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The Sunetric Blog

Bright Days for Commercial Solar and the Solar Industry

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It’s been a great couple of years for solar, and every day the sun shines brighter on business PV. And while a healthy solar industry is something we take pride in, customers benefit considerably from the strong state of the trade. An invigorated economy, rapid and frequent innovation, the strengthening effects of competition, and the influential spread of alternative energy — all of these things translate to good things for our customers, not to mention our planet!

Sunetric: Commercial Solar Clients
Here at Sunetric, we have more than 94 commercial clients in our portfolio since 2006, and we’re adding more every month. We’ve got more than 20 commercial solar projects underway in 2011 so far, and we‘re on track to make this our fullest year yet.

  • SEIA: Commercial Sector Drive U.S. Solar Market with 38 Percent Growth in Third Quarter, Solar Costs Continue Decline
    This report from the Solar Energy Industries Association from this past December shows just how much PV was installed in the third quarter of 2010 — “530 MW of PV, already well over the 435 MW installed in all of 2009.”

    Alongside support from state and federal policies, nationwide growth is being propelled across residential, commercial and utility-scale market segments by the continued decline of average system costs, which the report finds were below $6/watt in Q3 for the first time, or 8.5 percent less than Q1 averages.
  • SEIA: US Solar Energy Industry Experiences Record-Breaking Growth in 2010
    The SEIA followed up in March with this statement, laying out just how “Federal section 1603 Treasury program, completion of significant utility-scale projects, expansion of new state markets and declining technology costs” led to “doubling installation totals from 2009.”

  • SustainableBusiness.com: US Solar Development Heating up in Q2
    SustainableBusiness.com rounds up seven large commercial electric and solar energy companies starting large-scale PV projects in just this quarter of 2011, including SunPower, from whom Sunetric has earned the coveted Elite Dealer distinction.

    SunPower is designing and building a 4MW solar array that will be part of the largest planned zero-net energy development in the US. The development is a residential village at the University of California, Davis. It will include solar panels on rooftops and parking canopies, supplying 100% of the power needs for student housing, recreation and study facilities.
  • Renewable Energy World: Huge Growth Expected for North American Solar Industry

    President Obama recently stated in his 2011 State of the Union Address: “Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.” Shortly thereafter DOE secretary Chu launched the SunShot initiative, geared at research to drive down the costs of solar PV aggressively.

    As Conference Committee Chair of Intersolar North America for the past three years, I witnessed the ebb and flow of policy, regulation, investments and its effect on the solar industry. The U.S. solar market has the potential to double once again in 2011, making it a contender for the world’s largest solar market by 2015. The ‘perfect storm’ of incentives, regulations and affordability, makes it well positioned for strong growth.

All signs point toward continued improvement and innovation in the world of solar energy, both locally and abroad. The 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada has the green light. The UN reports that renewable energy could provide 80% of the world’s energy needs by 2050. As fossil fuel becomes scarce and inefficient, solar power lights up rural areas of India, and Japan has just announced plans to have solar on every new building by 2030. The Philippines are planning a solar summit. Guam too.

The time for solar is now.

See for yourself.

Employee Profile: Zack Eberz

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One of the many things that distinguishes Sunetric as Hawaii’s best solar company is our full-service approach. That means we handle every stage of the design, development, and installation of your PV system. This allows us to move quickly and intelligently — every Energy Consultant, Installer, and Technician communicates efficiently and operates with the same commitment to quality and service that defines Sunetric.

The Importance of Leadership

Zack Eberz is a Crew Foreman at Sunetric, which means he leads one of our residential installation crews. Zack’s job is to ensure that his crew of five PV installers is as productive and efficient as possible. Zack describes his daily duties:

I work in the field with our crew Monday through Thursday. I usually get to the job site first and layout the homeowner’s installation while two of our crew members go to the warehouse and collect all of the materials we’ll need for the job. Laying out an installation is where I take our engineers drawings and make them come to life on our customers rooftops.

In addition to installations, Zack performs weekly pre-inspections, where the Energy Consultant’s designs are confirmed with the project engineers so that any necessary changes can be made before the engineering phase of the installation begins. In an average week Zack performs one or two pre-inspections and completes anywhere from one complicated installation to three or four standard installations on homes in Hawaii.

An Electric, Sunetric History (and Future!)

Zack grew up in Philadelphia, and after graduating high school, attended Montgomery Community College before moving to Hawaii in 2003.

I’ve always been interested in alternative energy, but, before I started working in the field, I worked with my father, who owns a construction business. I started working with him early; I was in 7th grade, so I was fortunate to learn a lot from the business at a young age.

I also worked on designing buildings myself and then went out and built them — I was lucky to have the chance to train with my dad in the construction and design world.

It felt like it was a natural transition for me to move from the construction industry into the solar industry, both because of my past and because of my interest in renewable energy in general.

Zack’s talent made for a quick progression at Sunetric: he began as a hot water installer, pursued an interest in PV over to a solar crew, and learned as much as he could to move into the foreman position when one opened up. Zack attributes his speedy progression to his foreman Ikiaka Palakiko, who trained Zack well in his PV crew.

Zack has also worked a roof technician has now transitioned into an apprentice, learning the electrical trade under a journeyman. He has worked three of five years’ required experience to take the exam for his journeyman’s license.

Working with Sunetric, Working for Hawaii,
Working Towards a Sustainable World

Zack loves his job, and says that his favorite part of working for Sunetric is how much he’s learned and the service he’s able to provide to the people of Hawaii. In his own words:

The most exciting part of my job is when the home owner comes out at the end of the installation and is excited to see the meter spinning backwards and our work completed. They’re always to happy and proud to have their solar installation complete.

I like that I feel good about what I do at the end of the day.

Zack is committed to doing his part to make Hawaii a sustainable place. “Bringing oil to Hawaii,” he says, “just doesn‘t make sense. Hawaii is in a great position to be sustainable, and I’m happy to do my part to see that happen.”

And he doesn’t just act locally — he aspires to make a difference on a global scale:

In the future, I want to help my friends in Jamaica — or any Third World nation, for that matter — to have solar PV in the remote places that they live. A lot of who I am comes from Jamaican culture, so being able to go there and help them with what I have learned is something I strive to do.

When He’s Not Installing PV Systems…

Zack has quite a busy life outside of Sunetric!

I produce reggae music for local musicians in my free time, and I’m also a DJ. Family is also an important part of my life outside of work. I’m the proud father of a month-old baby boy, have a three-year-old daughter, and a bride-to-be — as of next month!

Electric Rates Going Up and Up and Up and Up…

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It seems like we post something about the rising electricity rates here in Hawaii every week, doesn’t it? Let’s have a look at the coverage of Hawaii’s ever-increasing rates over just the last six months, and just from the Star-Advertiser:

Here is Tuesday’s article excerpted in full for your convenience:

HECO residential rates on the rise

Residential electricity rates on Oahu rose to the highest level in 2 1⁄2 years in May as rising fuel prices pushed up generation costs for Hawaiian Electric Co.

Rates on Maui and Hawaii island also increased.

HECO said a typical 600-kilowatt-hour bill rose to $188.88 in May from $181.44 in April.The last time Oahu electric bills were this high was in November 2008 when a 600-kilowatt bill was $182.01.

Crude oil futures were $115 a barrel on May 1, about 35 percent higher than they were six months earlier. Crude oil futures traded at a record $147 a barrel in the summer of 2008.

The effective rate for electricity in Honolulu is 30.1 cents per kilowatt-hour in May, up from 28.9 cents last month.

Elsewhere in the state:

» Maui Electric Co. customers saw rates rise to 35.9 cents per kilowatt-hour this month from April’s 34.1 cents. The typical Maui bill rose by $10.68 to $223.21.

» Hawaii island residential rates rose to 42.40 cents a kilowatt-hour from last month’s 38.2 cents. The typical bill rose by $25.55 to $265.96.

» On Kauai the rate rose to 44.27 cents per kilowatt-hour. Last month the rate charged by the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative was 42.63 cents per kilowatt-hour.

But don’t let the recent coverage give you the impression that we’re merely experiencing a temporary rise in prices — this isn’t a recent issue. Hawaii is the most oil-dependent state in the country. Over 90% of our electricity is petroleum-derived, and the majority of our petroleum is imported. With shipping costs ever on the rise and the compounding effects of rising gas prices, Hawaii has the highest electric rates in the nation.

Go solar now and lock in your utility bill. With a variety of financing options, solar is affordable for you, and it’s affordable today.

See how much you’ll save with solar: check out our Solar Calculator. It only takes a few seconds:

Solar Savings
Calculator

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

EV, ZEV, Hybrid, and Plug-in Hybrids (And How Solar Fits In)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

It’s no secret that Hawaii residents are in a precarious situation when it comes to fossil fuels, every drop of which must be transported from a distant place. Back in the late 1970s, a Hawaiian gasoline service station was the first in the U.S. to have $1 a gallon gasoline – and today, even that looks like quite a bargain!

As a result, EV, ZEV, Hybrid, and Plug-in Hybrid vehicles are looking pretty good to citizens of the Aloha State. But what are these, exactly?

EV, or “Electric Vehicle”

You may be surprised to know that battery-powered electric cars are nothing new. In fact, over a hundred years ago, some of the first automobiles were electric-powered, one of the most famous being the Detroit Electric. These vehicles were produced for 30 years, beginning in 1907. During the First World War as the cost of gasoline spiked, the company sold over 1500 a year. With a range of 100 miles and a top speed of 20 miles per hour, they were quite suitable for use in cities. However, they lost popularity in the 1920s as the price of gasoline dropped and Americans started taking to the open road. Although the Detroit Electric met its demise in 1937, the concept has been resurrected recently as other carmakers such as GM, Nissan and Tesla Motors offer their own models. Some modern electrics can now reach freeway speeds and travel for up to 400 miles between recharges. However, the new generation of batteries that make this possible are extremely expensive; a set can run as much as $20,000.

Look Ma! No Emissions!

“ZEV” stands for “Zero-Emissions Vehicle,” which covers EVs as well as hydrogen-fueled and human or animal-powered vehicles (i.e., bicycles and horse-drawn wagons). The term as applied to the first two is a bit misleading, however; although electrics and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles don’t produce emissions directly, there are emissions produced at the sources of the electric or hydrogen gas generation – so in the case of coal, oil and gas-fired power plants, the emissions are simply shifted.

Hybrids and Plug-in Hybrids

Toyota made news in the late 1990s when they announced their first hybrid design. Today, the Toyota Prius continues to be one of the most popular new vehicles on the market, despite recent problems with acceleration.

A hybrid uses both an electric motor as well as a gasoline engine. There are a few different configurations; most commonly, the vehicle runs on its electric motor(s) until the batteries are drained, at which point the gas engine kicks in. In another configuration, the electric motor is used at low speeds and in stop-and-go traffic (such as city driving), while the gas engine takes over at highway cruising speeds. The third configuration operates like a diesel-electric locomotive or vessel; the gasoline engine runs a generator that supplies electricity, which in turn runs the vehicle itself.

A “plug-in” hybrid allows the driver to recharge the vehicle batteries at home (otherwise, the gas engine itself recharges the batteries) or at public recharging stations.

(Sunetric is certified to install Electric Vehicle Charging Stations by both Underwriters Laboratory and Schneider Electric! If you’re looking for a reputable contractor to install your charging stations, contact us today!)

The Solar Combo

The real benefit to the environment – and to consumer pocketbooks – from these vehicles can come from combining electric vehicles with renewable energy generation. If you can charge your electric vehicle from your solar array, you’re driving for free! A solar-powered home plus a “solar garage” containing a solar-recharged EV or plug-in hybrid can really bring in the “green” – both for the environment and for the wallet.

And don’t forget Watt Wheels! Our bright blue Honda Element, affectionately called “Watt Wheels,” combines a vehicle and solar power in a unique way. Watt Wheels has been retrofitted with three 230W SunPower modules and can provide mobile solar power just about anywhere on Oahu, from beach clean-ups to educational fairs. With 6kW of maximum power delivery from two 3,000W Outback inverters and 12kW of battery storage, Watt Wheels can power 1,000W for 12 hours without a charge during cloudy days and night events. See where Watt Wheels will be next!

How to Get a Perfect, No-leak Solar Installation

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Some of you may have heard stories of neighbors and friends of friends signing up for solar ‘starter kits’ and finding themselves with damage to their roof or, even worse, roof leaks. At Sunetric we take pride in our obsession with attention to detail and quality assurance to ensure that each of our installations is perfect. But what makes for a top-notch installation?

We asked Gabriel Chong, Sunetric Engineer and our Lead of Residential Operations, for what distinguishes the ideal installation. Here are his rules for a flawless installation.

The Importance of Planning

A well-done installation is the direct result of careful inspection and planning. In the photovoltaic industry, there is no room for ‘winging it.’ Any architect or roofer can tell you that their worst enemy is roof leaks. Detailed and easy-to-read construction plans drawn up by an experienced solar professional will guarantee that the installation crews will build systems that are both visually appealing and completely free of leaks.

High Standards

Any reputable solar contractor will:

  1. Have a properly designed roofing plan by a trained and certified solar designer.
  2. Have a properly designed electrical plan by a trained journeyman electrician.
  3. Ensure that your project management team, like Sunetric, has NABCEP Certified personnel.
  4. Ensure that your sales consultant has been properly trained to assess your home.
    Sunetric is the only solar contractor in Hawaii that has NABCEP PV Technical Sales Certified employees, so you’ll be getting the best and most accurate customer care and appraisal from day one.
  5. Ensure that your installation team uses materials that are certified for use by professional engineers.
  6. Ensure that you are provided with a highly trained installation crew.
    Sunetric’s crews have been installing since 2004 — we have the most installation experience.
  7. Offer you a minimum warranty of 25 years on your modules’ production.
  8. Offer you a minimum warranty of 5 years on your module framing.
  9. Offer you a minimum warranty of 10 years on your racking system.
  10. Communicate with you often and clearly to be sure the system that they’re building aligns with your standards.
  11. Provide you with answers to all questions at any time.

The Final Inspection

A well-done installation is officially well and done when the Final Inspection is passed. Be aware that your NEM (net energy metering) agreement will not be active until your permits are closed. So choose carefully when selecting a contractor: if your system does not pass inspection soon after installing, you’ll be waiting to start offsetting your electric bill and saving money until it does! (With our long history of great installations, Sunetric’s permit closure rate is second to none.)

Our Standards and Yours

Sunetric is proud to call each of these standards our own. Every solar installation we’ve done since 2004 has been given the same level of expert planning and diligent care, and we are serious about our commitment to professional installation and treating your home right. It’s what makes us Hawaii’s Solar Authority.

If your solar contractor doesn’t meet and go above and beyond these standards, ask why!

Announcing the Winners of the Solar for Japan PV Giveaway!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

At the beginning of April, Sunetric joined forces with the American Red Cross and the …With Aloha Foundation to help the victims of and recovery efforts for the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan. For the Solar for Japan fundraiser and giveaway we established donation channels directly to those two organizations, with a chance to win one of two $15K PV systems for every $10 donated.

Solar for Japan was present at the …With Aloha block party and benefit concert, the Kokua for Japan concert, and the fundraiser was covered by dozens of local media and web outlets.

Still Accepting Donations

With your support and donations we raised nearly $10,000 for Japan. We are grateful for your kindheartedness and are extremely proud to share in this expression of aloha. And though the fundraiser is over, the recovery process continues, and we encourage you to join us, Red Cross of America, the …With Aloha Foundation, and dozens of other organizations in continuing to support the people of Japan in this trying time.

The Winners!

On Monday at 7:45am, Sunetric’s Director of Marketing Laura Poirier joined Bobby Curran to announce the winner on ESPN Radio (AM 1420). The two winners of the donated photovoltaic systems were Pam-Carey Goo and Lois Chiu! Listen to the drawing broadcast here!

Pam Carey-Goo of Kaneohe with her daughters Carey and Brandee.

“I appreciate being able to donate to Japan and help our environment!” said Pam.

Lois Chiu with her husband Nick and their two daughters Ella (3 years old) and Adalyn (7 months old).

And see the great video below of our own Laura Poirier and the With Aloha Foundation interviewed on KHON Be Green 2 featuring the Solar for Japan fundraiser and the giveaway winners.

The $15,000 solar arrays are projected to save an average household more than $100 per month. Both donated systems are identical and offer ten Trina PV panels of 230 Watts per panel. They come with 3000W Centralized Inverters and 25-year production warranties

We thank all who entered and supported our Solar for Japan fundraiser with the American Red Cross and the …With Aloha Foundation.