Categories: "All About Solar Power"

09/30/18

  07:45:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 896 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, SCE/CSI Rebates, BWP Rebates, GWP Rebates, LADWP Rebates, Electric Cars that Run on Sun

EV Rebates - not just for PWP Customers!

Last month we wrote about a rebate program being offered by Pasadena Water & Power for both the purchase of an Electric Vehicle (new or used) as well as the installation of EV chargers.  Which got us to thinking, don’t the other local utilities have something similar?  Well guess what, they do!  Read on to see what might be available from a utility near you!

EVs being charged

Southern California Edison (SCE)

SCE offers rebates for both purchasing an EV as well as installing a level 2 (i.e., 240 VAC) charger.

EV Rebate

The SCE rebate for purchasing an EV is $450.  Here are the requirements:

  • You must be an SCE residential customer (vehicles registered to businesses are not eligible).
  • The EV must be among the vehicles listed on the Drive Clean website (which lists 35 models of EVs from 2018 alone!).
  • The vehicle’s registration address must be the same as the customer’s address with SCE, but the name on the service account need not be the same as that of the vehicle owner.
  • The vehicle’s registration is current with the State of California.
  • The vehicle has not received more than two rebates in the past.
  • If you have multiple EVs, each vehicle is subject to a rebate if the above qualifications are satisfied.

To apply for the SCE EV rebate, go here.

Charger Rebate

SCE also offers a rebate of $500 to install a Level 2 charger at your home.  Here are the requirements:

  • You must enroll in one of the available Time-of-Use (TOU) rates.  BE CAREFUL!  Depending on your usage patterns this might be a very expensive option!  Run on Sun can, for a nominal fee, assess your present usage and let you know what your annual bill would do under each of the available TOU rate options.  Please contact us if you are interested in our providing you with this service.
  • You need to pull a permit for the installation, and have the work performed by a C-10 electrician (B contractors are not allowed to participate in this rebate program).
  • You need to provide a copy of the signed-off permit after inspection and a copy of your permit receipt (be sure the electrician provides you with these documents).

To apply for the SCE EV charger rebate, go here.

Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP)

LADWP does not appear to offer a rebate for the purchase of a new EV, but they do offer a rebate for purchasing a used EV, as well as installing an EV charger.  Their overall EV page is here.

Used EV Rebate

LADWP is offering a pilot program for the first 2,000 approved applicants who purchase an EV two or more years old (i.e., model year 2016 or older).  The rebate is $450 and opened on April 1, 2018. 

Here are the requirements:

  • EV must be two years old or older, and never received an LADWP rebate for its purchase previously.
  • EV must have been purchased after April 1, 2018.
  • Permanent residence must be served by LADWP
  • Complete the rebate application - download it here.
  • Copy of DMV registration
  • Copy of bill of sale
  • Proof of residence

EV Charger Rebate

LADWP offers a $500 rebate for installing a Level 2 EV charger (i.e., 240 VAC).  Program requirements are:

  • Completed rebate application - download it here.
  • Proof of EV charger purchase - paid invoice that includes
    • Purchase date
    • Retailer name, address and phone
    • EV charger make and model
    • How paid for - check, credit card, etc.
  • DMV registration that shows EV registered at account address
  • Photos of completed installation, nameplate of charger (showing serial number, make and model number)

Interestingly, LADWP does not specifically require the installation to be permitted and inspected.

Burbank Water & Power (BWP)

BWP offers a rebate of $500 for residential EV charger installations.  (You can access the rebate application here.)  They do not appear to offer a rebate for purchasing EVs.

Program requirements for the EV charger rebate are:

  • Applicant must be a BWP customer or charge their EV at a location served by BWP.
  • Agree to be switched to a Time-of-Use rate in return for the EV charger rebate.  CAUTION: this could be an expensive switch.  Be sure to consider how and when you use energy before agreeing to switch.
  • Application must be submitted within four months of purchase.
  • Installation must be hardwired (i.e., not plug-in) Level 2, and permitted and inspected by the City.
  • Supporting documentation including:
    • Copy of charger purchase receipt/invoice
    • Copy of installation receipt
    • Copy of signed-off permit
    • Copy of DMV registration
    • Photo of installed charger

Glendale Water & Power (GWP)

As is often the case, GWP’s programs mirror those of BWP.   GWP offers a $500 rebate for residential EV charger installations, but nothing toward the purchase of the EV itself.  Here’s a link to their overall EV page.  One interesting wrinkle, GWP issues the rebate in the form of a credit on your GWP bill - none of the other rebate programs said that.

Here are the requirements for the EV charger rebate:

  • Applicant must be an active GWP account holder.
  • Charger must be a new, Level 2 (i.e., 240 VAC) charger, and the application must be submitted within four months of purchase..
  • Installation must be permitted and inspected by the City if the charger is hard-wired.
  • Supporting documentation includes:
    • Copy of charger receipt/invoice
    • Photo of installed charger
    • Copy of labor receipt (optional)
    • Copy of the signed-off permit (if required)
    • Copy of DMV registration and car purchase or lease agreement

Access the GWP EV charger rebate application form here.

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08/17/18

  03:15:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1210 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Energy Storage

What I Saw at Enphase - Mind Blown!

Enphase hqLast month during Intersolar, I (along with colleagues Sara and Victoria) was lucky enough to get invited to see a microgrid demonstration featuring the Enphase next-gen IQ8 at their headquarters in Petaluma, California.  As I had to sign an NDA as the price of admission, I was unable to write about what I had seen until today, when Enphase hosted their annual Analyst’s Day.  But I am no longer bound by that agreement, and can now tell you about what I saw. 

To say that I was impressed would be a gross understatement - quite simply, it was the most astonishing thing I have ever seen in the solar industry.  Settle in and let me tell you what I saw…

What Happens Today

Before I launch into describing the demo, let me remind you of what happens today.  All of the systems that we have installed are what is referred to as “grid-tied” which means that if the grid goes down, the PV system that is capable of back-feeding the grid also goes down, and remains down until the grid comes back.  (This is to prevent your house from being an island of energy, feeding the grid, and potentially injuring a worker trying to restore grid service.  As a result, this feature is known as “anti-islanding” and it is required of all inverter systems that are connected to the grid.)

Normally this is not a problem, but last month, when it got super hot out here (think 115° F hot!), both SCE and LADWP suffered dozens of outages, taking down PV systems across large swathes of LA County, and leaving frustrated PV owners without power, or A/C, just like their PV-less brethren.  Not good.

What I Saw in the Lab

Which brings us to what I saw at Enphase last month.

The lab looked like an ordinary industrial space, but with a series of household appliances and tools at one side.  There was a simulated array feeding a bank of IQ8 inverters, and a display that showed the output of the array (i.e., PV production), the total consumption from the loads, and any power being exported or imported to support those loads.  At the start of the demo the only load was a single red lamp, and the display indicated that it was drawing roughly 90 Watts.  The PV array was producing roughly 1.9 kWs, so the excess 1,800 Watts was being exported to the grid.  All super normal stuff.

But then things got interesting…

One of the engineers switched off the breaker that connected the PV array to the grid… and nothing happened!  Well, actually, a lot happened, but what didn’t happen was that the red light did not go off.  It didn’t even flicker to the extent that we could detect it.  But then when you looked at the display you noticed something amazing.  Not only had the microinverters created a grid on their own in fractions of a second, but they had throttled the output down so that now the production of the PV array exactly matched the load of the red light!  And here’s the kicker - there were no batteries attached to this system!!!

But what fun is just having a light on?  How about some toast?  So they switched on a toaster, and it lit up, and the total load jumped by about 1,000 Watts, making the total load now around 1.1 kW, and the PV array scaled up to meet it!  Still no batteries.  And how about this - there was no central controller, no master-slave relationship between the microinverters.  Rather, this was the “hive mind” at work, as the micros sensed the demand and scaled up or down as necessary to meet that load!

But wait, there’s more!

The next load to be added was a grinder like you might find on your workbench in the garage.  All by itself, that device drew roughly 1,200 Watts, bring our total load to roughly 2.3 kW - more than the maximum output of our simulated array.  What would happen when that was added to the mix?  Surprisingly little.  The grinder spun normally, but the red light dimmed slightly.  What was going on?  The system’s “hive mind” had lowered the voltage slightly (a microgrid equivalent of a brown out) to meet the amperage demand of the new load mix!  So slightly slower than normal, cooler than normal, dimmer than normal, but all operating.

Of course, all good things must come to an end.  Our already overloaded microgrid faced one more challenge - a vacuum cleaner with a significant in-rush current, far in excess of what the grid could sustain.  Indeed, as soon as they switched the vacuum cleaner to “on", everything shut off.  Nothing was damaged, the microinverters just shut off to protect themselves.

Turning on the vacuum cleaner served as the “ah-ha” moment for the potential homeowner - I guess I can’t run everything in grid outage mode.  So what do you do when something you just did produced an undesired result?  Well if you can, you undo it!  Turning the vacuum cleaner off, immediately restored the microgrid to its previous state of operation!  No delay.  No human intervention - just turn off that latest (over)load, and the system recovers on its own!

How cool is that?  Pretty damn cool, if you ask me!

Batteries Please?

So what about batteries, how do they play with this new system?  Just exactly as you would want.

The engineers added a bank of batteries to the mix, each with an IQ8 installed.  Now the display also indicated the battery’s overall state of charge, and whether they were charging or discharging.  Reset the demo to just the red light as a load and the batteries at 30% state of charge.  The PV array output jumped back to its maximum, with the surplus energy being used to charge the batteries.  As more loads were added, the PV array remained at maximum output, and as needed, drew power from the batteries.  Should the batteries reach full capacity and the PV output is greater than the loads, the microinverters will once again throttle down.

Sweet!

What’s Next?

I hope you agree that this was an amazing demo, and the IQ8 (or Ensemble, as Enphase refers to the overall system) has tremendous potential, both for Enphase as a company, and for so many nascent markets.  Think of how this product could have helped out in Puerto Rico, or in parts of Africa which have never, ever seen a grid!  Makes me want to book a trip to bring power to a village somewhere - hey Laurel, what do you say?

For our own clients, this has the potential to be the answer we have been seeking ever since Elon’s whoppers got people thinking about storage for the first time ever.

A point we raised with Enphase management is the need to have a reasonable upgrade path for existing clients.  Indeed, I have a call with Enphase tomorrow to discuss that very topic.  We know that current Enphase IQ products (the 6+ and 7+ we have been installing this year) will be compatible with Ensemble.  We expect to be able to work with older systems, though there may be a higher retrofit cost.  When we have that information, we will surely let you know!  The IQ8 is expected to be available in 1H2019… watch this space!

08/06/18

  08:02:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 177 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, PWP Rebates, Electric Cars that Run on Sun

PWP Offering Rebates for EVs and EV Chargers!

We just learned that Pasadena Water and Power is offering a series of rebates for electric vehicles and for their chargers - how cool is that?  Here’s the scoop…

PWP EV Rebates

EV Rebates

New or used EVs, whether purchased or leased, qualify for rebates.  The rebate is $250, but that doubles if you get your EV from a Pasadena dealership.  (And if you participate in PWP’s income-qualifying programs, the rebate can be as much as $750!) 

To qualify, you must have an active PWP electric account, be the legal owner of the EV and permanently reside at the address shown on the PWP account. 

The rebate is limited (if you can call this a limitation!) to two EVs every three years!

EV Chargers

Now that you have an EV, you need a charger and PWP is offering rebates on those as well!  A standard Level 2 (240 VAC) charger qualifies for a $200 rebate, but a Wi-Fi enabled Level 2 charger qualifies for a $600 rebate!

You must complete the online rebate application within 180 days of purchase.  To get started, check out PWP’s EV rebate page here.

08/04/18

  09:01:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 199 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Non-profit solar

Introducing Victoria Villalobos!

Victoria VillalobosRun on Sun is excited to introduce Victoria Villalobos as the latest member of the RoS Team!

Victoria comes to Run on Sun with more than ten years of project management experience.  Although new to the solar industry, Victoria is a very quick study and is already looking to help streamline operations - an area of particular expertise!

A dog lover herself, Victoria has already bonded with Prosper, the Solar Dog, and we especially were drawn to her passion for building relationships, connecting with folks from diverse backgrounds, and finding common ground.  

Victoria is also a ten-year Army veteran with deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan - so Southern California heat doesn’t phase her.  In her spare time, Victoria is studying to be an instructor for a national organization dedicated to healing the trauma of United States military veterans, and she takes great pride in doing what she can to strengthen the veteran’s community and welcome them home from service.

Bringing Victoria onboard increases our resolve as a company to do more to integrate vets into our operations, and we are eager to work with Victoria to make that resolve a reality.

Please join me in welcoming Victoria to the Run on Sun family!

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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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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