06/02/13

  09:08:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 439 words  
Categories: Climate Change, Ranting

Without Vision: Exxon CEO on Carbon Future

ExxonMobilExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson - whose name and position inevitably conjures images of dying dinosaurs - emceed the company’s annual shareholder meeting this past week and he had some blunt words for those who were advocating for a resolution on reducing greenhouse gas emissions - forget about it, we can’t get there.

Mr. Tillerson responded to questions from proponents of the resolution - which Management had recommended be voted down - during the open comment period before the vote.  When asked about the problem of exceeding 350 parts per million CO2 - the limit widely acknowledged as the threshold for preventing significant climate change - he replied:

Well, I can not conclude there is something magical about 350 because that suggests these models are very competent and our examination of the models, are that they’re not that competent…


We do not see a viable pathway with any known technology today to achieve the 350 outcome that is not devastating to economies, societies, and people’s health and well being around the world. You cannot get there.

When he speaks of steps that might be “devastating to economies” he is deathly serious:

We do not have a readily available replacement for the energy that provides the means of living that the world has today, not our standard of living but equally, if not more importantly, a standard of living that more than 2 billion people on the planet are below anything any of us would find acceptable from a poverty, hunger, education standpoint.

How do you want to deal with that great social challenge?  To what good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers in the process of those efforts when you don’t know exactly what your impacts are going to be?

(Rough transcript here - edited for accuracy based on audio, starting 1:39 in.)

The irony here is pretty intense - Mr. Tillerson is only focused on the risks associated with reducing the use of his company’s products - but he glosses over the impact that climate change is having now, and will have in the future.  It is insulting to suggest that he, or ExxonMobil, is actually concerned with raising the standard of living of the billions to which he refers and yet they are exactly the people who will suffer the most from fossil fuel-ed climate change.

Instead, Mr. Tillerson expounds on his “faith” that technology will allow us - or at least the First-Worlder’s amongst us - to adopt a “mitigation and adaptation” approach to dealing with climate change.  That might work in Dallas - where the meeting was held - but it is a death sentence for say, the Maldives.

Taking comfort in his words, the shareholders dutifully voted down the resolution 73 to 27%.

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06/01/13

  09:58:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 172 words  
Categories: Ranting

If You Build It, They Will Come

We had our best month ever in May for traffic to our website, setting records for visits, unique visitors and page views.  The chart below documents the comparison between the best month of 2013 (ytd), 2012 and 2011 for those stats as well as blog posts and posts to the Run on Sun Facebook page.

May website results hit all time highs

 

We averaged over 132 visits per day during May, over the quarterly average of 122 which exceeds the first quarter average of 107.  And we did this without any paid advertising at all - sorry, Adwords.

Rather, this is the result of closing in on our goal of five blog posts per week - we averaged 4.74 posts per week during May, up from the quarterly average of 4.4 which is up from last quarter’s average of 3.7.

Of course, we could write five times per day and it wouldn’t matter without YOU, the folks who come and read these posts.  So thank you for taking the time to visit and read - and comment!  (Yes, like all bloggers, we love comments!)

Let’s see what June has in store!

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05/31/13

  10:45:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 851 words  
Categories: Solar News, Commercial Solar, Safety, Ranting

Does Quality Sell?

Nothing like a piece in the New York Times questioning the reliability of some solar modules to get tongues wagging and some pointing fingers at “Chinese dumping” while others tell us that solar technology is just not ready for prime time.  To us it raises a different question - does quality sell?

The article, titled Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels, points to installations as close as the Inland Empire, having shockingly high failure rates after just two years of being installed. “Coatings that protect the panels disintegrated while other defects caused two fires that took the system offline for two years, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues.” Wow - that is shocking.  So who made those defective panels?  The reporter doesn’t say.

Nor are any of the problem panels alluded to in this story ever named, citing, in some cases, confidentiality agreements.

Which raises a serious problem with the article: if you cannot identify any of the solar module manufacturers that are having these problems you leave the impression that all solar modules are suspect. (Our analysis on who the guilty party might be is below…)

A quick perusal of the comments to the article reveals the predictable factions: those who echo the Fox News line that solar is a failed technology that only exists because of the Obama Administration’s foolish indulgence in Green Tech; claims that all problems in the solar industry are a result of “Chinese dumping” and the associated China bashing; countered partially by a handful of comments from people who actually know something about the industry.

We find the Chinese bashing particularly problematic - after all, the Chinese are not putting a gun to any project developer’s head and forcing them to use third-tier panels.

Greed is what is causing that.

We have been in business since 2006 and there have always been high quality solar panels available from reputable manufacturers - and they have always cost more than many of the panels offered to us for use in our projects.  Scanning the CSI data (see below) reveals that many projects - including many of the largest projects - were built using those “bargain basement” panels.  Why?  Because it maximized the project developer’s profit.

This is not a new problem, despite it getting a major splash in the “Paper of Record."  Indeed, we wrote in the Spring of 2012 about how the decision by project developers to focus on the lowest cost per Watt “will continue to put undue pressure on quality manufacturers around the globe - whether in the US or China.  Consumer demand for quality is the ultimate way to improve this situation - and that means educating consumers as to what quality means in this market."  A year plus has gone by, but where has that educational effort been?  The need is as great - or greater than ever, but sadly, the NY Times piece fails on that score.  (If you want to read an earlier, and far more comprehensive article on this subject, check out this piece by the great Felicity Carus: Quality Issues Threaten to Give Solar a Black Eye.)

What’s Up in the Inland Empire?

It’s a Friday morning so we decided to indulge in one of our favorite pastimes and go diving into the CSI data to see if we could identify the guilty party alluded to in the NY Times piece.  Here is all they gave us to go on - the project has been in place for roughly four or more years (failed after 2 years, offline for 2 years), located in the “Inland Empire” and its downtime resulted in a loss of “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in revenue.  From that we concluded that we needed to look at systems from 2010 or earlier, in the Inland Empire - which we took to mean anywhere in the counties of Riverside or San Bernardino - and of at least 200 kW.  Those criteria provide us with 28 potential systems, built with solar panels from just seven manufacturers.  Here are our results:

Inland Empire solar installs

 

What can we say about these manufacturers?  Well, certainly BP Solar, SunPower, Kyocera and Sanyo would all be considered top-tier manufacturers of solar panels - although BP is exiting the solar industry and Sanyo is now owned by Panasonic.

As for the others, Evergreen Solar was a US manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy in August 2011.  Solar Integrated Technologies was a subsidiary of Michigan-based Energy Conversion Devices which itself filed for bankruptcy in February 2012.  Solar Semiconductor is a vertically integrated systems provider with manufacturing facilities in India.

So who is the guilty party?  No way to know for sure, but a little online searching reveals other problems for one of these companies.  A September 14, 2012 article on the San Diego Union Tribune website documents problems with “Flawed Solar Panels” that were manufactured by Solar Integrated Technologies.  According to the article, the panels manufactured by the company, “had a manufacturing defect that allowed water to seep into crevices of the panels, which in some cases created corrosion and in the worst-case scenario could cause a short that could start rooftop fires” - which sounds a great deal like the problem cited in the New York Times piece.

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05/29/13

  06:25:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 102 words  
Categories: Electric Cars that Run on Sun, Ranting

Fox Flails, Fails Over Tesla Success

Amidst the news that EV maker Tesla Motors had completely repaid its DOE loan (with interest, thank you!), the folks at Media Matters put together the video montage below showcasing how Fox News has treated the car maker over the years.  (H/T ClimateCrocks.)

Oh, and just a “head’s up” for the folks at Fox - people really, really do want to drive electric cars, particularly a Tesla!  If you are lucky enough to have one - or any EV for that matter - give us a shout and let us help you to fuel that sweet ride with clean, green power from the Sun!

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05/28/13

  07:40:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 649 words  
Categories: GWP Rebates, GWP, Commercial Solar, Feed-in Tariff

Details Begin to Emerge on GWP FiT

“It’s been a long, time coming…” and we are just now starting to get some details about the state-mandated Feed-in Tariff program for Glendale Water & Power (GWP).  While there is more unknown than known, here’s an update on what we have learned so far.

Solar array from GWP website

Will GWP’s FiT Actually Support PV Like This?

As we have reported previously, GWP is under a state-law mandate to offer a solar Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program by July 1, 2013 - some 33 days from today. Keeping in mind that it took LADWP the better part of three years to design and approve its FiT does not fill one with confidence that GWP can go from having nothing in writing to distribute to the public to a successful program start in just 33 days.  (Of course, the law only requires that a program be “offered” - it says nothing about whether that program is designed in a way that gives it any chance of being successful.)

Despite having been told that public workshops would be held during May and June, it is clear that at least the May dates have gone by the board.  With the clock ticking, and nothing new on the GWP website about its FiT, we started combing the Glendale website for possible hints in the posted agendas for either the Water & Power Commission or the City Council - no luck.  So we decided to call the City Clerk’s office, because in any city, the City Clerk is the one person guaranteed to know what is going on.

Bingo!

We spoke with Michael Dunn who gave his title as Secretary to the City Clerk.  He informed us that indeed the FiT is scheduled to be considered by the City Council for the first time on June 18, with the second reading (and presumed adoption) one week later on June 25.  He also informed us that the Agenda, complete with downloadable materials, should be available to the public on June 13.  (You can access the Agendas for the Glendale City Council here.)  Of course, a first disclosure of a program as complicated as a FiT just 17 days before its state-mandated go-live date does not suggest that Glendale or GWP actually wants any input from the public.  Rather, this is a schedule that suggests that any public comment is entirely pro forma and whatever is put forward by GWP is what the Council will adopt.  (No doubt citing the state-mandated deadline as justification for taking the proposal “as-is."  Classic.)

Unfortunately, Mr. Dunn knew nothing more about the FiT himself, but he offered to send me to someone at GWP who might be able to answer more of my questions.  He transferred me to Victor Pacheco who gave his title as Senior Electric Service Planner.  Mr. Pacheco  told us that the program would be offered for projects between 30 kW and 1.4 MW capacity and that the program was limited to 4.5 MW total.  He was unable to tell us anything more about the remaining details of the program, such as the base price for energy to be offered, or whether time of delivery factors would be applied, or whether there would be any carve-out from the 4.5 MW total for smaller sized systems (as there is in Los Angeles).

He was able to tell us that a FiT Manager was going to be selected (apparently from existing staff) but no such appointment was yet in place.  Well, not like there’s any urgency here - after all, you still have 30+ days to figure this out - what could possibly go wrong?

As for public meetings to discuss the FiT, he was unaware of any and the only public meetings alluded to on GWP’s website concern their five-year, 24% proposed rate increase.  While the FiT is apparently bundled into that rate ordinance, it just doesn’t make sense to try and combine the two into the same public meeting.

As always, we will update this post as we learn more information.

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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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