Categories: "All About Solar Power"

02/27/21

  11:13:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 217 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power

Welcome Amanda Watson!

Amanda WatsonPlease join us in welcoming Amanda Watson as the newest member of the Run on Sun team!

Amanda is new to the solar industry with roots in nuclear energy, bicycles, politics, and piñatas. Originally from the mountains of central PA, Amanda obtained a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Fordham University. Despite an addiction for NYC’s energy and architecture, Amanda’s love of government and (slightly) warmer weather lured her south to DC after graduation, where she spent the next 16 years arranging international shipments of uranium, racing bicycles, and developing her own style of piñata engineering and artistry.      

 In 2018 Amanda finally migrated to LA, where she is happily putting down roots on its hilly east side. When she is not climbing a roof (or, as here, servicing a combiner box from a scissors lift), she can be found climbing (& descending) mountains on her bicycles, hiking treacherous trails, and hitting the skatepark. On the rare chance she is sitting still, Amanda is likely covered in dirt and tending to her many plants, or covered in glue and making a piñata, while talking about politics.  

Amanda is our newest Projects Coordinator, so you are likely to hear her voice on the phone asking for a year’s worth of usage data, or scheduling our next site evaluation or installation!

Welcome aboard, Amanda!

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02/17/21

  08:47:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 927 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, SCE, Residential Solar, Ranting, SDG&E, Net Metering

The Battle to Preserve Net Metering is Underway - Time to Fight!

TL;DR - We need your help to preserve net metering - Sign the Petition!

Run on Sun has been installing grid-tied solar power system since 2007, and one constant in all of that time has been the hostility towards such systems evinced by the Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs): SCE, PG&E and SDG&E. Nowhere is that hostility on clearer display than it has been in their efforts to erode, if not eliminate altogether, net metering.  But now, with the IOUs lobbying for the creation of Net Metering 3.0, the battle for the survival of net metering is about to be joined in earnest.  If your right to put solar on your home or business is to be preserved, we are going to need all of you to join the fight.  Here’s our take…

What is Net Metering?

Net Energy Metering (NEM) or just net metering for short, is the basis by which a solar system provides the owner with a significant portion of their financial benefit.  Solar systems on a clear, sunny day produce energy that follows a normal distribution, with the peak energy production occurring around solar noon, and rolling off in a typical “bell curve” on either side.  That energy saves the system owner money twice: first, by directly offsetting the energy usage of the home or business, but secondly, by allowing the excess energy to be exported back to the grid for retail credit.  That retail credit is then applied against energy imported from the grid to power loads at night or on cloudy days.  At the end of the billing cycle, those two values - the amount of energy imported versus the amount of energy exported - are “netted” out, and if the amount imported is greater than what was exported, the difference is charged to the customer.  Conversely, if more energy is exported than imported, the customer has a credit for that period that can be carried forward.

Of course, the energy exported to the grid for which the net metering customer gets credit doesn’t disappear - the utility sells it to another customer for that full retail value.  Moreover, because that energy did not have to be transported from far-off generation facilities, there is less demand to build expensive infrastructure like high-voltage transmission lines - you know, like the lines that have sparked deadly wildfires in the past few years.

So you might think that net metering would be a win-win for everyone - solar clients get a greater financial incentive to foot the bill for installing energy generation systems and the utility gets additional energy without incurring the costs of building or maintaining them.  But you would be wrong.  You see, IOUs don’t make money selling energy.  They make money building things.  In fact, in a stunningly perverse incentive structure, the IOUs get a guaranteed return on investment of 10% for every dollar they spend building stuff: generation plants, transmission lines, etc.  So they see the growth of solar, particularly rooftop solar, as a threat to their antiquated business model, and the best tool at their disposal is to take as big a bite out of net metering as possible.

Where are We Today and Where are the IOUs Trying to Go?

The version of net metering described above actually no longer exists with the IOUs, instead, they transitioned to NEM 2.0 a few years ago.  (Municipal utilities, like PWP, still offer full net metering.)  Under that scheme, a one-time interconnection charge was created, along with what are known as Nonbypassable Charges, which require their customer to pay a relatively small amount for every kilowatt hour of energy imported, even if that energy is actually offset by exported production.  The real kicker was that all solar customers in IOU territory were switched to Time-of-Use rates that made the value of exported solar lower, and energy imported from 4-9 significantly more expensive.

But now, heading into NEM 3.0, the IOUs are going all in!  A recent report by the consulting firm E3 was released by the CPUC and it highlights some options for changing net metering that would seriously impact the value of solar.  In particular, the report proposes fixed monthly charges of between $50 and $70 for all solar customers, combined with a “grid access charge” each month of between $5-$7/kW installed!  That means that under the best case scenario of their proposals, a residential customer with a 4 kW solar system installed would pay an extra $70 per month, every month, just because they have solar - that they paid for - on their home!  That is an $840/year penalty for going green! 

If that doesn’t make you see red, nothing will!

We’re Not Gonna Take It!

To say that the California solar industry is in the fight of its life is an understatement.  But so are all solar customers, who could see the value of their investment greatly eroded by these misguided policy proposals.  And that is where you come in.  We are fighting back and we need you in the fight!  The California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA - our trade association) and the Solar Rights Alliance are gearing up to organize against the threat.  The first step is in signing a petition to Governor Newsom - we need him as an ally now.  It is super easy to sign on and we are looking to collect 20,000 signatures before April 1.  As of this writing, we are at 923 supporters, so we have a long way to go - and that starts with you!  (We will have more news on ways to fight back in the coming weeks, so watch this space.) 

Please click the big button below and let’s get this done!

Sign the Petition!

12/28/20

  02:04:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 605 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Tax Incentives, Residential Solar

Happy New Year - the Solar & Storage Tax Credit is Extended!

Ok, so of course it took some last minute drama - this is 2020 after all - but the extension to the federal tax credit for solar and storage has been signed into law!  Read on to see what that means for you!

State of the Law Going into Deliberations

New project for the New Year!

This new project will get the full 26% tax credit next year!

As readers of this blog would surely know, the federal tax credit that had been set at 30% for several years, dropped down to 26% in 2020 (just the first of many not-so-desirable outcomes for a year that would see so many!), and was scheduled to decline to 22% for 2021, before expiring completely in January of 2022 for residential solar projects. 

We have written before that the solar tax credit was quite popular on both sides of the aisle, so there was always some hope that the current credit rates might be extended, but that was by no means a sure thing.  Fingers crossed and all that!

A Bill is Born!

As the negotiations between the Trump Administration and Congressional leaders progressed to try and provide economic stimulus at a time when many are out of work, too many facing potential evictions, and state and local governments facing severe challenges, word came out from CALSSA that the extension of the tax credit was in the draft bill!  Then on December 21st we learned that the extension was in the final bill that was being sent to the President!  (For those who are true gluttons for punishment, here’s a link to the Bill, and the language for the residential extension is on page 4,915!  Crazy, right?)

Excited by this most welcome development at the end of a dark year - and just in time for Christmas! - I was ready to write this blog.  But hey, this is still 2020, so I resolved to keep my powder dry until the Bill had actually been signed!

Drama

Seems my hesitation was warranted, as the President declared the Bill - negotiated by his Administration - a “disgrace” and threatened to veto it!  Instead insisting that the relief payments be substantially increased (something his own party rejected) and the “pork” in the bill be removed.  (News coverage of the President’s displeasure focused on exemptions for “three-martini lunches” (who is doing that these days?) or depreciation schedules for race horses!  The solar tax credit did not seem to be part of the pork in question.)  Of course, one man’s pork is another man’s livelihood, and besides, you cannot really take an agreement that took literally months to hammer together and then redo it in days.  Didn’t the President ever see, “I’m Just a Bill?”

All’s Well that End’s Well

So after much Sturm und Drang, on Sunday the Bill became a Law!  Which means we can tell you exactly how things will progress going forward on the tax credit front:

The 26% credit will now continue for projects “placed in service” between now and the end of 2022.  The 22% credit will apply to projects placed in service between January 1, 2023 and December 31, 2023.  Projects that go into service after January 1, 2024 will receive no credit under this new law.

Given the stimulus value of solar and storage projects - to say nothing of their environmental benefits - this is a most welcome development.  And for projects that got delayed due to the pandemic, the full 26% credit will still be available next year - a relief to many homeowners and solar installers who have been up against the clock.

In the end, the process was messier than it needed to be, but the job got done.  Here’s hoping that 2021 and 2022 can be real boom years for the solar industry, and the broader economy as well!

12/01/20

  12:56:00 am, by Sophia   , 863 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar

Installing Solar in a Time of Lockdowns

Editor’s Note: As Los Angeles County sees new COVID-19 cases spiking to over 5,000 per day, we wanted to update our followers and potential clients on how things are shaking out.  We just learned that the wife of one of our roofers is ill with the disease and he is in quarantine. Needless to say, we are hoping for her full and swift recovery.  So while this is anything but business as usual, we are still here and working, albeit moving slower than we would like.  We asked Sophia to remind you of just how we work and let you know that we are looking forward to hearing from you soon!  Take it away, Sophia!

Sophia MazurekRun on Sun is Very Much Open!

Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, we are still safely operating here at Run on Sun! The great thing about installing solar is that it requires little close-client contact! When we receive new inquiries, we are able to complete the entire solar install process from site evaluation to final inspection at a distance, and of course, masked. We prioritize your safety and our safety over everything.

Since we are still open and currently working on projects, we want to give you a little insight on the Run on Sun process!   

Since 2006, we have been installing quality solar and storage systems. We pride ourselves on being 100% up-front with our potential clients. As we all know, solar can be quite the investment! It is important for us to make sure each system is going to have economic benefits and will be valuable to the home. These benefits can greatly vary based on location, roof factors, and shading. We want to assure that you are not going to be putting in more money than you are getting out. Your solar system should eventually result in an investment income. In other words, going solar with us will greatly reduce or eliminate your electric bills and will have an economic return! Unfortunately, there are always going to be some houses that will not reap the benefits of solar.

Oscar the RoS drone!A site evaluation with Run on Sun is an easy, stress-free process! First, we will collect your energy usage history to determine your potential system size. We will then come to your property with our drone (we call him Oscar!) and capture aerial images, which will give us detailed monthly solar-resource data from your roof. (We aim for an average annual sun exposure of 80% or more to go forward with a project.) After we have gathered all necessary data, we use a sophisticated software service called Scanifly to create a precise 3D model of your home with solar included. A comprehensive proposal of the system, quote, and savings will be sent to you free of charge!

Run Down of Our Selected Products

Here at Run on Sun–we value quality and have carefully chosen our products from extensive research and testing. Our go-to panel manufacturer for each system is made by LG (you know, the Life is Good folks!).  LG’s  durable and reliable panels have been giving us the most efficient results for years. We trust LG to provide us with reasonable prices, amazing quality, and impeccable aesthetics. In addition, each panel has a 25-year warranty so there are zero financial penalties if anything were to malfunction!

We also use all Enphase products, including the IQ7+ microinverter and the Envoy monitoring device, which allows us and our clients to view system production. We are also now installing the Ensemble Energy Storage System, that can be a terrific addition, particularly for clients in the SCE service area. We have been partners with Enphase since 2009 - we installed system ID 1,470!  They are re-imagining the solar industry by making the process easier, faster, and by far–more reliable. Each microinverter comes with a 25-year warranty and allows for complete customer inclusion by making their monitoring system comprehensive and mobile-friendly.

Why go with Run on Sun?

The solar market is competitive and there are a lot of installers out there! Here at Run on Sun, Founder & CEO Jim Jenal is NABCEP certified, and we are constantly updating our knowledge as the solar world continues to evolve. The way we view solar is a little different from other companies. We recognize how big of an investment going solar can be. However, it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for the world. We want to make sure our customers understand every single aspect of the process and are getting all questions answered thoroughly. For us, it’s not about selling a system. It’s about making sure solar is going to be beneficial for you. Run on Sun is always 100% transparent with each client. If we run the numbers and there is little economic advantage–we will highlight that from the start. Our motive to install solar stems from our passion for the planet and for the people. We put in the necessary time and effort to ensure the highest quality of system is achieved, and we go the extra lengths to help our customers in any way possible.

So–what are you waiting for? Get a free solar quote now! We would love to hear from you.

Go Solar Now!

11/24/20

  07:01:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 494 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power

From Drone to Done!

Back in February we wrote about how Run on Sun had taken a giant step forward technologically in entering the Drone Era for doing site evaluations.  That giant leap was enabled by our learning about Software-as-a-Service provider, Scanifly and the super cool software that they had developed to transform individual drone images into a three-dimensional model that would allow both a detailed shading analysis and precise layouts to be performed at your computer without ever going on the roof.

Sadly, no sooner had we gotten on-board with Scanifly than we went into Covid-lockdown and lots of things got put on hold.  But now that we are building projects again, we thought it would be worthwhile to compare how closely our Scanifly model compared to the real world!  Check it out…

Starts with the Drone

The process begins by a drone flight that captures both contextual images - using a Point-of-Interest flight where you identify your center point, back off to a radius that will include all shade elements, and then fly that circle taking images every 2 seconds or so (our drone, a Mavic Air, does that automatically) - and detailed images closer in to where the array will be placed.  Here’s an example of a contextual image:

Context drone image

The garage face is where the array will go, and we are far enough away that surrounding trees will be included when we fly our orbit.  Now here’s an example of a detail image:

Drone detail image

Here we are much closer to the surface of interest.  The beauty of what Scanifly does is that it takes these disparate images (we used a total of 113 separate images) and stiches them together into a model from which you can do your layout.

Design Time

Now that the images have been uploaded and Scanifly has created the model - a process that takes about a day - we are ready to do our design.  The software allows you to build in “keepout” areas for things like fire setbacks, as well as obstructions like vents or skylights that cannot be moved.  You select the PV module that you will be using and then the software creates a placement for you that you can then modify as necessary.  Here’s what that looked like for this project:

We have placed the array at 18″ off the ridge, and we are really going from edge-to-edge!  (The yellow dots are the vertices that we marked in the model, the red line is our setback line.)  We are using LG 350’s as our modules, and we really have no room to spare - these dimensions have got to be right!  So how did we do?

Build It!

I have to say, I like how this turned out!  Click on the buttons to fade from the design image to the as-built (thanks to Sophia Mazurek for getting these images to line up).

How cool is that?

We’re hooked! Many thanks to the entire team at Scanifly - you have made our work safer, easier, and better!

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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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