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The Sunetric Blog

How Much Sun Does a PV System Need?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This is an excellent question. It’s no surprise that we have no shortage of sun in Hawaii, but you may be surprised to learn that a PV system does not necessarily need direct sunlight in order to be effective.

All it really needs is daylight. Even if you live in the shadow of a hillside or your property is covered with shade from abundant vegetation, you can still benefit from a PV system. That said, direct sunlight is always better — ideally, you want your PV panels exposed to the sun for at least six hours a day, between 9 AM and 3 PM. (Though Hawaii is fairly far south on the globe, we are still north of the Equator, and PV panels on the islands should be oriented southward in order to get the full benefit.)

But exactly how much sun do you need, and how is it measured?

How much sun you need depends on how much electricity you typically use. An energy-efficient home — one with energy-efficient appliances or low usage rates from its occupants — is going to need fewer photovoltaics than one that’s running a large number of high-load devices. Chances are you will have to get a professional assessment of your home and load potential in order to determine exactly how much photovoltaics you will need in order to zero out your bill.

Call us at 262-6600 to schedule a free evaluation!

Measuring sunlight is another matter altogether. Sun-recording instruments are expensive and delicate, precision devices. One of these is known as a pyranometer, which consists of a transparent dome over a round, flat plate. A thermophile (a type of radiation sensor that gauges the intensity of light waves) is used to measure the temperature of the plate’s surface as it heats up, which in turn will provide a measurement of the voltage potential. A few digital alternatives exist as well.

In Hawaii, the State’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) provides solar ‘sun zone’ maps. Each sun zone provides an average production via effective ‘sun-hours’. These sun-hours provide a great way to estimate daily production for a PV system and effectively size your system to zero out your energy bill!

To get the best answer to these questions, a professional solar integrator like Sunetric will come to your home and take these measurements for you prior to design and installation to ensure the most cost-effective, energy-efficient solution. Many contractors will abide by the sun zone estimates when determining accurate production for your home, thereby making it unnecessary to use a pyranometer to measure solar irradiation at your home. The importance of this dedication to accurate property assessment and system design cannot be overstated, and it’s important to choose a solar contractor whose experience and knowledge can serve you best.

To get a rough idea of your solar savings, check out our Solar Calculator. It only takes a few seconds:

Solar Savings

Find out how much you could save with a Sunetric-installed system.

Employee Profile: Jane McKee

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

As a full-service renewable energy firm, Sunetric has its own specially trained installation team, and safety is absolutely vital to our PV installation process. Jane McKee knows the importance of safety — from Oahu’s rooftops to its 6-foot waves, she possesses an intuitive knowledge, foresight, and care that make her the perfect Sunetric Safety Manager.

A Wealth of Experience

With a degree in Environmental Science from the University of California Santa Barbara, Jane comes to Sunetric with nearly thirty years of experience in the energy and safety industries. While residing in California, McKee worked for Chevron as a production operator on six different offshore oil platforms, and spent 13 working for an oil and gas plant in Santa Barbara before moving to Hawaii in 2002.

Jane was familiar with Hawaii — her family had been visiting Hawaii since the age of ten — and as an avid paddler, she immediately jumped at the chance to move here upon receiving a job offer on the Marine Force Base in Kaneohe. Since then, she has held management positions with Hawaiian Telcom, Aloha Petroleum, and Hawaii Biotech. McKee has a Safety Trained Supervisor certification and is an OSHA-certified trainer for the Construction Industry.

Here at Sunetric, my only priority is safety. I do one thing, and I do it well. I’m out in the field with the guys learning what they do and watching how I can protect them while on the job. Our top priority is fall protection because the installers are up on the rooftops all day long.

Jane is an invaluable addition to the Sunetric team, and we are incredibly grateful and at ease knowing her expertise is keeping our installation teams safe.

Sun, Surf, and Wheels

When she’s not ensuring the safety of Sunetric’s installation crews, Jane is at sea:

I love to paddle my one-man canoe in the open ocean, preferably in 20-knot winds and six-foot seas! The energy of the ocean has the ability to heal and relax me like nothing else. I’m in the water, either paddling or surfing, almost every day.

McKee is a four-time Hawaii State Champion in the one-man outrigger canoe race. Last year, she finished the Kaiwi Channel Molokai solo Championship — a solo race of 32 miles from Molokai to Oahu — in 3rd place.

Jane has also recently taken the helm of Watt Wheels, our mobile solar energy station — catch her at a Sunetric event showing off the power of PV right on top of our retrofitted green Honda Element.

A Special Commitment

Though Jane’s number-one concern at Sunetric is safety, her dedication to solar power and sustainability in Hawaii runs deep:

Our island home is quickly running out of resources, so working for a company that truly makes a difference in our environment – and in people’s lives — is the highlight of my career. Coming from an environmental background, I was thrilled to be able to work for a green company. Since Sunetric is the leader in Hawaii’s solar industry, I’m getting the opportunity to work with the best of the best within an up-and-coming industry. Sunetric is a perfect fit for me. I have the responsibility to provide a safe work environment to protect Sunetric’s most valuable resource – our staff.

Jane is optimistic about Hawaii’s goal of reaching 70% renewable energy generation by the year 2030, and is eager to help more customers make the affordable, environmentally friendly switch to solar with Sunetric.

We are honored to have Jane McKee watching over our staff — every member of the Sunetric team and each of its customers benefits from her experience, knowledge, and range of talents.

You can often find Jane McKee on our Facebook page. Come say hello!

Kupu and Sunetric to Train Youth to Install Solar Panels

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Kupu is proud to announce its partnership with Sunetric, Hawaii’s largest solar installer, to train under-resourced young adults to install photovoltaic panels as part of Kupu’s pilot Urban Corps program. Urban Corps is a free job training and service learning program that seeks to equip corpsmembers with the experiences, education, training, and support needed to become productive members of society, with a heart to serve and positively impact the community around them. The training runs from March 2 – June 3, at which time the corpsmembers will receive both classroom and on-the-job training.

Throughout the pilot program, Sunetric will donate materials and staff time to run weekly labs that will introduce corpsmembers to a range of job opportunities at a solar company, from initial sales to actual installations. After corpsmembers gain foundational skills, they will join Sunetric field crews to assist with residential and commercial installations. This valuable on-the-job training will prepare corpsmembers to become solar installers, helping to develop local talent in a growing industry while providing a social benefit to the recipients of training. According to a December, 2010 report released by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, one of Hawaii’s fastest growing green jobs is solar photovoltaic installers. Over 447 positions are projected to open up by 2012.

“Kupu is so excited about this opportunity to partner with such a well-respected company like Sunetric,” says Kupu Executive Director John Leong. “The experiences which our corpsmembers will gain will not only help to prepare them for jobs in this emerging field, but married with the life and jobs skills training they receive through the Urban Corps, this partnership will help these young adults to socially advance and transform to become catalysts of positive change in their communities.”

Sunetric CEO Alex Tiller describes the partnership as a winner for all concerned. “Installing solar panels is more than a business to us,” he said. “It’s a passion. That’s why this partnership with an organization as important to this community as Kupu is an ideal fit. It’s a great way to give back to the local community by doing what we love to do – create clean, renewable energy for the future. This is just the beginning of Sunetric’s long-term commitment to Hawaii’s youth, environment, and green job training.”

The pilot Urban Corps crew consists of six underserved young men ages 18 to 23, several of whom have recently graduated from the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program. In addition to job training, corpsmembers will serve their communities by helping to restore and steward Ha’iku Valley and the He’eia Wetlands under the guidance of Kāko`o `Ōiwi and Papahana Kuaola, two conservation agencies based in Windward Oahu. Corpsmembers will also participate in life skills and job readiness workshops throughout the program. The Urban Corps pilot kicked off on February 22 and will run until June 3, 2011, with expected summer and fall sessions to follow.

Founded in 2007 by John Leong, Julianna Rapu-Leong, and Matthew Bauer, Kupu is a 501(c)(3) Hawaii-based nonprofit whose mission is to empower youth to serve their communities through character building, service learning, and environmental stewardship opportunities that encourage integrity (pono) with Ke Akua, self, and others. Through its various programs, Kupu offers short- and long-term opportunities for approximately 400 Hawaii youth statewide to learn about and get involved in conservation, sustainability, and renewable energy. Kupu provided an estimated benefit of over $7 million dollars to Hawaii in 2010 through its programs, volunteer opportunities, and direct service. The Urban Corps program is actively seeking other fee-for-service projects to engage young adults in service-based job training opportunities in the conservation, maintenance, green energy, and sustainable agriculture fields. For more information, visit

Sunetric’s partnership with Kumu was featured in this week’s Pacific Business News.

A Hawaii nonprofit that works with youth has joined with the state’s largest solar company to train young adults in how to install photovoltaic systems.

Read the article here.


Click on a photo to zoom in. Download all photos in high-resolution here.

And the Prize for the Highest Electric Rates in the US Goes To…

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Would you believe it’s Hawaii?

That’s right, folks — in the Aloha State, a tropical paradise where the residents live in eternal summer amidst palm trees, sun-kissed beaches and the warm blue ocean, residential utility customers pay a whopping .29c per kilowatt hour for their electrical power, the highest electric rates in the country. Commercial and industrial customers have it better, paying around .25 and .20 respectively, but that still ain’t cheap.

At the other end of the spectrum, the lowest rates are found in Idaho — where residential rates are under .08c per kilowatt hour.

Why this huge difference? And why are rates in Hawaii, which should be a haven for solar energy, more than three times that of a state that has three months of road construction and nine months of winter?

One reason is that since the industrialization of the islands, Hawaii has had to import virtually everything — including the oil that fires the state’s power plants, generating 80% of the state’s electricity. And as you are no doubt painfully aware, petroleum is not getting any cheaper.

The upside is that our high electric rates have given Hawaii a whole lot of motivation to develop alternative energy sources — and fast. And the advantage here is that Hawaii is the one place in the US where all the conditions and materials for every type of alternative energy is available, from solar and tides to geothermal and various biofuels. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the plan is to get no less than 70% of Hawaii’s electrical energy from renewable sources.

As part of a nation that is hopelessly and firmly under the corporate jackboot of Exxon-Mobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell, this is both amazing and inspiring — all the more so because this target was set by our former governor, Republican Linda Lingle.

Even Big Oil’s best friends can see the writing on the wall, it seems. Former Governor Lingle was also correct in her realistic assessment of alternative energy when she told the Wall Street Journal: “If our experience with petroleum has taught us anything, it is not to get reliant on any one source of energy.” Solar is leading the way, if only because the cost of oil has risen to the point that solar — which at present, costs between .20c and .24c per kilowatt hour — is starting to look better and better.

Other alternative energy sources that are being developed include bio-diesel from plant oils and geo-thermal — which, as a volcanic island, Hawaii has in abundance. (In fact, back when Hawaii was still a sovereign kingdom back in the 1880s, the reigning monarch, King Kalakaua, discussed the possibility of harnessing geothermal energy with Thomas Edison — though he might have gotten further with Edison’s rival, Nikola Tesla!)

There are a few snags. Environmentalists are concerned that the use of palm oil for biodiesel might create its own problems, particularly in developing countries. Meanwhile, some native Hawaiians consider volcanoes as sacred ground, and are worried about upsetting Pele, the fire goddess — who according to tradition, lives in one of Kilauea’s vents.

Hopefully, Pele can be convinced to share some of her inexhaustible wealth…

Congratulations! Gabriel Chong Acquires NABCEP Certification

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We are very proud to announce that Gabriel Chong, Sunetric Engineer and our Lead of Residential Operations, has earned his NABCEP certification.

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, is the “gold standard” for PV and solar thermal installation certification. Designed to raise industry standards and promote consumer confidence, NABCEP offers certification and certificate programs to renewable energy professionals throughout North America.

Gabriel recently mastered the NABCEP certification for the new ‘PV Technical Sales Professional’ certificate, which focuses on what is arguably the most important part of the photovoltaic contract process: a professional sale. Commenting on the test and its significance, Gabe’s commitment and knowledgeability is clear:

“The NABCEP PVTS examination rigorously tests individuals in the overall sales process: from the first meeting all the way until a signed contract. It’s a benchmark for the best of the best in the industry that understand how to make a homeowner comfortable during a high-cost sales process. Like the NABCEP organization states, ‘A bad sale will always turn into a bad construction project and an angry customer.’”

In passing the exam, Gabriel has demonstrated his excellence not only in technical understanding of the Sunetric product, but also his command of relaying financial information to a homeowner to properly set a homeowner up for success.

Gabriel was the 18th person to complete the exam, and had one of the highest passing grades. Only 97 individuals nationwide received this certificate after the first exam. The NABCEP certification exam focuses on eight separate areas of knowledge:

  1. Customer Outreach and Qualification
  2. Site Analysis
  3. Conceptual Design
  4. Financial Costs, Incentives, and Savings
  5. Financial Benefit Analysis and Financing
  6. Non-financial Benefit Analysis
  7. Performance Analysis
  8. Preparing Proposals

You may remember Gabriel from his employee profile in our blog last June. Well, he’s been busy! He went on to explain his preparation and sales approach:

“Over the past year, I’ve been researching from an engineering standpoint how to understand a technical product and then be able to explain it to a homeowner in such a way that is not overwhelming for them to comprehend. Our customers end up with a VERY satisfactory sales process ’ they’re comfortable in their decision, happy with the result, and excited about recommending Sunetric at any time. “I made four sales during this study period, following a strict process that allowed for all of them to be completed within an 8-week timeframe. This was done more as an independent and personal study and performed outside of the scope of my normal work schedule, all done on the weekends outside of company time. I received letters of appreciation from each customer, all of whom sent their letters without my request.”

Gabriel’s commitment to his craft and his customers is commendable, and this certification is something that all of us at Sunetric are proud of. With an engineer and salesperson like Gabriel leading our Residential Operations, we can serve Hawaii’s solar customers better with each passing day.

Wed and Thurs: Sunetric at the Hawaii Buildings, Facilities & Property Management Expo

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sunetric will have a booth on display and be giving a seminar at The Hawaii Buildings, Facilities & Property Management Expo on Wednesday and Thursday, March 9th and 10th, 2011, from 10am to 4pm on both days. The Expo will be held at the Neal Blaisdell Center on 777 Ward Ave. in Honolulu. The Expo is open to the industry only, and admission is free.

Sunetric will be in booths 202, 200, 203, and 201. (See booth chart PDF.)

Commercial Energy Consultants will be in the booth to discuss solar options for businesses in Hawaii. With all of the businesses Sunetric has helped go solar, we are able to answer any business owner’s questions about the process — from financing to installation, we are experts in helping Hawaii’s businesses and commercial buildings go solar.

Free Feed-in Tariff Seminar

Neal McCartney, a Commercial Energy Consultant with Sunetric, will be giving a seminar on both Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30am to 11:30pm explaining Hawaii’s new Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program.

Profiting from Hawaii’s New Feed-in Tariff
Wed. and Thurs. • 10:30am to 11:30am • Kauai Room
Join Sunetric, Hawaii’s solar authority, and learn how Hawaii’s new Feed-in Tariff (FIT), enables companies generating up to 500 kW of renewable electricity, to SELL IT BACK to the utility companies on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.

Click on the flyer below to register for the Feed-in Tariff seminar — it’s the fourth seminar listed for each day.

Solar Legislation Update: Your Democratic Action Needed!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In recent months, the Hawaiian state legislature has seen a number of misguided efforts to balance the local budget by slashing funding and tax incentives related to alternative energy programs. Though the proposals may appear to save money in the short term, the long term effects are devastating — home- and businessowners are disincentivized to invest in solar technology, the solar industry is crippled, and the transition to sustainable energy is completely stalled. The drawbacks are undeniable and dangerous.

You can help.

HB796 — This bill, currently deferred for a finance committee hearing, reduces or establishes a ceiling for tax credits for systems installed on multi-family residential or commercial properties. Read the measure history for HB796.

HB566 — This bill, which we highlighted previously and which is currently in committee hearings, “requires a renewable energy technology system to be placed in service prior to December 31, 2016, to be eligible for the renewable energy tax credit,” “delays the beginning of the payout for refundable tax credits claimed in 2012 to July 1, 2013,” and “requires Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to complete an assessment on the effectiveness and ongoing need for the renewable energy tax credit after 2016 by October 1, 2014.” Read the measure history for HB566.

What’s Wrong?

These bills stand to destroy the renewable energy industry, kill the jobs it creates, and rob its customers just as they are coming together to change the way we get our energy. Furthermore, both bills cast 2016, a mere five years from today, as the expiration date for solar tax credits. We are optimistic and enthusiastic about the shift away from fossil fuels, but it’s a safe bet that we won’t be free of oil in just four years! KHON reported that these plans could hurt renewable energy goals.

Your Two Minutes Matter

The provisions of HB566 have already been significantly altered and improved thanks to your testimony and the efforts of Sunetric, the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, and other local solar companies, but the fight isn’t over. Please help us support the solar industry and your right to choice alternative energy in Hawaii by casting your opposing vote on the following legislative bills. This takes 2 minutes or less.
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