Tag: "recom"

07/16/16

  04:21:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 405 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Ranting

Recom Redux: Talesun brings "Booth Babes" to Intersolar

In a throwback to Recom’s disastrous use of “caged” women to promote its booth, Talesun Solar revisited that PR debacle, featuring young women in Playboy-bunny costumes at Intersolar in San Francisco this past week. 

The response on the Internet was immediate and unforgiving in its damning of Talesun’s sexist display:

Talesun sexist booth babes

Talesun sexist booth babes

Kevin Christy implores, “Next year I hope you do better than this.” Tom (@SolarCurator) tweeted in amazement, “Talesun? Booth bunnies? What year is this? Didn’t u get the memo?” And Jigar Shah voiced what many of us hoped, “Glad to hear it, sounds like a sanction is in order for them and InterSolar organizers.”

To say that such a display has no place in the solar industry, should be self-evident, but apparently it (still) needs saying, so here I go:  This has got to stop.

After the firestorm, Talesun issued an awkward non-apology apology press release, resorting to that oldest of ploys, suggesting that they were shocked, shocked I tell you that anyone might have been offended. 

Talesun’s Marketing Team Manager was quoted as saying:

Having attractive booth girls for our booth in the solar energy industry is considered something normal, just look at the exhibition in Bangkok a few months ago, many major companies, were also hiring attractive booth girls.  We thought it wouldn’t be a problem here in North America since we considered it was even more open minded than Asia.  I guess we made a mistake and we just learned the lesson.  We apologize for this misunderstanding and we want people to remember what we did and how much we contributed to protecting our earth.

Actually, no, I don’t think you have “learned the lesson.” Let’s be clear, hiring attractive women (or men) to staff a booth is not the problem.  Dressing them up in sexist costumes is. 

And it isn’t that those of us complaining about what you did are somehow less “open minded” - it’s just that we reject sexist conduct in the solar industry. 

If Talesun really wants to tout all the alleged good they have done “protecting our earth” I have a marketing suggestion for them - produce a clever and engaging video and run that at your booth.  But dress your booth staff in a manner consistent with members of the professional organization you claim to be.  Then, and only then, will you have learned the lesson. 

Frankly, the rest of us are tired of having to teach it.

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07/18/14

  09:27:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1775 words  
Categories: Safety, Energy Storage, Intersolar 2014

Intersolar Wrapup: Sexism Declines, but Chaos Looms

We spent some quality time on the exhibit floor, and at the social events, of last week’s Intersolar North America and here’s our take.

Overall Impressions - Does Size Matter?

The show felt smaller, to be sure, and we didn’t see anything that created a real “Wow” moment.  (Possible exception, the mini solar race cars which were very cool, but they didn’t really have much to do with anything.) With SPI looming in just a few short weeks in, wait for it… Las Vegas Man™… it was hard to shake the feeling that manufacturers were keeping their powder dry until October.

Merchatron tracker

Of course, not everything was smaller. 

The folks at Mechatron won the prize for the largest solar device at the show—an enormous solar tracker (which we were told took them a day and a half to assemble inside the hall!)—that has more than a bit of a Transformers feel to it.

Sadly it wasn’t moving during the show…

Look Who is Missing?

Given the show’s smaller feel you would expect some well known names to be missing and you would be right.

We are happiest to report that the number one no-show was last year’s Sexism Public Enemy Number One: RECOM.  Although they had a significant presence at Intersolar in Europe a month ago, they were nowhere to be seen at this show, and the folks from Intersolar confirmed that RECOM had originally booked a booth but then cancelled without explanation.  Did they back out due to the backlash over their nonsense last year? We can only hope…

Inverter manufacturers Enphase Energy, KACO and SMA were all missing from the floor—although that’s no surprise for Enphase who never shows at Intersolar, and who had a large presence elsewhere in co-hosting the Tweetup (thank you!) and the Solarfest. 

SMA touts made in the USA

SMA, although not on the floor did manage to take a swipe at its competition with this banner (that’s a really, really big banner!) and a van parked outside touting their market dominance—in the past.

We are all for made in the USA, but what percentage of the show attendees were walking around with smartphones that were made somewhere other than the USA? Uh, pretty much everybody. 

Not clear that this is a winning argument, or even SMA’s best argument given that their TL inverters are a very cool product.  If your only presence is going to be a banner, why not tout an actual benefit of your products? 
Opportunity missed.

Seeking Better Racking—with less Sexism

Our stated goal for the show was to identify a new racking supplier to replace our now discontinued standard (Unirac’s late, great, Solarmount Evolution) and toward that end we spent a lot of time on the third floor where the racking suppliers hung out. Continuing the recent trend, there was a lot on display.

Shoals promotes booth babe culture

A study in contrast could be found between the displays at the Shoals and Schletter booths.  Both supply racking gear.  Both offered coffee in the morning and beer in the afternoon.  And both had attractive women handing out the drinks.  The difference?  The women at the Schletter booth actually work for the company (in a wide variety of jobs, other than marketing) whereas Shoals insists, defiantly, on promoting the Booth Babe culture with models in black cocktail dresses.  (Leading to scenes like this of guys standing around to photograph the models.  Not sure how that promotes solar or Shoals’ products.)

Still we did see racking systems that we liked.  Iron Ridge has an interesting rail shape which they insist is stronger than other products, and their CEO, William Kim, seemed very eager to connect with installers and learn from their experience—something that other companies need to do!

But our overall winner at the show was Everest Solar Systems.  Talk about learning from installers, all of their components are pre-assembled so the installer doesn’t find herself on a roof missing a bolt.  The parts work together in an intelligent fashion and seem designed to streamline the process on the roof where it matters.

Everest mounting system

For example, here is a picture showing their end clamp assembly (and attractive end-cap for the rail) and there are a number of features here to like.

To begin with, the clamp is extra wide giving you a firmer grip on the module.  The clamp has a small spring inside which means that once inserted in the channel, the clip stands up at full height, making it easier to insert the modules under the clip.  (The mid clamps also have this feature which we think is a great idea.)  The black piece next to the rail is a plastic grip that the installer can use to position the clamp in the rail and turn to align it properly—another clever feature which should cut down on fumbling on the roof.

Equally well thought out are the splices (which do not use self-tapping screws, thank you) that provide structural strength while allowing for thermal expansion.  Oh, and there’s no drilling required on the roof!

We are eager to give the Everest system a try on an install very soon.

Storage on the March

As we have seen in previous years, enthusiasm for intelligent storage systems is high, while actual products are few.  And even when a product is on display, it is not always clear that the folks talking about the product have really thought it through.

LG Residential storage offering

Take, for example, this potential offering from LG.

We say potential because this is really a concept vehicle, not something you can order now.  Indeed, the decal on the box proclaims that the product will debut in Europe the second half of next year.  Roll-out in the US is not slated until sometime in 2016.

More troubling though was, in our view, a misunderstanding of the nuance in this market.  The box shown has a storage capacity of only 2 kWh—less than a tenth of the daily energy output of a 5 kW solar power system.  How and when will that energy be deployed to assist the homeowner in reducing their bills?  In talking with the LG rep, we started to explain the differences between how you might use that energy under a tiered rate structure versus a time-of-use structure.  Instead of being told that their software was designed to handle those differences, we got a mostly blank stare.  Now that could simply be that the rep wasn’t fully up-to-speed on how the box is designed to operate, but it was not encouraging.

What is encouraging is that electronics giants like LG are starting to get serious about this opportunity and from what we have seen from LG in the solar module space, we are confident that they can develop a compelling product offering—just not yet.

Meanwhile, last year’s show standout for really grokking this space, Stem, was nowhere to be seen.  Nor was their SoCal competitor, CODA.  Perhaps both are keeping their chips in reserve, hoping to make a big play in Vegas at SPI.  Watch this space.

Burning Down the House

Finally, we have two things to report under this topic—one cautionary, the other celebratory.  Caution first.

Fire Code Chaos

Creeping up on the entire California solar market is the issue of Fire Code regulations that have the potential to bring things to a screeching halt come next January.  We are still trying to get up to speed ourselves on this issue, but there were fire code regulations that were supposed to go into effect last January but were postponed because no one had a technical solution for meeting them.  That postponement was for only a year, however, which means that come 1/1/15 we are subject to these regs.

As we presently understand the issue (and feel free to offer clarifications in the comments),  roof systems are rated under classes A-C based on how resistant they are to an outside source of combustion (think of a burning tree limb resting on the roof), with class A being the most resistant.  Solar modules on the market today generally have a class C fire rating.  The new regs would say that where a roof system is required to be class A (as in high fire threat areas), all components on the roof must also be class A—but if there are no class A rated solar modules, such buildings would be unable to add solar.  Moreover, even if a module were designated class A, it would still have to be tested with the roofing system to ensure that the combined system were class A.

If that weren’t bad enough, there is an additional categorization pertaining to fire spread, and because roof arrays more than a few inches above the roof act like conduits for spreading flame, such arrays cannot pass the flame spread requirements.  Yikes!

Both module manufacturers and racking reps that we brought this up with gave us a deer-in-the-headlights response initially (with the exception of Barry Cinnamon’s Spice product offering), with some subsequently saying that they were working on the issue.

As noted above, we are still getting up to speed on this issue and we will have much more to say about it in the coming weeks.  Watch this space.

Battling Bands - Again!

Finally, our Battle of the Bands karma continued to rock at Intersolar.

For those not in the know, the annual Battle of the Bands has two, parallel sets of competitors.  On the one hand are the house bands from various solar companies who go head-to-head to see who will be crowned the best of the best.  But just as fierce is the competition to get a ticket to the closed event!

Two years ago we got in on sheer force of personality (not ours, but that of Solar Fred) and last year Jeff (Solar) Spies’ crew at QuickMount PV provided the ducket.  But alas, not this year. 

We were directed to another booth where there was a raffle we could join, but no luck.

Yet then, we turned the corner and found ourselves at the NABCEP booth where Sue Pratt was about to raffle off two tickets.  We tossed our biz card into the bowl (complete with NABCEP Certified logo, thank you very much) and then crossed our fingers.  When the first card pulled turned out to be a no-show, Sue dug deep—and pulled out our card!  How cool was that?  (We gave the second ticket to another installer who had just had his hopes dashed by our good fortune—gotta pay that Battle of the Bands karma forward!)

Lots of photos from the party (though oddly, many are strangely blurry—sorry about that Kathie & Jessica) but we will leave you with our favorite—may your karma be so good next year!

Battle of the Bands 2014

10/18/13

  09:54:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 641 words  
Categories: Ranting, SPI 2013

SPI Preview - What to Look For...

SPI 2013 logoSolar Power International - the largest solar trade show in the U.S. - kicks off next week in Chicago. Here are the top five things to look for at the show.

1 - Venue Verdict

Continuing its (in our view unfortunate) three-year odyssey away from California, SPI 2013 is in Chicago this year for the first time ever.  Wait, what?  Chicago?

This isn’t a wind-turbine convention - you know, Chicago, the “windy city” - this is the show for Solar.  What is it doing in Chicago?  (Hey - no knock on Chi-town, we’ve had some great times there and the people are terrific, but when you think of solar you do not think of Chicago.)

So the question is - will this sortie into the Midwest help or hurt attendance?  We are guessing the latter, but it will be interesting to see what the numbers say.  (And you know that we love us some data!)

2 - Who’s Missing?

Given the location, and the recent trend of some bigger players taking a pass on big booths, who will be the notable “no-shows” at this year’s event (besides us, that is).  Enphase won’t have a booth, but their presence will be felt as they host a plethora of parties and other events during the show.  Interestingly, rumor has it that SMA will also not have a booth - hard to picture the SMA folks partying like their rivals at Enphase but I suppose it could happen.  (Pictures, please!)

But who else gives the exhibit floor a pass?  And better question - why?

3 - Who’s Got the Buzz?

Buzz is sorta the point of having a booth and LG Electronics - poised to have the first shipments of its long-awaited 300-Watt modules hit U.S. shores in the weeks immediately following the show (and yes, we are in that queue, thank you Focused Energy) is going to have a major booth.   Will they capture the buzz?

With neither SMA nor Enphase fronting a booth, who will capture attention in the inverter space?  At Intersolar the robots seemed to have gotten a lot of interest - will they be prowling the floor?

What about on the racking front - always lots of products and manufacturers out there - but not much buzz.  (Except, perhaps, when a major product is phased out.)  Can anyone break through the noise and clutter to make an impression worthy of the booth fees?

And what about the storage sector - will we see more folks now getting it, like Stem?  Or will it be more of the same fumbling to find a rationale for their product offering that has been typical in the past?

4 - Can the Solar Women Steal the Show?

One of solar’s best kept secrets is that there are lots of intelligent, professional women in the industry - will they finally be seen as the force that they need to be at SPI?  We know that our friends Raina Russo and Glenna Wiseman will be there promoting their survey of women’s attitudes about solar marketing.  What other events will feature women prominently in ways that capitalize on their intellectual contributions to the industry?

5 - Will SPI Police the Bad Boys of Solar?

After Intersolar’s debacle with RECOM and its ilk demonstrating that they had no sense beyond that of inebriated frat boys, tremendous pressure was put on the management of SPI to crack down on unseemly displays on the exhibit floor.  How well will that be enforced?  And how will RECOM’s recent effort to recast itself play with the women at the show?  (Interestingly, as to that last point, comments we have received from women are supportive and grateful for our taking a stand whereas those from men are more along the lines of “why are you talking about this?")

So that’s it - a few things to keep in mind as you pack your bags for Chicago - have a swell time and think about us slaving away back home!

10/17/13

  07:45:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 559 words  
Categories: Ranting

RECOM Revisited: Reform or just PR Ploy?

The folks over at RECOM - the Greek solar module manufacturer made famous for their not-so brilliant marketing strategy that featured women in cages - have announced a new initiative to provide scholarships to two women in the solar industry.  Which begs the question: have the frat boys behind RECOM reformed or is this just a PR ploy on the eve of SPI?  Here’s our take.

After Intersolar NA in July, RECOM took a great deal of flak - from this blog and elsewhere - for their sexist marketing device of putting attractive women in cages as a way of promoting their solar modules.  And if you wonder what caged women in torn clothing have to do with solar modules, well, you are on track to understanding why so many people were upset.  When people started complaining, RECOM lashed out, even attempting to get one women (that we know of) fired for having had the audacity to complain about their sexism.

(Interestingly, a number of positive developments have arisen including a much higher profile for the Women in Solar group and the launching of a survey aimed at capturing the views of women about solar marketing. Sort of like making lemonade from oh-so sour lemons.)

Against that backdrop - and with the country’s largest solar conference set to start next week (more on that tomorrow) - RECOM yesterday sent out a notice about a new promotion where they would choose two women who have been working in the solar industry for at least three years to attend UC Berkeley’s Executive Leadership program.  From their announcement:

RECOM Professional women in solar Scholarship recipients will each receive a financial award to attend UC Berkeley’s Executive Leadership Program in April 2014. Two female students will be chosen from the applicant pool, and scholarships will be awarded based on the strength of each candidate’s professional background and demonstrated leadership. In addition, all scholarship recipients and finalists will be invited to attend a retreat at RECOM. We know how important a supportive peer network can be for a student’s success. The retreat will include workshops, speakers, breakout sessions and social activities scheduled over a couple of days.

The tuition for the Berkeley program is $9,900 which means that for a measly twenty grand or so, RECOM is hoping to recast their persona as solar bad boys and align themselves on the side of the angels.  But have they actually reformed?

To be sure, their website isn’t (presently) sporting the videos that they happily touted after Intersolar, and they’ve scrubbed some of their creepier copy.  But the website is still replete with objectified images of women, such as this example captured as a screenshot just this morning:

RECOM unchangedImages like this really have nothing to do with solar and shouldn’t be a part of a solar marketing campaign, yet here it is, on the RECOM website, reached from a link referring to “Munich ‘13… The Cage” on a page hyping “The Show” and suggesting that you “Experience the Difference… and join us in a place where reality becomes unreal.”

Frankly, in our opinion, what is unreal is the notion that RECOM has changed its stripes.

It will be interesting to see what reaction RECOM gets at SPI and how many professional women in solar sign up to be considered for their scholarship.  As our favorite woman on the TV-machine likes to say, “watch this space.”

10/16/13

  08:11:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 260 words  
Categories: Solar News, Residential Solar

Calling All Women - Seeking Your Views on Solar

SolarChatAn innovative new survey on the attitudes of women about solar is now seeking user input.  The survey effort, dubbed “Shining a Solar Marketing Light on Women” is the brainchild of #SolarChat visionary, Raina Russo, and solar marketing expert, Glenna Wiseman.

As Raina put it:

Women across America overwhelmingly guide the purchasing decisions in the average household. They also carry with them an intuitive nature to create a better future for their children. Understanding these two significant attributes can assist the solar industry in communicating and connecting with such an important consumer base, one that has the potential to increase the adoption of solar nationwide.

We couldn’t agree more and we urge all of our women readers to take a moment and share your views by clicking here to take the survey.

Raina and Glenna will be gathering survey responses through November 13th, and we will have a follow-up post when the results are published.

Encouraging the adoption of solar is way too important to leave it just in the hands of the men who presently dominate the industry - some of whom are completely tone deaf as to what is proper solar marketing. (After all, it was a bunch of guys who gave us women in cages as a means of marketing solar - can’t get any more tone deaf than that!)

Raina and Glenna’s survey is a great step in helping the solar industry improve its marketing to all segments of the consumer universe and those improvements can’t come too soon.  So please, take a moment and take the survey!

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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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