Tag: "commercial solar"


  07:21:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 458 words  
Categories: Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting

Solar Stocking Stuffer - Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step

It’s holiday season and perhaps you’ve been wondering what to get that solar supporter on your shopping list - well, wonder no more, we’ve got the answer! Our book - Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step!

Cover art - Commercial Solar: step by step

In the giving spirit, check out this added bonus: if you purchase the paperback version of the book to give to that “special someone,” you can download a Kindle version for your very own, absolutely free! Seriously, how cool is that?  It’s like giving away your cake, but eating it too!

But what’s that you say, all of the solar supporters on your shopping list already have the book?  Wow, well to that we have a couple of things to say: First - thanks!  Second, hold on there a second… what about your favorite business owner - surely they could benefit from learning how to escape their ever increasing energy bills.  Or what about your kid’s school?  Just think of what they could do with the money they save by going solar?  Why they could keep that marvelous music teacher and maybe even hire another art teacher - to say nothing of giving a raise to that awesome Algebra teacher!  Or for that matter, you could donate a copy to a local library or even your alma mater (after all, you gotta Be True to Your School!).

Fine, you say, if the book is all you claim it is, then yeah, it would make a great gift - but how can you be sure?  Fair enough, don’t take our word for it, check out these reviews:

To my knowledge, this is the only book that focuses directly on commercial-scale solar. That’s enough to make it well worth reading. It’s also well organized, well written, and written by a very knowledgeable and experienced solar business owner. Most people in the solar business are familiar with and look forward to the author’s excellent Thoughts on Solar newsletter, and I’m sure many of his readers were looking forward to the publication of this book. I was, and it beat my expectations. Good glossary too, and well indexed. Strongly recommended.

Doug, Verified Amazon Purchaser

There’s so much information that you need to know when thinking about installing commercial solar. As a solar pro, Jenal provides all of it to you, clearly and transparently. Through a combination of a fictional company going solar and Jenal’s added in-depth insights to each step, businesses and facilities will learn how to find quality commercial installers and what to expect during the installation process. He also covers financing, solar incentives, and key points to analyze in a solar bid.

Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza

Convinced now?  Thought so!  So click on the happy book cover to order your copy today!  And Happy Holidays from all of us at Run on Sun!



  09:36:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 614 words  
Categories: Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Ranting

A Word of Thanks

Thanksgiving is just behind us and it seemed like a fitting time to take a moment and offer a word of thanks to those of you kind enough to take the time to read this Newsletter. So here are some of the things for which we are grateful this year:

We qualified for the Chase Grant—We reached our goal of convincing 250 of our supporters to go online and vote for us in the Chase Bank, “Mission Main Street,” grant program. Now if you run a restaurant, getting 250 people to vote for you is easy - just set up a laptop at the counter and let people vote right there. Same if you run a gym or a bookstore, or pretty much any other brick and mortar type of enterprise.

But Run on Sun is a bit more “virtual” than that - except when we are actually installing a project, we interact with our clients mostly electronically. Nor do we operate a store front for “drop-ins” by the public. (Not yet, at least!) So we needed to reach out to folks electronically and cajole them to take a moment and visit the Chase website to vote. Yet even that wasn’t easy - since the only way to vote was to login using your Facebook account and some of our supporters don’t have Facebook accounts (?!?) and others are reluctant to trust the assurances of Chase that they will respect their privacy (we hear that). So we are truly grateful for those of you willing and able to vote.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that we have won - we won’t know that until January. Watch this space!

We published our book—At the start of the year we set out to publish a book about Commercial Solar and after many months of work we were able to deliver on that goal. The book, Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step, has gotten great reviewsincluding one by none other than Tor ("Solar Fred") Valenza published over at Renewable Energy World that described it as a New Solar Sales Bible - wow!

As a result, we have sold copies of the book not only here in California, but all across the U.S. and even in Great Britain and Germany (isn’t the Internet grand?). While the book’s focus is on how building owners/managers can profitably install commercial solar, much of the text applies equally well to residential solar projects.

Oh, and we hear it makes a great Holiday Presentjust sayin’!

We have our largest project pipeline ever—As we come to the end of the year, our project pipeline is the largest we have ever seen. We are closing out 2013 strong, and we are looking forward to our best year ever in 2014!

We are well on our way to rolling out a shiny new website—Part of our excitement for the New Year ahead is the rollout of a brand new version of our website. The current websitewhich dates back to 2010has evolved over the years but the underlying design had gotten to look pretty “clunky” to quote one dismayed supporter.

The new website will feature an entirely new look with a much simpler layout and cleaner design elements. Plus, we have been hard at work applying our analytical skills (thank you, D3) to developing intriguing, and maybe even fun, functionality to delight and inform you! (For a sneak peak at one of those features, click the image below.)

new website preview

None of this would have been possible without the support of our many readers and clients. Together, you have given us the ability to make the world a better place, one rooftop at a time. You are why we do this, and we are mindful of your support every day. Thank you!


Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step - Available Now!

We have been teasing out bits and pieces of our new book, Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step, all summer as we neared the end of the publication process.  Well today we can formally announce that it is available both at the Run on Sun Publishing eStore (where we get a better royalty - hint, hint!) and on Amazon.com!

Cover art - Commercial Solar: step by step

Commercial Solar is intended for two primary audiences:

  • Owners & operators of commercial buildings, and
  • Solar contractors who are looking for a meaningful “leave behind” item to give to their potential commercial clients.

As the title suggests, the book provides an overview of the process by which an interested party - say, a facilities manager - can go from knowing next to nothing about commercial solar to identifying appropriate contractors to provide bids, analyzing those bids to make meaningful comparisons, determining financing options that are appropriate and even overseeing the actual installation process.

The book features a Foreword written by Boaz Soifer, VP of Sales at Focused Energy:

The material could be dry (much of the reading on this subject is), but is instead casual but precise, clearly laid out, and made accessible through handy use of a narrative in which the Facilities Manager of a fictional company undertakes a commercial solar project himself…

In his typical style—approachable, honest, quirky, and occasionally scathing—Jim has thoughtfully flattened out the com­plex world of commercial solar PV into an under­standable roadmap that anyone can follow to project success.

Interested? You can download a two-chapter excerpt of the book for free, here.  Better yet, you can purchase the book today from either our eStore or Amazon for just $9.95.  If you are interested in bulk sales (i.e., ten or more copies), discounts are available.  Please contact us at Bulk Sales for more information.

And of course, we welcome your comments either here on the blog or at Amazon.  Thanks for your support.


  09:24:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 820 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar News, Commercial Solar, Safety

Fire! Is Solar a Threat?

We saw a piece today about a fire on a distribution warehouse in New Jersey that was gutted in part because the local fire department was afraid to interact with the solar power system on the warehouse roof.  As solar makes greater inroads on commercial buildings, what can we as an industry do to address this concern? (H/T SolarWakeup.com)

The distribution center, owned by Dietz & Watson, was a refrigerated warehouse that supported over 7,000 solar modules according to news reports.  From Google we get this image of the center in happier days:

Dietz & Watson distribution center, new jerseyThis is a very large commercial array by any measure - even if those are 200 Watt modules you are looking at a 1.4 MW install on the roof, to say nothing of the additional capacity installed in the carports to the west.

It is also a very nicely designed array with clear access paths throughout the roof and plenty of potential areas that could be broken open to allow for venting (although I’m sure from a fire fighter’s perspective, they would always want more).

Sadly, this is how it looked during the fire:

warehouse on fire

Here is the view of the blaze taken from the raw video recorded by local TV station NBC10:

Fire on warehouseThis image makes clear that the NE quadrant of the building has been extensively damaged - the black area is where the solar panels have been completely destroyed.

The image also makes clear that the fire department chose to fight this fire from the ground, spraying water and foam onto the roof as opposed to going on to the roof itself.  (There was no explanation given as to the cause of the fire.)

The local reporting indicated that the fire crews were concerned about possible collapse of the roof due to the amount of water being poured onto the fire.  But they also mentioned the concern over possible electrocution:

Firefighters had to pull back at some points because the fully-charged solar panels posed the risk of electrocution.

“With all that power and energy up there, I can’t jeopardize a guy’s life for that,” said [Delanco Fire Chief Ron] Holt.

So what to make of all of this?

There can be no doubt that solar installations have the potential to make the already dangerous business of fighting a fire more hazardous.  Strings of solar panels can produce as much as 600 Volts DC and as a general rule, there is no way to shut them off from the ground.  While a DC disconnect on the ground could isolate the array from a ground mounted inverter, there is still potential in the conductors leading from the roof to the inverter.  If those conductors are shorted together - due to either a fireman’s actions or the fire itself - there is the potential for significant arcing and possibly even electrocution.

Of course, one way to reduce that risk is through the use of microinverters or AC modules.  With a microinverter, the only conductor runs are AC which can be safely switched off from the ground meaning that any conductors coming from the roof to the ground will be safe.  The individual solar modules can still produce power, but there are no strings to slice into or suddenly short to create a dangerous condition on the roof.  While microinverter systems are not generally considered on systems of this size, Enphase recently announced the use of their products on a 2.3 MW commercial array - possibly larger than this one.

Which begs the question - would that have mattered here?  Maybe, maybe not.  The question really is a function of how well would the local fire department understand the difference?  When we talk with local fire inspectors, they are always appreciative of the added safety to be found with microinverter systems but how well does the inspector’s understanding extend to the fire crews reporting to that fire?  Would they have trusted that the claimed safety was real and moved more aggressively to fight the fire on the roof?  Or would they have elected to play it safe?

The solar industry can work to develop safer products - which microinverters surely are - but that won’t matter if local fire crews aren’t educated as to how best to fight these fires.  Interestingly, while local codes require solar installers to provide all sorts of largely useless signage on our arrays - for example, specifying the nominal AC voltage and current as if that would make the least difference to anyone - there is no requirement to indicate whether the type of inverter being used.  Absent such signage, how would a local fire crew know what they were facing?

Maybe our friends at Enphase can design a placard to attach to our AC disconnect switches that advises the local fire department that throwing that one switch renders the conductors coming down from the roof safe.

So much of what we must do in the solar industry is education - this is perhaps one area where we need to improve our efforts.


  02:02:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 102 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar News, Commercial Solar

Coming to an Amazon Near You!

We have been alluding to our upcoming book - Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step - for quite some time, but with the completion of cover art and the receipt of our Foreword, the end is in sight!

While we don’t have an actual publication date (yet), we thought we would share with you our groovy cover art with its photo courtesy of the wonderful Andrea Bricco and composition by that amazing Solar Kid, Julia.  Our Foreword, excerpted on the back cover, is from our friend and solar industry wizard, Boaz Soifer from Focused Energy.  Here it is:

Cover art - Commercial Solar: step by step

Watch this space - we will have publication info soon!

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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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