04/30/13

  07:16:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 279 words  
Categories: Utilities, Commercial Solar, Ranting

Dinosaurs - Take Two

There are two competing memes traversing the world of distributed energy generation - the “net metering is unfair” meme (only heard from utilities and their lackeys) and the “utilities are dinosaurs” meme (originally only touted by pro-renewable evangelists like, well, yours truly).

Walmart logo

Far too early to see which meme will win out in the end, but the dinosaurs meme just got a major boost from an unlikely source - Walmart.

Hat tip to our friends over at Climate Crocks for flagging the story about Walmart putting real teeth into its previously stated commitment to generate 100% of its energy from renewable sources.  According to Walmart CEO Mike Duke:

More than ever, we know that our goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy is the right goal and that marrying up renewables with energy efficiency is especially powerful… The math adds up pretty quickly — when we use less energy, that’s less energy we have to buy, and that means less waste and more savings. These new commitments will make us a stronger business, and they’re great for our communities and the environment.

The math adds up pretty quickly for the utilities as well.  Given the size of Walmart’s operations - more than 10,000 stores in more than 20 countries - this is a big deal.  Indeed, Walmart is promising to increases its renewable energy production six-fold over the remainder of this decade - and it already produces enough renewable energy in the U.S. to power 78,000 homes!

No doubt the utilities will decry Walmart’s commitment as “unfair."  But when they do, their bellowing is likely to be heard as the dying sound of the last dinosaur, slipping into the swamp of a business model that has no future.

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04/29/13

  05:54:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 155 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Pasadena Solar, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar

Run on Sun & KPCC Partner to Provide Solar Benefits

KPCC logoTwo of Pasadena’s most beloved institutions - NPR affiliate KPCC and Run on Sun - have joined forces to offer KPCC Members exclusive benefits on solar power systems.  As the only solar power company offering Member Benefits, Run on Sun is demonstrating its commitment to the outstanding programming on KPCC and to enriching the lives of its Members.

Here is the deal as shown on KPCC’s Member Benefits page:

Members receive:

  • $500 off a residential solar power system, 5kW or larger;
  • $2500 off a commercial solar power system, 30kW or larger.

To qualify for this special offer, just show us your Benefits Card when we come out to do your free solar site evaluation.

Wait, what, you aren’t a Member yet?  No worries - just click over to the KPCC website and make a one-time contribution of $60!  (Wow, how is that for an immediate return on your investment?)  Or better yet, become a sustaining member.  It is the ultimate win-win!

04/28/13

  09:18:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 614 words  
Categories: Ranting

Who Can it Be Now?

We have written about our efforts to increase traffic to the Run on Sun website by virtue of our stepped-up pace of blog writing. Having had some success we began to wonder - who were these folks who were coming to the site?  Or more specifically, where were they coming from?  We decided to take a look.

We grabbed visit data from Google Analytics for the first 100 days of the year.  Altogether we received 10,857 visits in that period, or 109 visits per day.  Interestingly, those roughly 11,000 visits came from nearly two thousand sources - 1,979 to be exact.  To be sure, most of those sources are various ISPs - Road Runner, Verizon, AT&T, etc.  But the data gets more interesting once you filter those sources out.

Here’s a pie chart of the top overall categories of visitors once ISP’s are removed:

Visitors to Run on Sun

Of the specifically identifiable source types, Colleges are the largest single source of traffic with 98 different colleges appearing in the data! 
Here are the top five:

top five colleges visiting run on sun

The folks at USC are no surprise, given our recent collaboration with the USC Solar Decathlon Team (fight on!).  But frankly, we have no idea why we garnered so much attention from the remaining four on the list (though we thank you very much!).  Should you care to enlighten us, please chime in with a comment.

The Social-FB category reflects the traffic coming to the site via our Facebook page - proof that social media works.  (Interestingly, our Twitter-derived visits don’t break out in the same way.)

The next two categories are closer to home - energy companies and solar installers.  That later category - since it presumably encompasses our competition - is inherently more interesting.  Sixteen different solar installation companies visited the site, here they are:

solar companies visiting run on sun website

Wow - looks like the folks at Real Goods Solar are keeping a close eye on us!  Likewise, not a surprise to see traffic from Sullivan as they are very active in solar policy issues (a frequent topic here).  But who is Pfister Energy?

We were also visited by a fair number of solar manufacturers including: Suntech, SMA, First Solar, Sharp and Sunpower.  Interestingly, the two solar manufacturers that we have talked about the most - LG Electronics and Enphase Energy - don’t appear in the data at all!  No, we don’t think that means they aren’t following us - anymore than we think SolarCity isn’t reading this blog (Hi Jonathan!).  Rather, it is a limitation in the Google data.  Oh well, you make the best of what you are given!

Some sixteen different law firms have taken a peek - from our former colleagues at O’Melveny & Myers and Public Counsel to some outfits we’ve never heard of (but who seem quite interested in us!).

Lots of governmental entities are revealed in the data including:

  • Federal - House of Representatives (come on, Senate, where are you?), Depts. of Energy, Transportation, FAA, VA and EPA, National labs (Lawrence Livermore, SLAC), and even the Nation’s Attic - the Smithsonian;

  • States - California (including the CPUC, CEC, ARB and Office of Legislative Counsel), Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia;

  • Local - Cities (including Anaheim, Baldwin Park, Burbank, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, Pasadena, Roseville, San Francisco, San Jose and Tustin) and Counties (Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Santa Clara); and even

  • Foreign - British Columbia, Germany, Greece, Romania and Quebec.

We had visits from National Public Radio (BTW, happy to do an interview - hey Kai Ryssdal, let’s chat!) and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The AFL-CIO and the Union Station homeless shelter.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Altogether, quite the interesting assortment of folks.  We are glad you’ve found us and we hope to keep you coming back for more!

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04/27/13

  12:20:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 287 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar News, Safety

FERC Says Solar Protects Grid from Attack

Electrical infrastructureA fascinating story over at Bloomberg (h/t Carl Siegrist) recounts the Chairman of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proclaiming that the growing adoption of distributed power generation (DG) - like rooftop solar - is making the grid more resilient against terrorist attacks.  Chalk that up as one more plus in the cost/benefit analysis of solar power.

FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff was quoted at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance summit as saying:

It wouldn’t take that much to take the bulk of the power system down. If you took down the transformers and the substations so they’re out permanently, we could be out for a long, long time…

A more distributed system is much more resilient. Millions of distributed generators can’t be taken down at once.

Now this only makes sense if you can dynamically re-structure the grid to provide a locally operational grid which the DG can support.  (This is necessary since most DG systems - like the solar power systems that we install - have anti-islanding features which means that they shut off if the grid fails.)  But if you can make that happen, it makes sense that the local DG systems could help pick up some of the slack for remote generation that has been lost due to attack.

We find this take particularly interesting given the coming debate on the cost/benefit of net-metering systems.  The benefit being touted by Chariman Wellinghoff is not one generally mentioned and would certainly be difficult to quantify, but could make a huge difference to this country in the aftermath of a concerted terrorist assault on our electrical infrastructure.

It will be interesting to see if this gets any play when the net-metering debate begins in earnest in the coming months.

04/26/13

  08:42:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 454 words  
Categories: Solar News, Commercial Solar, Residential Solar, Community Solar

Community Solar is Back - This Time with Gusto!

Vote Solar logo

Community solar - which would allow folks without usable roof space of their own to go solar - has been revived in Sacramento and is now moving through the sausage factory that is the State Legislature. If the solar industry cares to see it emerge intact, the time is now to get on board!

We wrote last year about the failed struggle to pass SB 843, the community solar bill which died under attack from the utilities.  Now the coalition that pushed last year for that legislation is back with two new bills: SB 43 (Wolk) and AB 1014 (Williams).  From the bill summaries:

While rooftop solar is a strong and growing business in California, at least 75% of households cannot participate because: (1) they are renters and don’t own their roofs (44% of households); (2) they do not have strong enough credit ratings to finance the installation (28-31% of households); or (3) their roof is too small or doesn’t receive enough sunlight (no estimate available). In addition, most businesses rent or lease their facilities and do not own their own roofs.

A Shared Renewables program allows all these California households and businesses to voluntarily subscribe to up to 100% renewable power from a shared facility in their utility’s territory and receive a credit on their current utility bill. SB 43 and AB 1014 are not limited to solar but rather apply to any new renewable facility up to 20 megawatts (MW) in size, for a program total of 500 MW (or 1000 MW in AB 1014).

While the technologies eligible under the Shared Renewables program are the same as those eligible under the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the resulting Renewable Energy Credits are given to the subscribers and retired for them. Projects accepted into other concurrent programs, such as the Reverse Auction Mechanism, the ReMAT Feed In Tariff, or utility-owned solar programs, are not eligible for the program. Finally, the bill asks publicly-owned utilities to consider implementing a similar program.

While we have some concerns about the present form of the legislation - particularly in that there doesn’t appear to be any carve outs to support smaller projects and smaller companies - the intent is important for broadening the base of solar customers in California.

That’s where you come in.  Our friends over at Vote Solar have a sign-up campaign ongoing - you can participate by clicking here - and they need your support.  If you are in the solar industry - and we know lots of you read this blog - it is imperative that you get behind this legislation.  If you are a renter or a homeowner with a heavily shaded roof, this legislation is your chance to vote with your pocketbook for a cleaner, sustainable future.  So please, take a moment and add your voice to the call for community solar - this time with Gusto!

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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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