11/30/18

  07:50:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 947 words  
Categories: Climate Change

Climate Assessment Report: Dire Threat Largely Ignored

On Black Friday, the Trump Administration released the 4th National Climate Assessment report, presumably in the hope that most Americans would still be too stupefied  from their food coma and shopping binges to notice.  So here we are a week later, and hopefully woke.  Because the message of the report is a dire warning of what is already happening and what is to come. We ignore it at our peril.

From ClimateNexus:

This U.S. federal government report shows that:

  • Human activity, like burning fossil fuels, is the primary cause for the warming temperatures we are undoubtedly experiencing.
  • By the end of this century, fighting climate change will save hundreds of billions of dollars just in public health costs, and save thousands of lives a year.
  • Americans are already paying for climate change as it makes storms more damaging, heat waves more deadly, wildfires more common, allergies worse and some diseases more widespread.
  • The U.S. military, as well as many farmers, businesses, and local communities are already planning for and adapting to climate change.
  • Climate change is a clear and present danger to the health and wealth of the American people.

Topline findings of the report include:

Human activity, primarily burning fossil fuels, is causing climate change. There is no credible alternative to global warming emissions to explain the warming.

  • Global average temperatures have risen 1.8°F (1.0°C) since 1901, predominantly because of human activity, especially the emission of heat-trapping gases.
  • Globally, 16 of the last 17 years are the warmest years on record.
  • Depending on the region, Americans could experience an additional month to two month’s worth of days with maximum temperatures above 100°F (38°C) by 2050, with that severe heat becoming commonplace in the southeast by 2100.

Economic losses from climate change are significant for some sectors of the U.S. economy.

  • In some sectors, losses driven by the impacts of climate change could exceed $100 billion annually by the end of the century.
  • If emissions continue unabated, extreme temperatures could end up costing billions upon billions in lost wages annually by the end of the century, and negatively impact the health of construction, agricultural and other outdoor workers.
  • Many aspects of climate change – including extreme heat, droughts, and floods – will pose risks to the U.S. agricultural sector. In many places, crop yields, as well as crop and grazing land quality, are expected to decline as a result.
  • We may be underestimating our level of risk by failing to account for multiple impacts occurring at once, or not planning for impacts that will span across government borders and sector boundaries.
  • Our aging infrastructure, especially our electric grid, will continue to be stressed by extreme weather events, which is why helping communities on the frontlines of climate impacts to adapt is so crucial.

Americans are already responding to the climate change impacts of burning fossil fuels.

  • Increased global warming emissions have contributed to the observed increases in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1970.
  • Climate change doubled the area burned by wildfires across the West between 1984 and 2015, relative to what would have burned without warming. Climate change was a greater factor in area burned between 1916 and 2003 than was fire suppression, fire management or non-climate factors.
  • By 2100, annual acreage burned by wildfires could increase by as much as 6 times in some places. The U.S. spends an average of about $1 billion annually to fight wildfires, but spent over $2 billion in 2015 due to extreme drought. Costs exceeded $2 billion in the first 8 months of 2017.
  • The U.S. military is already working to understand the increased risks of security issues resulting from climate change-induced resource shocks (droughts causing crop failure, for example, which can contribute to civil unrest) as well as extreme weather events and direct impacts on military infrastructure, like sea level rise or extreme heat at military bases.

Storm surge and tidal flooding frequency, depth and extent are worsened by sea level rise, presenting a significant risk to America’s trillion-dollar coastal property market.

  • Global sea level has risen about 8-9 inches since 1880, 3 inches of which have come since just 1993. We can expect at least several inches more in the next 15 years, with 1-4 feet very likely by 2100, and as much as 8 feet physically possible by 2100.
  • Sea level rise has already increased the frequency of high tide flooding by a factor of 5 to 10 since the 1960s for some U.S. coastal communities.
  • Climate change is already hurting coastal ecosystems, posing a threat to the fisheries and tourism industries as well as public safety and human health. Continuing coastal impacts will worsen pre-existing social inequities as vulnerable communities reckon with how to adapt.

Every American’s health is at risk from climate change, with the elderly, young, working class and communities of color being particularly vulnerable.

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will, by the end of the century, potentially save thousands of lives annually, and generate hundreds of billions of dollars of health-related economic benefits compared to a high emissions scenario.
  • Allergies like hay fever and asthma are likely already becoming more frequent and severe.
  • Warmer temperatures are expected to alter the range of mosquitoes and ticks that carry vector-borne diseases like Zika, West Nile virus, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever.
  • Drier conditions in Arizona and California have led to greater growth of the fungus that leads to Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) while Cryptococcal infections were strictly tropical before 1999, but have moved northward, with Oregon experiencing 76 cases in 2015.
  • West Nile is projected to double by 2050, with a $1 billion annual price tag.

Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will reduce the risks of climate impacts.

  • A certain amount of warming is likely “locked in” so adaptation is still required.
  • The faster we reduce global warming emissions, the less risk we face and the cheaper it will be to adapt.

 

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11/16/18

  12:14:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 350 words  
Categories: Climate Change

NY Times asks: How much Hotter is Your Hometown than when You were Born?

Nothing warms the cockles of a data-geek’s heart more than seeing really cool data visualizations, and if that visualization  helps illustrate a vital subject in an easy-to-grasp manner, well that is a data geek jackpot.  Probably no one does data visualizations better than the folks at the New York Times, and their latest is amazing - driving home the impact of climate change in a way that is both personal and dramatic.

Titled, “How much Hotter is Your Hometown than when You were Born?” it allows the user to enter their hometown (Los Angeles, in my case) and year of birth.  According to their dataset, there were roughly 55 days when I was born where you could expect temperatures to reach 90 degrees (F).  Scroll down the page, and a graph is charted, showing the increase in days reaching 90 over the years, hitting 67 days in 2017, as you can see here:

 hotter in la

But if you continue to scroll down it gets even more alarming:

LA temps in 2089

Wow - at present trends, by 2089 there could be anywhere from 84 to 104 days of 90 degrees or better, with 93 days being the most likely number.  But these predictions assume that the world will adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement, and given recent developments in both the U.S. and Brazil, that is increasingly unlikely.

Of course it isn’t just the heat, it’s the humidity, and the visualization notes that areas with higher humidity than LA will feel the heat even more.

On the other hand, areas that experience dry heat, are likely to experience greater drought, and as we have so painfully seen these past few weeks, even more intense and deadly wildfires.

In other parts of the world the forecast is even more daunting.  Take a city like Jakarta - it already averages more than five months of temperatures above 90!

Map showing heat in Jakarta

According to those projections, by the end of the century, temperatures above 90 degrees in Jakarta, “may last for most of the year.

There is a lot more useful information there and I encourage you to check it out.  Would that all information about Climate Change were presented in an equally compelling manner - bravo, NYT!

11/07/18

  07:17:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 704 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Solar Repairs

Enphase announces Upgrade Program for Early Adopters...

One of the nagging concerns in the solar industry is what to do about those aging legacy systems?  As systems age there can be reliability issues and finding compatible parts can be a real issue in a fast moving technology environment like solar power.  Given all of that, we are pleased to announce the Enphase Update Program for Enphase Early Adopters.  There is a lot to this program, including three distinct upgrade paths, so let’s break it down step-by-step…

Who is Eligible?

This program is dedicated to the earliest adopters of Enphase microinverters, specifically the M175, D380, M190, and M210 models.  (Of the eligible microinverter models, Run on Sun only ever installed the M210.)  System owners that have M215’s, M250’s, or S280 microinverters are not eligible for this program.

Enphase M210 microinverter Enphase M215 microinverter
The Enphase M210 qualifies for the upgrade… While the subsequent generation M215 does not.

What are My Options?

There are three upgrade paths with varying benefits, costs, and timing, however, all three offer full 25-year product warranties and a two year service agreement. The three options are: Microinverter Upgrade, Full-System Upgrade, and Next-Generation Upgrade - let’s take them one at a time.

Microinverter Upgrade

The most cost-effective option is the Microinverter Upgrade because it takes advantage of your existing solar panels that are likely still in good shape.  This upgrade provides all of the following:

  • New Enphase IQ7-PD - the latest generation microinverter, powered down to be compatible with existing, earlier generation systems.
  • New interconnection cable
  • New IQ Envoy with both production and consumption energy measuring devices* (CTs).

Legacy owners can purchase this equipment directly from Enphase for just $67.50/panel - a really great price.  Removal and re-installation labor will vary widely based on various factors including the difficulty of the roof, the quality of the original installation, and whatever upgrades need to be done, probably on the order of $150/panel.

*Note that not all systems will be able to do consumption monitoring depending on the existing service panel configuration.

Full-System Upgrade

When microinverters like the M210 were being installed, available panel wattage was much lower than today, but with the advent of electric vehicles, homeowners are in need of more energy than ever.  The Full-System Upgrade provides a way to gain from today’s higher power modules, but in a cost-effective manner.

Solaria-Enphase AC module

Enphase Energized Solaria PowerXT-AC Modules

This upgrade path involves the Enphase Energized Solaria PowerXT-AC Module, which has an Enphase IQ7+ microinverter integrated onto the Solaria module. (You can see an image of the Solaria modules on the left.)

 The module has a power production of 295 Watts, substantially greater than what was available for legacy modules.   The cost to the homeowner for this upgrade path is $469/panel, which includes the AC module, cabling, and the Envoy for monitoring.  

Labor costs for this upgrade path are likely to be substantially higher, in part due to the need for new racking (the module dimensions are somewhat unusual - 63.8″ x 43.9″ - which could necessitate a racking change), changes in the sizing of the branch circuits, and the need to pull permits for the new system.  Those factors are mitigated somewhat by the upgrade cost most likely qualifying for the federal 30% tax credit since it is an all new system, as opposed to the Microinverter Upgrade, that won’t.

Next-Generation Upgrade

Finally, the last upgrade option is to wait for the rollout of the Enphase IQ8 microinverter system.  (You can read about what the IQ8 technology will provide here.)  Unfortunately, there is no pricing information available yet for that upgrade path, and its availability is not until sometime in 2019 - probably the second quarter at the earliest.

What Happens if I do Nothing?

If your system is working fine, you don’t really have a need to do anything.  However, these earlier microinverters came with a 15-year warranty, which means that more than half of that warranty period has expired.  Moreover, particularly compared to the M190’s, the newest Enphase microinverters have significantly greater reliability (Enphase claims by an order of magnitude), so you would be upgrading to a more reliable product and extending your warranty protection by 25 years.

We will post again when we have more information regarding the Next-Generation, IQ8  upgrade.  In the meantime, if you have questions about upgrading, please give us a call.

 

 

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!

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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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