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Run on Sun Monthly Newsletter

In this Issue:

March, 2012

Volume: 3 Issue: 3

Solar Triumphant - Run on Sun Makes it Right!

The windstorm that struck Pasadena late last year did tremendous damage - including to some solar power systems that were improperly installed by homeowners or now-defunct solar companies. Run on Sun was asked to help out two homeowners after the wind destroyed their solar power systems, and we have documented our efforts in a series of articles.

In part 1 of this series, we discovered the tremendous damage that can occur when an improperly installed solar power system is hit by a once-in-a-generation windstorm. In part 2, we figured out how the failure had occurred, and we learned that - shockingly - at least one solar contractor is perfectly OK trying to rip off an insurance company!

Having figured out what went wrong with the old installation, it was time to make it right! This article - and the video that follows - will introduce you to our homeowner and to the folks from Unirac who stepped in to help us get this homeowner back online producing clean, reliable and safe solar power!

It was great to work with the folks at Unirac and we are very touched by the sentiments expressed by Rachel.

Of course, that is always our goal - to leave our clients feeling that we have done more than what was expected, more than just what the job called for us to do. It is the little extra steps taken that not only insure a happy client, but a system that we can point to with pride.

Here's an image of the finished system:

Completed solar array

And here are some details - check out these clamps, especially the end clamp:

Mid-clamp, solarmount Evolution

Unirac Solarmount Evolution Mid-Clamp between two Sanyo solar panels

End-clamp solarmount Evolution

Unirac Solarmount Evolution End-Clamp holding a Sanyo solar panel

It is easy to see why Unirac calls this Solarmount Evolution because this product really has moved beyond what was available just a year ago. With gear like this, we are confident that these clamps will never allow a panel to separate from the rails - "come loose from its moorings" to quote Rachel - and thus, we feel that this is the safest system we have ever installed. This will be our new standard going forward.

Great job, Unirac, and thanks!

“That is always our goal - to leave our clients feeling that we have done more than what was expected, more than just what the job called for us to do…”

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Clash of the Solar Titans: SunPower Sues SolarCity

Just in time for Valentine's Day, solar powerhouse SunPower sued SolarCity and five of its employees in federal court on February 13. Alleging violations of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as various state law claims including theft of trade secrets, the Complaint is less of a Valentine and more of an existential threat to SolarCity's commercial solar division.

The suit alleges that the five employees - all of whom previously worked for SunPower before being hired by SolarCity - illegally accessed SunPower computers and stole tens of thousands of computer files. Indeed, it appears from the documents filed with the court, that SunPower has some fairly extensive forensic evidence of the theft, noting the specific types of USB drives that were used to acquire the stolen files and where and when the downloading occurred. Assuming that evidence holds up to review by computer experts, it could be pretty damning against the five former employees.

Far less clear, however, is whether there is actually any case to be made against SolarCity. Having litigated a number of corporate espionage cases (in one of my earlier lifetimes), I know that it can be difficult to connect the dots between the illicit conduct of the former employees and their new employer. It is the classic question of "What did SolarCity know, and when did it know it?" Interestingly, SolarCity put out a statement regarding the suit, but did not expressly deny any of the allegations. Instead, it simply noted that:

SolarCity upholds high standards in operational integrity for itself and its employees. SolarCity takes trade secret issues very seriously and we will ensure that we act in accordance with the law.

(Curiously, that statement does not appear on the SolarCity website's list of press releases, but you can find the entirety of the statement here.)

It is unfortunate to see two well-known solar companies involved in such a dispute, but it was probably inevitable. Indeed, the history of Silicon Valley is replete with similar lawsuits and as the financial stakes in the solar industry increase, the potential for such actions will also increase.

Of course, the public is unlikely to ever learn the whole truth behind this story - as common as such lawsuits are, public trials are a rarity. Factor in SolarCity's rumored desire to go forward with an IPO this year and the likelihood of a settlement increases dramatically.

We will keep you posted as new developments unfold.

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Suntech Recalls Solar Roofing Tiles

Suntech America, in conjunction with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has entered into a voluntary recall regarding certain models of solar power roofing tiles. The product, known as SolarBlend™ Roof Tiles, has been involved in one reported fire that only affected the roof tiles (not the underlying structure) and no one was injured. Nevertheless, Suntech is attempting to contact homeowners who had the product installed and all affected systems should be shut down until repairs - which Suntech will provide at no cost to the homeowner - can be performed.

Suntech SolarBlend roof tile subject to recall

The SolarBlend tiles (an image of which is shown above) were manufactured and distributed throughout the United States from October 2009 through March of 2011. The recalled model numbers include:

  • STP050D-5/ZCB (brown)
  • STP050D-5/ZCF (terra cotta) and
  • STP050D-5/ZCG (gray).

Consumers who believe that they have such tiles installed should contact their installer or Suntech directly at (888) 770-7122 between 5 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday or email to: services@suntech-power.com.

The Recall Alert suggests that there are only 300 or so installations of these tiles. We decided to see what the CSI data would tell us about these products and who installed them. Here are our results:


The good news here is that these products only account for a very tiny fraction of solar installs during the recall period. The bad news is that - at least from a web search - it appears that many of these companies are no longer in business - meaning affected home owners will need to contact Suntech directly.

Run on Sun has never used these products - not because of a fear of potential fires, but simply because the roof tile product has a lower efficiency meaning that you need a larger roof area to provide the same amount of power. You can check out our preferred solar products at our solar products page.

“All affected systems should be shut down until repairs - which Suntech will provide at no cost to the homeowner - can be performed…”

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