Welcome to the
Run on Sun Monthly Newsletter

In this Issue:

October, 2013

Volume: 4 Issue: 10

Open Letter to Unirac: Say It Ain't So!

We have used Unirac's products exclusively since we started in this business some seven years ago.

Unirac logo

We have worked with Unirac to supply donations to the owner of a wind-damaged array and for the USC team at the Solar Decathlon. We trust their products and believe in the company.

But what we have heard recently leaves us pleading, "say it ain't so." In response, here's our Open Letter to Unirac Management:

To: Decision-Makers Re: Solarmount Evolution
From: Jim Jenal, Founder & CEO, Run on Sun
Subject: Say It Ain't So

Dear Folks -

You may not know me, but many in your company do. I am the owner of a solar installation company in Pasadena, California, and I frequently blog about issues in the solar industry. Today my issue is your apparent decision to discontinue the Solarmount Evolution product. Folks, with all due respect, this is a terrible decision. Please let me explain.

We have always used your products on our projects.

Whether conventional Solarmount, tilt legs, Clicksys, Fastfoot, or Solarmount Evolution - Unirac has been our brand of choice. We appreciated our shared values - maximizing the durability of the systems that we were installing for our clients.

But one thing about conventional Solarmount always bothered us - the design of the end clamps that you featured.

That design has just never felt right - for a couple of reasons. For one, there's the angle - no matter what you do, that clamp is never truly perpendicular to the rail.

end clamp with conventional solarmount Conventional Solarmount Rail & End Clamp.

Over time, as things expand and contract in the sun, that nut is almost certain to loosen a bit and that clamp just looks like it longs to go "somewhere else".

But then we encountered a serious failure and that got us worrying about a second issue.

That T-bolt is stainless steel but it is sitting in an extruded aluminum channel. I had seen an overly enthusiastic installer torque that bolt right through the channel - clearly not following procedures, but then there's lots of folks out there who don't follow recommended torque settings! But when I saw what could happen when bad installation practices encountered a generational windstorm, I really became concerned.

Here that T-bolt has chewed its way completely through the aluminum channel resulting in a catastrophic failure of the array. When we came upon that failure, we turned to you to help us make it right - which we did, together.


The solution involved your Solarmount Evolution product and, having installed it once, I vowed I would never install conventional Solarmount again. Why? Because you had truly created a product that was superior in every sense: vastly stronger, clearly more secure over time, and even easier to work with on the roof!

Unirac solarmount(e) end clamp Solarmount Evolution Rail & End Clamp

Look at the difference between the end clamp on the left versus the one above and ask yourself - which of these would you want securing a solar array to your roof for the next twenty-five years?

Not even a close call, is it?

You had done what every quality manufacture strives to do - you had built the better mousetrap. We told everyone we spoke to about the benefits of your new product and we used it exclusively on all of our projects thereafter.

We heard some people complain that it cost more than conventional Solarmount. Frankly, we didn't notice and we didn't care. The product was so demonstrably superior that what difference did it make if it cost a few cents/Watt more? We certainly didn't ever lose any business because we specified it - but I can say with total knowledge that we closed some deals simply because of it.

So now we hear that you are going to discontinue the product altogether.

We would implore you to rethink this decision.

Some products, like some television shows, take a while to catch on with the public. After all, NBC nearly failed to pickup Seinfeld, a program that many critics ultimately considered one of the best ever aired. Solarmount Evolution is that good - but it needs a longer run to gain traction in the industry.

Here's a suggestion - you are rolling out a new product for use with commercial flat roofs that greatly reduces your costs in providing that solution to the industry. Take some of that money that you are going to save thanks to that new product and plow it back into major marketing for Solarmount Evolution. (Maybe hire Solar Fred to handle the campaign - who better to kick start a product in this field?)

Solarmount Evolution deserves another season - it would be tragic if you were to cancel a hit before it gets a chance to find its audience and shine.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Jenal, Founder & CEO, Run on Sun

Free Run on Sun Solar Site Evaluation - Click here

Thinking about
Commercial Solar?
We Wrote the Book!
Purchase Commercial Solar: step by step
Commercial Solar:

from Run on Sun
Founder & CEO
Jim Jenal
Now available on Amazon.com…

Help Us Spread the News!

Link to us on LinkedIn

Get our toolbar!

“Ask yourself - which of these would you want securing a solar array to your roof for the next twenty-five years? …”

Return to Newsletter Archive | Return to ROS Home

A Question of Equities - Utility Attacks vs Solar Reality

We have written about the faux populism of electric utilities decrying solar generally - and net metering in particular - as unfair to poorer utility customers. But is that true? Are solar incentives really a question of robbing the poor to give to the rich? (H/T greentechsolar.)

Attacks on the solar industry as being unfair have been on the rise and getting nasty - and not just in California where folks like Ms. Burt from PG&E have been accusing the industry of being a Robin Hood in reverse. For example, over in Arizona, APS - the state's largest utility - was just discovered as having spent thousands of dollars supporting attack ads against the solar industry. "We are in a political battle," said APS Spokesman Jim McDonald. "We didn't ask for it. But we are not going to lie down and get our heads kicked in. We are just not. We are obligated to fight. It is irresponsible to our customers not to fight back."

Arizona utility ad attacking solar

And how are they fighting back? With ads like the one on the left. (Go ahead, click thru to YouTube - we'll wait.)

There's so many things wrong with that ad!

For example, I love the irony of the ad attacking "out of state solar companies" when the ad was produced by a DC-based lobbying group!

But the real message is the class warfare meme: "Out of state billionaires using your hard-earned dollars to subsidize their wealthy customers."

Which begs the question - are solar customer really wealthy?

To be sure some are, and back in the day, perhaps most were. But as solar costs have plummeted, solar has become more affordable for more people. We see that in our own business - we have had our share of wealthy clients, but certainly the majority of our residential clients appear to be of far more modest means.

Now a study is out from the non-partisan Center For American Progress titled, Solar Power to the People: The Rise of Rooftop Solar Among the Middle Class, that seeks to answer that question more analytically. The study looked at solar installations in the three biggest solar markets in the US - California, Arizona and New Jersey - and correlated census zip-code median income data against the locations for solar installs. What they discovered will surprise many and directly undercuts the faux populists at Big Energy.

Check out this chart - click for larger - it shows the distribution of solar installations across income range for these three markets over time. Interestingly, in each state, the distribution follows a similar patter with more than 60% of all installations occurring in zip codes with a median income of between $40,00-$90,000. In Arizona, where allegedly all those hard-earned dollars are going to wealthy customers, just under 80% of the installs were in middle-income zip codes! Here in California, two-thirds of installations are in middle-income zip codes. That tracks with our experience: we've done lots of installs in Pasadena, South Pasadena and Altadena - but none in San Marino.

Who is installing solar?

As alternative financing mechanisms combine with lower prices, this is a trend that will surely continue. (Indeed, intelligent solar loan programs are the best development yet - and we will have more to say about that later this week.)

Which makes it hard to argue that solar is a rich man's toy when two thirds of the installs are occurring outside of rich person enclaves. And yes, we realize that zip code median income is not a perfect proxy for wealth of the person installing, but it is a better proxy than any being used by the other side of this debate.

Return to Newsletter Archive | Return to ROS Home

Vote for Run on Sun!

Your favorite solar company, Run on Sun, is competing to win a grant from Chase bank as part of its "Mission Main Street" program and we need you help.

Click here to vote for Run on Sun

Each competing company must submit a grant application, highlighting the company's involvement with the local community - such as our support for the USC Solar Decathlon Team - as well as explain why we are awesome (you know that!) and how we will spend the money.

But to even be considered, we need to get 250 votes from folks like you before November 15. So please, click on the gaudy graphic above and take a minute to vote for Run on Sun - and thanks as always for your support!

“But to even be considered, we need to get 250 votes from folks like you before November 15…”

Return to Newsletter Archive | Return to ROS Home