It is very gratifying to have been chosen over some tough competition for this project, particularly given the School’s well-established commitment to sustainability.  Indeed, just last year Westridge dedicated a new science building which has received the coveted, but very rare, LEED Platinum designation.  Now as part of Westridge’s plan to “green” all of the campus, the 54 kW solar power system will be another dramatic step in that direction.

Even better, since the project will use Enphase micro-inverters, the students from grades 4-12 will be able to study the performance of the system right down to the individual panel level.  We look forward to working with the Westridge faculty and administration as they teach their students about the difference that solar power can make in their lives.

At Run on Sun we have a special place in our hearts for working with non-profits and we would love to help your non-profit add solar too!

Our press release announcing Westridge’s selection of Run on Sun for this solar power project is available here.

10/28/11

  04:11:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 161 words  
Categories: PWP Rebates, PWP, Commercial Solar

PWP to Slash Non-Residential Rebates

We were just informed that Pasadena Water & Power (PWP) will be substantially lowering its solar rebate rates for non-residential customers effective December 1, 2011.

The new rebate rates will be as follows:

  • Commercial incentives for small (? 30kW) systems (EPBB) - Drop from $1.40/Watt to $0.85/Watt;
  • Commercial incentives for larger systems (PBI) - Drop from $0.212/kWh to $0.129/kWh.

  • Non-profit/government incentives for small systems (EPBB) - Drop from $2.15/Watt to $1.60/Watt;
  • Non-profit/government incentives for larger systems (PBI) - Drop from $0325/kWh to $0.242/kWh.

That works out to a 39.3% drop for commercial and a 25.6% drop for non-profit/government installations.

Residential rebate rates will remain at $2.00/Watt (EPBB) and $0.302/kWh (PBI).

Rebate applications that are deemed complete by PWP on or before November 30, 2011 will qualify for the present rebate amounts.  However, it is impossible to guarantee that a rebate application will be deemed “complete” upon submission so potential clients are advised to get their rebate applications on file as quickly as possible to avoid losing out on the higher rebate amounts.

07/07/11

  08:00:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 960 words  
Categories: PWP Rebates, LADWP Rebates, LADWP, Commercial Solar, Feed-in Tariff, Residential Solar

LADWP's Revised SIP Details Released - UPDATE - 2X (7/13 & 7/9)

UPDATE - 2x - In advance of the meetings this week, LADWP has made available a number of materials so we are linking to them here.

For the Solar Incentive Program (SIP):

For the Feed-in Tariff (FIT):

Hope to see you there - if you have any comments about these, feel free to leave them below.  You can also send comments to LADWP at LREP@ladwp.com.


 

UPDATE - Please note that LADWP has reconfigured their meeting to satisfy popular demand.  Instead of one workshop on the 14th from 2-5, there will now be four, on Thursday and Friday mornings and afternoons.  Here is the revised meeting schedule (along with the necessary links to RSVP):

Thursday, July 14, 2011
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.  RSVP
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.    RSVP

Friday, July 15, 2011
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.  RSVP
2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.    RSVP


We announced earlier that the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) was holding a workshop to discuss the restart of its Solar Incentive Program (SIP) after a 90-day hiatus. We have now received some of the details of the program - along with a copy of their presentation - and want to share some information in advance of next week’s public hearing.

Go solar LA!

First, a reminder - the public hearing on the proposed revisions to the program will be held next Thursday, July 14 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. at LADWP headquarters, 111 N. Hope St., Los Angeles in the A-Level Auditorium.  Hope to see you there.

LADWP staff will make a presentation about two customer-related programs, the SIP and a new Feed-in-Tariff (FIT).  The primary difference between the two programs is that the SIP is a net-metering program, meaning the customer who hosts the solar power system consumes the energy produced by the system and uses that to lower their LADWP bills.  Under the proposed FIT program, LADWP purchases all of the output from the solar power system and pays the system owner a at a rate to be determined for that energy.  (In other words - this is NOT a German-style FIT that would benefit residential customers.)  The balance of this post will only address the SIP.

As we had noted previously, the LADWP SIP had been a victim of its own success - resulting in a lengthy application processing backlog, a corresponding inspection backlog and lengthy delays in paying rebates.  Moreover, the program was over-subscribed with more applications coming in than there was money to support them.  Accordingly, a 90-day moratorium was imposed while LADWP went back to the drawing board to revise the program.

It would appear that LADWP put that time to good use - reportedly reducing their application backlog from 800 to zero, authorizing the start-up of 2.2 MW of solar power systems and cutting over 150 rebate checks worth $10 million.  More importantly for the program going forward, they devised changes to bring stability and predictability - or so they say - to the program for the next three years.

So what are the major changes proposed? Here are the highlights:

  • Program funding will be doubled - from $30 M to $60 M each year for the next three years.  This is accomplished through the use of LADWP bond proceeds and approved as part of the FY 2011-12 budget.  Interestingly, the administrative overhead for the system appears to be 10% since the actual program cost is billed at $66M per year for the next three years.  LADWP claims that the cost to fund the program will be 0.7% of the average customer’s bill.
  • Rebate levels will decline significantly - although still higher than those paid by SCE under the California Solar Initiative (CSI), the new rates appear to be lower than what other municipal utilities like Pasadena Water & Power (PWP) are paying.
  • Contractors will be required to pull a permit for the job before submitting a rebate application - in our experience this is opposite from what every other local jurisdiction is doing.  Typically the utilities have either wanted to review your application first as a pre-condition to pulling the permit (e.g., PWP and other munis) or in parallel with the permit process (SCE).  It will be interesting to hear why LADWP wants to go this way.
  • Accelerated inspection procedure - allegedly this will reduce the wait time for net meters to be installed to one week.

Rebate rate details

The LADWP presentation provided a series of charts (not tables) to depict rebate rates going forward.  There are some omissions here that are important - the charts show rebates at different steps, but they do not say how many MW are in each step.  For example, here is the residential rebate rate graph (click for full size):

Proposed LADWP rebates for residential solar power systems

Based on where the “Proposed Incentive Levels” plot begins, presumably we are starting at Step 5.  What the chart doesn’t tell you is how many MWs of applications will LADWP accept before stepping down to the next incentive level.  The lack of data points is also annoying - apparently we are starting at somewhere around $2.20 W.  Nor is there anything said about how the system size will be calculated going forward - will LADWP adopt the CSI calculator that everyone else uses or will they continue to use their idiosyncratic - and error prone - system using PVWatts directly?

Here is the graph for commercial rebate rates (click for full size):

Proposed LADWP rebates for commercial solar power systems

That graph seems to show that the rebate rate when the program resumes will be just under $2.00/Watt.  But again, a question - is LADWP only using EPBB rebates, even for large commercial projects?  Or did they simply omit the graph showing PBI rates?

Finally, here is the graph for Government/Non-Profit rebates (click for full size):

Proposed LADWP rebates for government/non-profit solar power systems

Our best guess is that the rebate rate here is roughly $2.75/Watt.

Obviously lots of questions remain - we will report back after the July 14th meeting and hopefully we will have some answers.

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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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