06/07/10

  10:22:41 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 177 words  
Categories: Solar News, Utilities

Vote No on Prop 16

Proposition 16 on the June 8th ballot is easily the most misleading measure of the year. Dubbed the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” by its proponents, it should more properly be titled the “Protect PG&E’s Right to Monopolize its Territory Act.” Voters should not be mislead by PG&E’s blatantly misleading advertising and should vote NO on Prop 16.  More after the break…

Here are some facts that are not mentioned in the ads:

  • PG&E has spent more than $44 million rate-payer dollars to promote this proposition.  As they said during Watergate, “Follow the Money!”
  • Municipal utilities - which PG&E is desperately trying to keep from expanding - invariably charge their customer LESS for energy than do the Investor-Owned Utilities like PG&E (think PWP’s rates versus SCE’s)
  • Voters already have a say - no City could create its own utility without a significant public process that would have to culminate in a public vote by the local city council - if they vote against the public’s will, they will be voted out of office.  (Representative democracy at work!)

We urge a No vote on Prop 16!

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06/01/10

  10:04:30 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 507 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power

Do Micro-Inverters Really Make a Difference? YES!

In the residential solar marketplace there are two technology choices for inverters - conventional string inverters like those made by industry leader SMA - and micro-inverters - like those made by Enphase Energy.  A solar PV system using a string inverter typically has only one inverter for the array and one or more series strings of PV panels are wired to the inverter.  String inverters are large, typically heavy boxes that are mounted on the wall.  For example, here is a picture of an SMA 4000US inverter mounted on the north wall of our customer’s garage:

SMA 4000US string inverter

(Interestingly, you see no conduit coming into or out of this inverter because we were able to bring all the conduit into the back of the disconnect through the garage wall, leaving a very clean installation.)

The string inverter requires all of the panels to be closely matched with preferably identical pitch and azimuth.  The inverter handles a great deal of power which means that it gets hot.  If exposed to summer sunlight, it gets even hotter.  String inverters, like this one, typically have electric fans to provide additional cooling - but that creates another possible failure point for the inverter.  String inverters come with ten year warranties.

The micro-inverter is a very different approach.

Micro-inverters, like these from Enphase, mount underneath the solar panels, so there is no large box to mount on a wall.  Since there is one micro-inverter per solar panel there are no mismatches, portions of the array can have different orientations without difficulty, and most importantly, the problem of shading is greatly reduced.  Those advantages come at a price - a micro-inverter system will typically cost 10-15% more than a string inverter system.

The question is - in the real world, is it worth that cost?

At Run on Sun we are starting to see some answers to that all-important question - and the answer is YES!  We have been monitoring three of our Enphase installations and compiling our data to see how the actual energy produced tracks with the predictions that we made based on the CSI calculator and our Solar Pathfinder analyses at these sites.  (In other words, the same prediction that the utilities make in calculating your rebate.)  Here’s what we have seen so far:

Enphase data results compiled by Run on Sun

For the three systems combined, we are seeing nearly a 17% improvement in energy yield overall - with a peak exceeding more than 50% improvement.  While these results are still preliminary - after all, the oldest of these systems has only been in place for 8 months and none of them has yet gone through a summer season - we are very encouraged by our data so far.

Bottom line - if you need to maximize your system’s yield and/or are constrained at your site due to substantial shading issues, a micro-inverter system could well be the best choice for you.  At Run on Sun, we can help you evaluate the trade-offs and whichever way you decide to go, provide you with the best possible solar PV system.  Oh, and did I mention, all of our principals are NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installers?

05/25/10

  04:16:43 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 269 words  
Categories: AB 811/PACE/LACEP Funding

Report from Public Hearing on LACEP - the AB 811 Program for LA County

Today the LA County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the creation of the LA County Energy Program (LACEP) which provides for AB 811 financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.  Four people spoke in favor of the Program including: Tammy Schwolsky (Founder & CEO of REAS which provides energy audits and green building consulting), Holly Schroeder (CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California), Kara Seward (Field Representative for State Senator Fran Pavley), and Run on Sun Founder & CEO, Jim Jenal.  No one spoke in opposition.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky offered a friendly amendment calling on staff to work with the contractor community to address the concerns that we have been raising these past few months.  Noted Yaroslavsky’s amendment:

We have heard from local contractors and business owners on a range of topics that include licensing requirements for participating contractors; the mechanism and timing of disbursing loans to homeowners (for example, should payments be made as one lump sum or in multiple installments, and should the payments be disbursed to homeowners before or after work is completed); and, concern over the interest rate that will be charged to participating property owners.

(Frankly, the only concern of ours that was omitted from that list was the high equity requirement in the program that we believe will exclude many otherwise qualified and eager participants.)

Yaroslavsky’s amendment requires the Director of Internal Services (the folks designing the Program) to meet with interested local contractors and other appropriate business owners within the next three weeks to work on these issues.   We will keep you posted as those meetings occur.

05/24/10

  11:18:54 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 55 words  
Categories: AB 811/PACE/LACEP Funding

Prepared Comments for Public Hearing on AB 811 Program in LA

I will be speaking tomorrow at the public hearing on the adoption of LA County’s AB 811 funding program, known as LACEP (for LA County Energy Program).  I will report on the hearing later on Tuesday, but for now, here is a copy of my prepared remarks.  Hope to see many of you downtown tomorrow morning.

05/23/10

  09:36:43 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 388 words  
Categories: PWP Rebates, PWP

June 30 Deadline for PWP Solar Rebates Coming Fast!

The huge solar rebate reductions coming from Pasadena Water and Power are right around the corner, with rates going down by 24% for residential customers and 30% for commercial customers. There is still time to avoid these reductions, but you must act NOW.

More after the break.

As we reported back in February, PWP has announced some dramatic reductions in their rebates for solar power installations, and the deadline for complete applications is June 30.  Here is what the reductions look like:

PWP Rebate Reduction chart

PWP has explained that these reductions are necessary due to the applications from a few large commercial customers that have locked-up rebate monies for projects that are scheduled to come online later this year.  Nevertheless, PWP is lowering their rebates in every category.

What does this mean for potential customers?  It is important to understand that filing a rebate application does not mean that the project must start right away.  To the contrary, once rebate applications are approved, customers have nine months to complete the installation under PWP regulations, longer for new construction.  But acting now is critical to locking in the higher rebate amount that will be paid when the project is completed (or over the next five years for larger systems receiving PBI rebates).

PWP is insisting that it must receive complete applications by June 30 to qualify for the current rebate amounts.  At a minimum, this requires residential customers to have signed a contract at least one week before the deadline to ensure that all of the rebate paperwork is complete and in PWP’s hands before the deadline.  For commercial customers, a more realistic deadline is June 10th given the greater complexity inherent in any commercial solar rebate application.

At Run on Sun, we have geared up to handle the anticipated rush.  Said Brad Banta, President and COO of Run on Sun, “The last time we saw this type of rebate deadline with PWP was the end of 2008 and we handled 5 times as many rebate applications in the final six weeks as we had in the previous six months.  Given the improving economy and the anticipated increase in PWP’s electric rates later this year, we expect an even greater flood of applications this time around.  We are confident that we will be able to serve all of these new customers in the timely fashion needed to meet this deadline.”

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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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