Category: "PWP"

02/28/20

  04:46:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 411 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, PWP, LADWP, BWP, GWP, Residential Solar, Ranting

SMUD Scheme Threatens New Solar Homes Mandate

With very little fanfare, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District ("SMUD") just convinced the California Energy Commission to allow it to offer a SMUD-owned alternative to installing solar power systems on new homes under California’s just instituted New Solar Homes mandate. As other municipal utilities lined up in support – including PWP, LADWP, BWP and GWP – it is clear that this is nothing short of a full-on assault against the New Solar Homes mandate. Here’s our take…

Solar installed on a new home

Solar added to a new home in Altadena

The intent of the New Solar Homes mandate was to install appropriately sized solar power systems on every new home in California.  There are many benefits to such a program, including providing distributed power across the grid, thereby increasing grid reliability, as well as generating jobs and raising public awareness as solar becomes commonplace. 

The SMUD scheme thwarts all of that.  Instead, a SMUD-owned solar farm would have it production allocated across participating new homes.  (Tellingly, the SMUD scheme does not permit privately built community solar farms to participate in the program!)  Worse yet, the SMUD scheme effectively prevents subsequent home owners from adding local solar, since the first 4,700 kWhs must come from the SMUD-owned facility.

So how did this get approved?  In addition to all of the municipal utilities in California lining up behind SMUD’s power grab, so did much of the building industry (as they can simply fill out paperwork for compliance instead of actually building solar systems), and the IBEW (whose members get employed when utility-scale solar farms are built).  On the short end of the stick are local solar contractors, and consumers who lose the power to choose their own, local solar system because the builder decided to opt-into SMUD’s scheme.

What say you, PWP?

Which brings this back home.  While Pasadena Water and Power did not submit their own letter of support (that we could find), their trade association, the California Municipal Utilities Association, did.  Now there aren’t that many new homes being built in Pasadena at this point, but can we expect to see a similar power grab from PWP?  LADWP did submit their own letter and there are plenty of new homes going up within the City’s boundaries - is a similar scheme in the works?

The utilities rely on consumers being largely uninformed as to these schemes to push them through.  We will be keeping an eye on what our local utilities bring forward in the coming months.  Watch this space.

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01/03/19

  08:43:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 445 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, PWP

Pasadena Adopts New Integrated Resource Plan

Pasadena adopts IRP

As 2018 drew to a close, the Pasadena City Council adopted a new Integrated Resource Plan that shows the path forward for the City in the coming years. Not surprisingly, there are some big changes in store as PWP moves away from fossil fuels and toward a greener future. Here’s our take…

Where are we now?

We love Pasadena, but it has a long way to go before it becomes as green as we would like it to be.  For example, here is PWP’s latest power content label that shows the sources of its electricity, compared to California as a whole:

PWP 2017 Power Content Label

 

Yikes! 31% of our power overall comes from burning coal - compared to just 4% for the state overall!  

Somewhat surprising is the relatively low amount of natural gas in the mix, given that the Glenarm power plant is now entirely fueled by natural gas.

On the other hand, the City is doing very well in utilizing biomass and waste materials as a fuel source, well ahead of such efforts in the state as a whole.

So it is clear that a great deal of work is yet to be done, and it is the intent of the newly adopted IRP to show the way.

One thing that jumps out of the new plan is that coal is to be eliminated entirely by June of 2027 when existing supply contracts expire, and no new coal contracts will be signed.  Moreover, that plant is scheduled to switch to natural gas by 2025, so coal burning for PWP should end by then.

Distributed Energy Resources

As of the writing of the IRP, there were 1,303 PWP customers who have installed solar power systems at their homes or commercial/non-profit sites.  Collectively, those systems amount to 10.4 MW of installed capacity, with an estimated annual production of 16,600 MWh of energy.  That makes the average installed system size just under 8 kW.

One baffling detail in the planning section of the report: relying on a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis by the Lazard consulting firm, they assert that the LCOE of residential solar (after allowing for the federal tax credit) is from 14.5-24¢/kWh!  Frankly, we aren’t sure how they arrived at that number, since our projects generally project an LCOE in the 9-11¢/kWh range.

So more solar is in PWP’s future, but they won’t be supporting it on homes, schools, or businesses anymore.  Sad.

Other Takeaways…

Here are a couple more takeaways from the 249-page report:

  • The City is planning on installing 122 EV charging stations in the next few years
  • Electric bill increases would range from roughly 2.7% for residential customers, and up to 3.4% for commercial customers

You can find the entire report here: Pasadena’s Integrated Resource Plan.

04/10/18

  10:20:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1339 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, PWP, SCE, Energy Efficiency, Residential Solar

My Electric Bill is So High! Will Solar Help? Part 1: How High is High?

We hear it all the time: “My electric bill is so high, I just want to stick it to [insert name of utility here]!  Can solar help?” Now we are in the business of selling and installing solar, so our preferred answer is, “Of Course!"  But that is not always the answer we end up giving.  So Part 1 of this three-part series focuses on that electric bill to answer a few questions first: 1) How high is it? 2) What can you do to make it lower - pre-solar? And 3) Is your home even a good candidate for going solar?  Let’s look at each in turn…

How High is High?

Ask most any consumer how high their electric bill is and they will all pretty much tell you – too high!  So let’s recognize a few things at the start: if you are a PWP or DWP customer, your electric bills will be lower than your compatriots sufferi, er, living, in SCE territory.  SCE bills monthly, whereas PWP and DWP bill (roughly) every two months.  Most non-solar, residential customers are on a tiered rate structure - that is, the more you use, the more you pay for what you are using.  That said, not all tiered rates are alike: SCE has a true, three-tier rate structure where the cost increases in each subsequent tier, whereas PWP has a bizarre structure where the “highest” tier is actually cheaper than the middle tier!  (I wonder how many PWP customers realize that perverse incentive?) 

Taken together, what can you say about how high is high?  We would break it down roughly this way:

  • $100 per month or less - Solar is probably not going to pencil out for you.  While there are many reasons to go solar besides the economic ones, if your bill is this low, saving money is not going to justify solar.

  • $100 to $300 per month – depending on the other factors discussed below, bills in this range are more likely to have a strong economic justification, particularly in DWP territory, where a small rebate remains to help lower your out-of-pocket cost.

  • $300 or more per month – Solar is exactly what you need!  The higher your bill, the more solar makes sense.  (We had a client with bills that averaged over $1,000 per month!  His payback was four and a half years!)

To illustrate how and why that works, let’s look at the modeling that goes into sizing your system.  (For this analysis we made use of Energy Toolbase, one of the most sophisticated tools available for modeling the performance of PV systems and producing comprehensive, authoritative and transparent solar proposals.)  We created three different usage profiles corresponding to the categories set forth above.  All were SCE customers under the current Domestic rate structure in region 9 (i.e., Altadena).  The first had usage such that their average bill was under $100/month.  The second had bills between $200 and $300/month, and the third had bill in excess of $450/month.  In each case, summer usage was higher than the rest of the year.

Total electric bill savings, middle-use case

Energy Toolbase allows an installer to run multiple simulations of total bill savings based on the size of the system to be installed.  On the right is that output for our middle-case client.  It’s a little hard to see in the small version of the graph (click on it for larger), but the light green line (which represents the savings under the new, SCE-forced rate structure) levels off at 7.9 kW.  That inflection point means that a system sized larger than that is no longer providing a full economic benefit to the client.

We performed similar analyses for the other two use cases to determine the optimal system size, and to then determine their savings and payback.  Here are our results:

Payback as a function of system size

As system size increases, even without assuming any improvement in price based on economy of scale (the system price in each case is $4.00/Watt), it is clear that larger systems have significantly greater return on investment over the life of the system.  If your bills fall into that third use case, you are going to benefit greatly by adding solar.  But in that first use case, not so much.

What can you do to make your bills lower – before adding solar?

However, even if your use case makes sense, it is important to consider some low-hanging fruit before plunking down thousands of dollars on a solar power system.  The two most obvious candidates for investment are pool pumps and air conditioning systems. 

Pool Pumps

Older pool pumps tend to have single speed motors, which means that they draw the same amount of energy all the time.  But harken back to your elementary school science classes: a body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion.  (Thank you, Isaac Newton!)  What’s that got to do with pool pumps?  Well, all that water in your pool has  a lot of mass and when it is just sitting there it takes a great deal of energy to get it moving - it’s a big body at rest!  But once you get it moving, it is relatively easy to keep it moving, so you need to expend a lot less energy to do so. 

Single-speed pool pump motors don’t get that, and they just keep pumping as hard as they can the entire time they are on.  That is wasteful, and expensive.  A variable-speed pump, on the other hand, embraces the eternal wisdom of Sir Newton, and throttles down over time.  That saves energy, and thus money.  Even better, utilities like SCE will give you a rebate (from SCE that is $200!) toward the cost of installing a variable-speed pool pump.

Updated A/C

The other big opportunity for savings is in an updated A/C system.  Newer systems are significantly more efficient out-of-the-box, and as older systems age, their efficiency decreases, meaning they are costing you more to operate.

Other Savings Opportunities

You don’t really have an old refrigerator running in your garage, do you?  If it is old, it is inefficient, and you’ve just put it in the hottest part of your home (short of the attic) so it has to work really hard to keep that case of beer cold.  Either ditch it altogether, or only run it when that party is about to happen!

How old is your thermostat?  Does it even work, or do you just use it as an on/off switch?  New, smart thermostats can save you money - and there is likely a rebate there, too!

How good a candidate is your home for solar?

Ok, your use case is compelling, even after harvesting all that luscious, low-hanging fruit.  So is it now certain that solar will help?  Um, maybe.  How good of a candidate is your home for solar?

We have written about this at length before, for example here and here.  If you have lots of shading, your house will not be a good candidate – you don’t want to be the owner of a system installed under a tree!

But other issues can change the value proposition for installing solar.  For example, your electrical service might be ancient and undersized, requiring you to spend additional money to upgrade to a newer, larger service.  If you are installing a relatively large PV system, that is a relatively small increase, but on our small use case, upgrading your service panel can add 10 to 15% to the total cost.

Other factors that are not show-stoppers but which increase costs are second-story and/or steeply pitched roofs (both of which just make the labor costs higher because the work goes slower), roofs other than composition shingles, service panels located far from where the array needs to go (like the array on a detached garage but the service panel in on the side of the house with a concrete driveway in between).

How can you know for sure?  Simple, have a professional installer come out and do a proper site evaluation.  So how do you find such a person?  Ah, that is the subject of Part 2: How Do I Find Someone to Trust?

09/22/17

  10:16:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 340 words  
Categories: PWP, GWP, Ranting

Pasadena's Power Mix - Room for Improvement

Run on Sun is proud to call Pasadena home.  We absolutely love this place.  But it isn’t perfect, as evinced by the latest report on where Pasadena gets its power - that’s right, the 2016 Power Supply Content Label is now out, and it is a mixed bag to say the least!  Here’s our take…

Every year, California utilities are required to post a table that reflects the sources of the power that they provide, the “Power Supply Content Label."  We wrote about PWP’s energy mix when the previous label was published, and at the time we noted that coal constituted 34% of the energy supplied, with natural gas another 6% - a full 40% coming from fossil fuels.  Surely a year later the news would be better, right?

Not so much - here it is, read it and weep:

2016 Power Supply Content Label

ENERGY RESOURCES2016 PWP POWER MIX3 (Actual)2016 PWP GREEN POWER MIX4 (Actual)2016 CA POWER MIX2 (for comparison)
Eligible Renewable Total32%100%25%
- Biomass & Waste 16%   2%
- Geothermal 2%   4%
- Eligible Hydroelectric 1%   2%
- Solar 5% 100% 8%
- Wind 8%   9%
Coal 40% 0% 4%
Large Hydroelectric 4% 0% 10%
Natural Gas 12% 0% 37%
Nuclear 7% 0% 9%
Unspecified Sources of Power1 5% 0% 15%
TOTAL100%100%100%

Both coal and natural gas went up!  While the overall statewide mix is just 4% coal, PWP gets 10 times that much, a whopping 40%!  Combined with natural gas and 52% of our power comes from fossil fuels.  Moreover, half of the “renewables” comes from burning biomass and waste, thereby also contributing to greenhouse gas emissions!  (One bright spot - utility scale solar now accounts for 5% of all energy, up from zero the year before.)

Lest you think all of the small munis are as bad, not so.  Glendale Water and Power, in particular, is kicking PWP’s backside, with only 5% from coal, and just 29% from natural gas.  GWP also gets 26% of its power from wind!  (Here’s a link to their power label.)

PWP is making some strides, however.  Last year they replaced a 51-year-old steam plant with a combined cycle turbine unit that can produce power within minutes, compared to the 72-hour start time for the old system.  But at 52% fossil fuels, PWP still has a long way to go!

05/20/17

  08:35:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 162 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, PWP Rebates, PWP, Ranting

Run on Sun is Pasadena Solar!

Run on Sun has been doing Pasadena Solar for more than 10 years, but only now have we gotten around to dedicating a webpage just to Pasadena Solar! 

Pasadena City Hall - home to Run on Sun and Pasadena SolarWho loves Pasadena Solar?

I know, kinda silly (and foolish from an SEO perspective) but we figured we were fine as we were.  But then I looked at the search results on Google for “Pasadena Solar” and it was really depressing.  I mean seriously - read some of those reviews and you know that they are fake - but still their related websites were getting better rankings than ours!  Not acceptable!!!

So now, if you want to see a webpage that proudly proclaims its love for Pasadena Solar, we’ve got you covered - complete with this iconic image!

Oh, and because we do so much work in neighboring Altadena we are hoping to do a shout-out page for them too but we need an idea for the quintessential Altadena image - if you have ideas, please let us know!

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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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