Reliability of Solar Panels and Batteries

Reliability of Solar Panels and Batteries

Solar panels are long term assets – guaranteed by every manufacturer for at least 25 years. Lithium ion batteries are guaranteed by most manufacturers for at least 10 years. But no major solar panel manufacturers have been in business for 25 years, and no major battery companies have been shipping residential systems for 10 years.

So how can a homeowner, building owner or financing company assess the reliability of solar panels and batteries? The best way is to scientifically gather and assess reliability data for these components. To be objective, this reliability analysis must be done by an independent organization – not by manufacturers.

PV Evolution Labs is the leading independent lab for equipment testing. They assess the bankability of PV modules, inverters, storage, and other balance-of-system equipment. Joining us on this week’s Energy Show is Jenya Meydbray, CEO and co-founder of PV Evolution Labs.

Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show as Jenya talks about the founding of PV Evolution Labs and shares his insights on reliability of solar panels and batteries. Jenya and I also share our real-world reliability advice as manufacturers, contractors and technologies come and go over the years.

Why Did My PG&E Power Go Out and What Can I Do?

Why Did My PG&E Power Go Out and What Can I Do?

For the first time in 20 years California is experiencing rolling blackouts. Reports indicate that over 3 million residents were recently affected. Conditions that caused these blackouts will continue, and the situation will get worse during fire season when we can expect Public Safety Power Shutoffs.

In the olden days, blackouts were an opportunity to sit around by the fire and read by candlelight. Not any more. We rely on electricity to keep our food cold, to keep our lights on, to charge our cars and to keep our family connected to both school and work.

PG&E is not being candid about the real cause of these recent blackouts. Ostensibly, the rolling blackouts were caused when hot weather caused air conditioning demand to spike at the same time that several 500 MW natural gas power plants went offline, either due to scheduled maintenance or failure. But when I checked into the cause of several extended Silicon Valley outages, it became apparent that these outages were due to local transformer failures — not the one to two hour rolling blackouts that were announced.

The solution is almost universally recognized: more battery storage capacity charged by solar. I say “almost” because PG&E and other utilities are still recommending flashlights, candles and gas generators. Their logic is entirely based on their profit motive to install more of their own generating and storage capacity. PG&E and other utilities don’t want homeowners to install solar-charged battery backup systems — which are safe, reliable and affordable.

Please tune in to this week’s Energy Show for the gory details about this latest rash of blackouts — as well as what you can do to keep your lights on, your food cold and your family connected.

Covid-19 Impacts on the Solar Industry

Covid-19 Impacts on the Solar Industry

The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted solar and storage supply chains across all segments of the industry, initially devastated customer demand, reduced opportunities for the workforce, and caused permitting and interconnections to grind to a halt in many jurisdictions.

On the other hand, when homeowners were required to work from home — and they realized that they could not rely on utility power — interest in solar with backup power actually increased. Commercial customer interest paused during shelter in place, whereas utilities continued with their demand for solar and storage

Businesses thrive on accurate and timely information, and the solar + storage industry is no exception. One of the best information sources to help navigate these uncertain times is IHS Markit. Not only do they provide comprehensive solar + storage information, they also provide data analytics and expertise for other cleantech sectors, as well as oil and gas, automotive, financial industries.

My guest on this week’s Energy Show is Cormac Gilligan, Associate Director of Solar and Energy Storage at IHS Markit. Cormac is like a human crystal ball for the global solar industry, and is widely regarded as a leading authority on the global PV inverter market. His analysis and commentary is regularly published by leading PV industry media and the global press. Miguel De Jesus, IHS Markit’s solar and inverter analyst, also joined this week’s Energy Show.

Given Covid-19 impacts on the solar + storage industry, we could use all the intelligent forecasting we can get — so please listen up to this week’s Energy Show.

Meeting Customer’s Changing Energy Needs – Renova Energy

Meeting Customer’s Changing Energy Needs – Renova Energy

The solar industry is used to rapid changes, hence the moniker “The Solar Coaster.” But this year the changes are at their most extreme in my recollection: rapid adoption of battery storage, tariffs, blackouts, the coronavirus pandemic and a recession.

It takes a varied set of skills to run a successful solar business over the long term in such a dynamic environment. Not only does a company need the right mix of technology, marketing and strategy, but they also need a management team that is focused on long term success. Companies that are in for the quick buck, featuring low prices and “free” solar deals, usually disappear just as quickly.

Over the past decade I’ve gotten to know some of the best locally-focused solar companies around the country. One of the companies that stands out is Renova Energy, based in the Coachella Valley in California.

Please listen up to this week’s Energy Show featuring Vincent Battaglia, CEO of Renova Energy. Vincent shares his perspectives on meeting customer’s changing energy needs, the future of the solar industry, and his insights into the keys to long-term success in the solar and storage industry.

Span Electric Panel with Arch Rao

Span Electric Panel with Arch Rao


With the upcoming wildfire season in California and Covid-19 stay-at-home requirements, many people are looking into ways to power their home when utility power goes out. Battery backup systems coupled with rooftop solar are an ideal solution to keeping the lights on during these blackouts. Although these battery backup systems are affordable, quiet and clean — there are limits to the amount of power they can provide.

We all have had experiences with the limited energy capacity of batteries — neither our phones nor EVs seem to run as long as we would like. Moreover, we know that battery-powered devices cannot provide as much power (sometimes referred to as in more technical terms as “oomph”) as devices that have cords plugged into the wall. These limitations are based on both the energy capacity in the battery (measured in kwh), as well as the power delivery capacity of the battery (measured in watts).

Large appliances in homes presents the biggest challenge to powering a whole house with battery power. Power requirements for a central AC, electric oven/stove, pool pumps or EV chargers can be over 5,000 watts each. If these appliances were to be powered by a battery backup system with a 10 kwh or 13.5 kwh battery, that battery would be discharged completely within a few hours — leaving no more energy for more essential items such as refrigerators, lighting and computers. Of course, a determined DIY homeowner could turn off the circuit breakers to these appliances when the power goes out. But this approach does not work if the blackout occurs at night or when no one is home.

To solve this problem, Span has developed a “smart” electrical panel that provides detailed control and monitoring over every single electric circuit in your house. Arch Rao, CEO of Span, is our guest on this week’s Energy Show. Prior to founding Span, Arch was head of products at Tesla Energy, working on their PowerWall, and previously he was at the Westly Group and Stanford University. Please join me as Arch explains how Span makes home energy connected and intuitive with a smart electrical panel.

Wholesale Distributed Generation – Clean Coalition

Wholesale Distributed Generation – Clean Coalition

With the Stay At Home orders in place throughout a large part of the U.S., many of us are now 100% dependent on our home’s electric grid for work — as well as lights, refrigeration, HVAC and entertainment.

Unfortunately, our old fashioned electric grid is not up to the challenges of wildfires and storms, not to mention ever-increasing maintenance costs. Transmitting power long distances over high voltage transmission lines is particularly vulnerable to disruptions. Although this old grid was good for over a hundred years, new technologies — particularly battery storage, solar and smart appliances — are more reliable and less expensive.

These new technologies move the generation and storage of electricity much closer to the buildings that need this power — a design that is called Distributed Generation. In suburban areas there is often enough available roof space for solar panels; power for these systems is generated Behind the Meter (on the customer’s side of the meter). But in urban areas there is rarely enough roof space; instead, large solar power systems can be installed over parking lots, on brownfields, or on warehouse rooftops. With this design the power is generated on the utility’s side of the meter — a concept called Wholesale Distributed Generation.

Wholesale distributed generation makes terrific environmental and economic sense. The Clean Coalition was established in 2009 to accelerate the deployment of wholesale distributed generation. They advocate for a modern, efficient power system that takes advantage of these new solar and storage technologies to provide clean, reliable and more affordable energy.

My guest on this week’s show is Craig Lewis, the Executive Director of the Clean Coalition. I’ve known Craig for almost 15 years — going back to his work at GreenVolts, one of the pioneering solar concentrator companies. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show as Craig shares how the Clean Coalition is working to create fair, transparent, and effective policies and programs to help power the United States with renewable energy from local sources.