Hello Everyone! We have been extremely busy lately and apologize for our online absence of late. These past couple years have been busier than ever and the last couple months have seen us max out our production capacity. We have always been huge proponents of solar energy but our enthusiasm continues to grow everyday. Here are some of the top stories from the solar industry during the past couple months.
Solar and Wind Now Rapidly Catching Up with Fossil Fuels: A German minister in charge of rolling out the country’s massively successful renewable energy program has gone on record saying that solar and wind energy is now less expensive than fossil fuel or nuclear energy. In 2015, investment in renewable energy was double the size of fossil fuel investment. Despite extremely low oil prices, the solar industry nearly doubled for the 8th time in 15 years.
Nevada Passes Crippling Anti-Solar Legislation: The Nevada Public Utility Commission recently voted to raise the monthly fee on solar customers by 40% while at the same time lowering the value of excess energy created and sold through net metering. This change also applies to existing systems. Systems with that originally had payback of 5-7 years might not pay themselves off for 8-10 years now. With this legislation, one of the most sun-exposed states has become a dead zone for solar. A class action lawsuit has been filed and awaits a verdict.
US Solar Company Now Producing Panels at a Lower Price than China: First Solar is now creating solar panels for nearly 40 cents a watt. This is almost 15 cents cheaper than the next best competitor in China. The new panels are a result of massive $775,000,000 investment the company made in their technology wing.
Solar Industry Continues to Create Record Number of Jobs: 35,000 jobs were created by the solar industry in 2015, bringing the grand total to 209,000. Solar employment has gone up 123% since 2010 which is 12 times faster than the national average
We are currently facing one of the strongest, if not the strongest, El Ninos in recorded history. Here in California we are seeing things that we have never seen before. Hammerhead sharks, sea snakes and other strange ocean-dwellers have been attracted to the abnormally warm waters off our coast. This warm water and other indicators point to a winter filled with record setting weather. It’s not just California that is feeling the effects of El Nino. Mexico was recently hit by the most intense cyclone the Western Hemisphere has ever seen. The earth is warming and extreme weather events are only going to become more prevalent.
The effects of large storms and other natural disasters can be devastating. Thousands can be left without shelter, food and power. Bringing light to the dark; shelter to the homeless and medicine to the sick is no small task, especially when you consider that conventional power sources may be off-line. In most disaster situations generator and fuel procurement can be very difficult if not impossible. Typical transportation channels may be compromised and there is only so much fuel and generation equipment to go around to begin with. A Mobile Solar Generator is the perfect solution. With no fuel inputs required, our generators will keep the power on even in the most remote or cut-off disaster zones.
When Japan was hit with a massive tidal wave in 2011, Mobile Solar generators were dispatched to help. 7 MS-150s loaded with tools were placed around northern Japan to aid the disaster recovery. Despite arriving weeks after the wave hit (manufacturing and shipping time), our generators were still heavily relied on. Their ability to operate around the clock with no fuel input freed up more time to focus on the mission at hand.
Reliability is paramount in a hectic situation. Solar powered disaster recovery provides the security and resiliency that is necessary in an environment where lives are on the line. Whether it’s our compact solar generators or our powerful solar light towers, we have the rugged, utility-independent products that can make a difference. Is your department ready for the next big one?
Working on a construction site can be an irritating experience. They are noisy, full of exhaust and potentially dangerous. A significant source of this irritation comes from their generators. They are constantly running, emitting both noise and fumes. Extra noise from these generators can cause workers to raise their voice which only make the problem worse. Communication on a jobsite is crucial so that everyone can work together and stay safe.
Ten years ago, Mobile Solar was born out of an attempt to mitigate these problems. Travis Semmes, the company’s founder, was working for a high-end home builder in Central California. Many of the houses that he worked on were located in very beautiful and remote places. One house was located deep in a valley that seemed to amplify the noise coming from the generator. As the company’s solar expert, Travis went to work on a solution that could quietly generate power and create a better working environment. The first unit, an MS-150, was a huge hit. It was silent and required no fuel inputs and only minimal maintenance, allowing workers to focus more on their tasks.
Travis knew he was on to something after building one of the world’s fist solar generators. Word spread quickly and soon he was flooded with orders. Travis quit building houses and began building solar generators full-time under the a new entity, Mobile Solar. Mobile Solar generators can now be found powering a wide variety of projects all over the world.
Despite Mobile Solar’s growing popularity with various users around the world, we believe our units are under-utilized in the construction industry. Solar generators are not only quiet and environmentally friendly, but cost competitive with fossil fuel powered generators. Our MS-Series can be sized to power anything from a custom residential construction site, to a large commercial project. Office trailers are also perfect candidate for a solar generator. Contact us if you could benefit from a solar generator on a construction site.
We recently went over the changing net metering landscape and how it may affect utility rate payers in California. Other states will be next. One way to avoid these changing rate structures is to simply disconnect from the grid entirely. Mobile Solar has been allowing customers to do just that for over 10 years. Our trailers’ solar-plus-energy storage combination gives users the ability to use the sun’s energy 24/7. An appropriately sized solar system working in conjunction with a large enough battery is more than capable taking a home off-grid. Throw an electric car into the mix and total energy independence is a very real possibility.
We know that it can be difficult, if not impossible, to park a solar trailer at homes in urban areas. With that in mind, we recently developed a solution that is designed to provide all of the same benefits of our trailers to homeowners, but within limited space. Our new RB-Series takes the innards of our trailers and condenses it into a package that can easily fit in a garage. The system is also fully capable of operating outdoors if you want to place it near the exterior of your home.
This system is not capable of taking your home off the grid on its own. It needs a power source to charge the battery. We usually recommend solar but wind can be a better option in certain locations. Depending on the size of the battery, our system should be able to keep your home running like normal for well over 24 hours without any energy input. If you do find yourself draining the battery in the middle of the night or after a long period of cloudy days we recommend a gas/diesel generator as backup.
Electricity is not going to get cheaper. Utilities aren’t going to get any easier to deal with. Mobile Solar allows you to create your own power and make your own rules. Contact us today and take the first step towards energy independence.
Like it or not, Net Energy Metering 2.0 is coming soon to California and it is bound to shake things up. To understand the potential impacts of NEM 2.0 it important to understand what net metering is and how it currently influences the roof-top solar market. Net Metering 1.0, the current set of regulations mandated by the state, is largely responsible for California’s thriving solar industry. It gives homeowners the ability to essentially use the grid as a free “battery.” Any extra electricity produced by solar panels during the day can be exported to the grid and “stored” for future use. For every kilowatt-hour of electricity exported to the grid when the sun is out, homeowners are entitled to a free kilowatt-hour when the sun is down. Customers can and often do cut their electricity bill to zero by sizing their solar system to produce equal or more electricity than is consumed daily by their household.
The problem with this current system is that there is a limit to how many solar owners can reap the benefits. Taken to the extreme, what if everyone in California had an electricity bill close to zero? How could utilities afford to maintain the grid? Who would pay for other energy sources such as coal and natural gas when sun went down. Even when a smaller percentage of people rely on NEM 1.0, rate payers without solar are often left to cover the utility’s costs. On the flip side, the generous policy of NEM 1.0 has enabled the solar industry in California to become the largest in the nation. Tens of thousands of jobs have been created and California has become a global leader in combatting climate change.
The California Public Utilities Commission is in charge of weighing the benefits and costs of NEM. They hold proceedings during which stakeholders make their points and from there legislation is created. In 2013 the state passed Assembly Bill No.327, a bill that covers a range of Californian energy policies. Included in the bill was a cap on renewable energy nameplate capacity that could operate under NEM 1.0. Once 5% of a utility’s nameplate capacity is derived from NEM 1.0 projects, NEM 2.0 takes effect. It will kick in mid-2017 regardless. As customers of Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric edge rush to take advantage of NEM 1.0 and the ITC, it is unlikely that we will make it to 2017 before NEM 2.0 rears its head.
The details of NEM 2.0 still have not been agreed upon and estimates vary widely as to what it will entail. Pull too hard one way and the utilities will not be able to cover their costs, push too hard the other way and solar industry in California could regress. Here are 3 levers that the CPUC can manipulate in order to make things work:
- A charge on homes with solar that would help pay for grid maintenance. In theory such a charge is logical but in its limited practice, it hasn’t fared well. A major utility in Arizona, The Salt River Project, recently began charging homeowners with solar $50 a month. This has been met with much controversy and a lawsuit from Solar City, who claimed that such a fee was too high and forced them to transfer employees to new states with regulations more conducive to roof-top solar.
- Rates based on time of use. The CPUC has ordered PG&E, SCE and SDG&E to begin charging their customers on a time of use scale by 2020. Cheaper electricity during peak sun hours should encourage people use more energy during the day when their panels are firing on all cylinders. Higher electricity costs in the late afternoon after the sun has gone down should deter people from using energy derived from fossil-fuels. For example, lets say 10AM-6PM kilowatt-hours cost 10 cents and 6-9PM kilowatt-hours cost 50 cents. NEM 2.0 systems would have to export 5 kilowatt-hours of energy between 10 and 6 in order to get 1 kilowatt-hour back between 6 and 9.
- Disproportionate Energy Crediting. NEM 2.0 could simply decrease the value of extra energy exported back to the grid. Instead of one kilowatt-hour in one kilowatt-hour out, utilities may only credit you with a fraction of whatever you put in. This will have a tremendous impact on the economics of a grid-tied system.
Any combination of these controls can be enacted and the uncertainty surrounding NEM 2.0 is leaving many unsure as to how to proceed with solar. Whether you buy from us or somebody else, it is our recommendation that you move as quickly as possible so you can take advantage of NEM 1.0 and the 30% tax credit that expires at the end of 2016. Feel free to contact us and we will point you in the right direction.
What if you could use the sun’s energy to power your home even after the sun goes down? How would it feel to be the only house on the block with power when the grid goes down? What if this was not only possible but cost-effective as well. After 10 years of operating in the energy storage industry Mobile Solar is proud to introduce the most affordable energy storage system on the market. On its own this system will add significant value for customers interested in increasing the reliability of their power supply or eliminating peak demand charges. Coupled with solar panels (or any other power source) the RB-35 can provide homeowners with total energy independence. This means that homes can now produce all of the power that they consume. Check it out and join the energy independence revolution!
Exactly 10 years ago, Mobile Solar created its first trailer-based solar generator. Coupling solar panels and batteries was a very novel concept at the time and as the years went on we became increasingly enthusiastic about the possibility of a future in which the sun could provide us with energy at all hours of the day. The success of our units have proven the utility of such a system but we realize that we can only do so much with our transportable units that cater to a small and largely to off-grid clientele.
For years we have waited for GE, Edison or some major utility to offer a large scale renewable energy storage solution. Yesterday such a solution was brought to the mainstream by Elon Musk’s Tesla, one of the most forward thinking companies on the planet. Tesla’s new battery systems, the Powerwall and the Powerpack will be tremendously crucial to our renewable energy powered future. Excess solar power produced during the day can now be stored for later use in an economical way like never before.
We look forward to a solar powered future and the possibility of using Tesla’s new batteries in our future units.
Earlier this year, Mobile Solar participated in the California Energy Storage Alliance’s Annual Market Development Forum. As a member of CESA, Mobile Solar is seeking to educate themselves on the future of energy storage in California and the rest of the world. CESA is the most forward thinking and well respected advocacy group when it comes to energy storage planning and policy. Its members consist of industry leaders from Solar City to Sony, and its influence spreads throughout governments world-wide.
Mobile Solar is particularly interested in behind the meter storage. As the world races towards a sustainable future powered by renewable energies, it must also find a way to utilize such energy production. Storage is absolutely crucial when it comes to satisfying our 24/7 energy demands with solar and wind sources that can only periodically produce energy. Our units are capable of storing energy from both the grid and the panels on its roof. They can also give power back to the grid when it is thirsty. Programs like SGIP (Self Generation Incentive Program) are paving the way for household energy storage and Mobile Solar is excited to play a role in its future.
Giga Solar, a 2011-startup based in Portola Valley, Calif., has a pretty simple value proposition: they design and build highly efficient ultra-light-weight mono-crystal solar modules. Mobile Solar is currently evaluating these modules for use in our MS, LT and PK model lines. We spoke with Chief Business Development Officer Sicco Westra.
Mr. Westra explained their primary customers are in the portable or transportable market, “where people want to have solar panels that they move around very frequently, have the ability to pick up and move it. Think about disaster relief applications, and temporary power situations. The military is evaluating these units for expeditionary missions.”
“I think the biggest benefit is the fact that they weigh only 35% of a standard panel, they are a lot easier to handle, they are safer, you can stick more of the panels in a box, because they don’t have a frame,” Westra said. The ability to pack a lot of power in a small, light-weight package is intriguing to us, from a mobile perspective, but Giga Solar’s biggest market will probably be the roof-top residential industry.
Why does light-weight matter for standard grid-connected systems? “It makes the handling of these panels a lot easier and safer than your standard aluminum-framed glass modules,” he explained, noting they are awaiting IEC Certification, but exploring the roof-top market.
“A lot of roofers like the light weight aspect of our panels; it makes the handling of them on a sloped roof a lot safer. When you have a panel that is only 16 pounds, it makes the whole installation a lot safer than a 40-45 pound panel. Light weight in and of itself you can say ‘so what,’ but there is a real safety benefit.
Here at Mobile Solar, we just think they’re cool, and provide another example of how quickly the PV industry is changing. You can learn more at: http://www.gigasolarpv.com/
Mobile Solar would like to applaud the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for its decision to green light battery-based grid-connected photovoltaic systems. Utilities such as PG&E had been pushing for huge fees and a burdensome regulatory process in order to dissuade homeowners from storing energy in batteries in conjunction with their roof-top solar electric systems. Well the CPUC has stood up and told those self-serving utilities to “sit down!” Hats off to you, CPUC!!!
California to Utilities: Connect Battery-Solar Systems to the Grid
UPDATE: SolarCity resumes applications as California regulators clear way for net-metered solar-battery systems
Jeff St. John
April 16, 2014
California regulators have just issued a rebuke to utilities, and a thumbs-up to customers and companies that want to connect hundreds of now-stalled battery-backed solar PV projects across the state.
On Tuesday, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a proposed decision that would exempt most storage-solar projects from extra utility fees and interconnection studies (PDF). Instead, it would require utilities to treat them as regular old net-metered solar systems, as long as they meet certain requirements.