Categories: "Non-profit solar"

01/22/22

  01:43:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 392 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting, Non-profit solar, Net Metering

CPUC Delays Decision - Urgent Action Needed!

TL;DR - We are having an impact, but we need your voice on the 27th!


Rally goers in downtown LANine days ago, thousands of solar supporters rallied against the CPUC’s Proposed Decision that would gut the value of rooftop solar, driving payback periods from 5-7 years to 20 years or more! As of that date, the CPUC was scheduled to vote on the Proposed Decision at its next scheduled meeting - January 27th.  A veteran of many a march in my time, I know that sometimes it can seem futile - does anybody care?  Is anyone who matters really listening?

Turns out the CPUC was listening: earlier this week we learned that, quietly, the vote on the Proposed Decision was taken off the agenda for the meeting on the 27th!  So, squeak, squeak, we are having an impact - and by we I mean everyone of the 120,000 people who have signed our petition, or called the Governor’s office, or yes, marched in the streets.  You have taken action and you have been heard!  So thank you for taking the time to help save rooftop solar.

But there’s more to do (of course)…

We need as many people as possible to sign up to speak to the CPUC board during the public comment period on Thursday, January 27th at 10 a.m.  Certainly every solar company in the state should have someone speak, but we also need the public to add their voices.  We know that the utilities like SCE will be having their workers call in, repeating the same scripts over and over.  What we need to counter that are regular folks - people who have solar now and are angry that the CPUC would change the rules midstream, or people who would like to add solar but won’t be able to afford it if the payback period goes to 20 years or longer, or simply people who believe that SCE shouldn’t be able to tax people for the privilege of putting solar on their home or business.

In other words, we need YOU.

CALSSA is making it easy - providing a form where you can sign up to speak.  How?  Just SMASH the Sign Me Up! button below and we will take care of the rest.  Speakers are limited to one minute, so all you really need to do is say something short and sweet, from the heart.

Thank you for your support!

SIGN ME UP!
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01/14/22

  03:05:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 270 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Non-profit solar, Net Metering

Run on Sun Rallies for Solar Jobs - along with a few thousand of our friends!

On Thursday, January 13, 2022, the Run on Sun crew - and a few thousand of our friends and colleagues - got together at simultaneous rallies in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Our message was simple: the Proposed Decision from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) would imperil thousands of solar jobs, drive up the cost for solar for everyone (truly meaning that only the most affluent could afford it), and frustrate California’s efforts to address Climate Change.  It is time for Governor Newsom to do more than suggest that the proposal, “needs some work."  In fact, the Proposed Decision needs to be scrapped in favor of a policy that will make solar more affordable for everyone.

Nearly two thousand people gathered in LA’s Grand Park to listen to CALSSA’s Policy Director,  Brad Heavner, and other speakers exhort the crowd to stand strong in solidarity against the CPUC’s disastrous proposal.  We then marched from the park the four blocks to the CPUC’s offices in DTLA.  Along the way we were greeted by cars honking in support of solar - including the driver of a Metro bus!

Here are some images from the rally:

Amanda does her thing!

Project Coordinator Amanda Watson puts the finishing touches on our signs!

Crowd listens

Crowd at Grand Park listens to Brad and the other speakers.

Marching to the CPUC!

Amanda’s colorful sign tells the story!

Making our voices heard

Making our voices heard outside the CPUC offices.

Colleagues

Amanda and Adrian flank Scanifly’s Chance Venable at the march’s end.

By any measure, the rallies were a success - but there’s still one metric to be determined: the final outcome! Of course, we will write about that as soon as we know more. Watch this space.

05/26/21

  04:43:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 173 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, SCE, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting, Non-profit solar, SDG&E

Stop AB1139!

We have written about the perils of AB 1139 and how it would gut net energy metering for all solar owners, regardless of “grandfathering” that they were promised.  Having sailed through two Assembly committees unscathed, it is scheduled for a floor vote in the Assembly tomorrow, Thursday, May 27th. 

We need you to call your Assemblymember NOW to get them to vote No on this terrible bill.

Here is the News Flash that we just sent out to our subscribers:

 AB 1139 Heads to Floor Vote
Take Action Today

AB 1139, the Utility Profit Grab bill to kill rooftop solar and hurt your solar investment heads to an Assembly Floor vote expected TOMORROW. Call your assemblymember to stop the bill right now! Click here to take action.
 

We need to flood the assembly with thousands of phone calls. Phone calls work! So, Please call now. It takes 2 minutes.

When you click the link below, we will help you determine your Assemblymember and set up the call for you - it couldn’t be easier.

 
Call your Assemblymember Now
 

Thank you for your support!

04/23/20

  06:41:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 725 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting, Non-profit solar

While You Were Sleeping: Will FERC Preempt States' Ability to Regulate Solar?

For the most part, the regulation of the solar industry - particularly the residential and commercial solar industry - is a function of state regulators.  In California, both the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) have been the major players in shaping the policies that govern solar installations, including policies like Net Energy Metering (NEM) which determines the economic value of going solar.  But now, a petition from the other side of the country could change all of that, and force states to turn control over the solar industry to federal regulators.  Here’s our take…

FERC logo

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is ”an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil.” Well, wait a second, what does rooftop solar have to do with the “interstate transmission of electricity"?  At first blush, certainly nothing - the excess power from your home solar might go to power your neighbor’s house, but it certainly isn’t crossing state lines. (As a recovering lawyer I could go into a lengthy discussion of the Constitution’s Commerce clause and how that has been broadly interpreted to cover an amazing array of things that seem local, but are actually interstate commerce - but I will spare you that discussion!)  

The hook here is in the greater detail of what the FERC does: “Regulates the transmission and wholesale sales of electricity in interstate commerce."  Under NEM rules, excess energy put out onto the utility’s grid by a “behind-the-meter” solar system, i.e., all grid-tied residential and commercial PV systems,  is then resold by the utility to its other customers.  A petition to the FERC filed by the New England Ratepayers Association is asking FERC to find that those sales are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the FERC.  From the petition:

The law is incontrovertible. The [Federal Power Act] draws a bright line between state and federal jurisdiction over energy sales. Sales of energy at wholesale are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of this Commission. Sales of energy at retail are subject to the jurisdiction of the states. The sales at issue in this Petition are wholesale sales because the energy is being sold to the utility for resale to the utility’s retail load…  and therefore the Commission is required to exercise its rate jurisdiction over them. [Emphasis added.]

Wow!  Now that is interesting - energy exported to the grid, for which the PV owner is paid retail rates (or closer there to), and which the customer down the wire pays full retail rates, is somehow transmogrified into a wholesale energy sale!

But what is the point of all this?  Simple - if these are wholesale energy sales, then FERC has sole regulatory control, and pro-solar policies such as NEM would be replaced by, at best, compensation for excess energy exported at the wholesale rate.  Never mind that SCE is charging you anywhere from 19¢ to 40¢, you are only going to be compensated at the 2-6¢ rate!

Much of the “logic” behind the petition argument will be familiar to readers of this blog: rooftop solar is economically inefficient, NEM distorts wholesale energy markets, and imposes unfair burdens on ratepayers without solar.  Nevermind that all of these points have been debunked before (their expert calls those debunking efforts “irrelevant"), what is important to note is that while many of us are locked out and hunkered down during this crisis, are opponents are not.  They are hard at work, hiring top-dollar DC lawyers to press the case while the rest of us are just trying to get through the month.

Make no mistake about it - if this petition is successful, it will be the end of NEM as we know it, and not just in New England, but nationwide!

This is where organizations like CALSSA(for solar installers here in CA) and the Solar Rights Alliance (for solar system owners) are so critical.  If you are a solar installer, or run a solar company and you are not a CALSSA member, shame on you.  Join!  If you have a solar installation on your roof and you don’t belong to the Solar Rights Alliance - wake up!  Join!

NERA’s petition was filed on April 14th and under the fast track rules that NERA requested (and paid a $30,000 filing fee to secure), comments are due by mid-May.   We will update you when we learn more about its progress.  Watch this space.

10/23/19

  08:50:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 464 words  
Categories: Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Safety, Non-profit solar

The Solar Fire that Wasn't!

Solar fire!

Fire damage at a Walmart store.

We recently wrote about a spate of fires that occurred at Walmart stores due to problems with solar power systems on their roofs.  The damage, in some cases, was extensive and overall, painted a pretty bleak picture of commercial solar.  But it doesn’t have to be that way - read on to learn about the solar fire that wasn’t!

One of the problems with the systems that were installed at Walmart is that they were tied to string inverters.  That means that multiple solar panels are wired together into a series string.  When solar panels are wired together that way, the voltage in that string adds with each additional panel.  So if you have twenty panels wired together, and each panel produces 40 volts, the total voltage for the string is 800 volts!  (Indeed, commercial systems can be as high as 1000 volts!)  If there is a gap - say from a loose wire, or a damaged panel - you can get an electric arc that can easily start a fire.

Yikes!

But the other day we were doing a maintenance check on a small commercial system that we installed a few years ago.  While we were installing a software update we did a visual inspection of the array and came across this - a totally shattered panel!

Shattered panel

Totally shattered panel - but no fire here!

So what happened here?  Turns out that the company that owns the system had a mishap, and a brass valve fell on the panel from about 100′ in the air - yep, that will do it!

But more importantly was what didn’t happen - there was no fire.  This was during the middle of the day, and the system was operating at full capacity, yet despite being entirely shattered by the blow, there was no fire because this was not part of a high voltage string.  Rather, this was part of an Enphase microinverter system, so the total DC voltage was only 40 volts.  At that low a voltage there is no arc, and with no arc, there is no fire!

We have heard people say that string inverters are the way to go with commercial systems because they are so much cheaper.  To which we reply - really?  How much does it cost to repair the damage from a fire like those that Walmart has experienced?  Moreover, with a string inverter system, finding faults before they become a hazard is much harder than it is with an Enphase microinverter system.  The Enphase monitoring tells you where the problem is so you can fix it with minimal impact on your operations.

Bottom line: beware of false economies.  Spending a little more to have a safer system is just smart business.  That’s one of the many reasons that we are exclusively an Enphase shop - simply safer solar!

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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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