Thanksgiving Was Great, What About Haiti Though?

Were blowing it and we know it. It’s easy to forget and we must not forget Mercy and Sharing in Haiti. The parking lot of  Sun Electronics will become a collection point again . There is no need to go into detail except that 1500 people have died so far and thousands are infected with Cholera. www.haitichildren.com has all the details about the thousands of kids they are taking care of and the beautiful photos of the safe and healthy kids is a great relief to see.\n\nWe will send a request for them to give us a list of what they need. Don’t worry we won’t ask you to donate anything. We have been fairly successful getting enough supplies from the people in Miami. Look for a report soon on our progress to fill another container. (I think they about 30,000 people still living in tents and many people have moved back into their old houses, not good. But I can understand . Wouldn’t you. It’s time to pray for them at the least. Why do they have such bad luck? They really are a polite and kind people, if you have ever met a Haitian I am sure you would agree.\n\nJohn

Projections for Solar Growth Are Excellent

That’s the word that’s going around. The decrease in  incentives, especially in Germany the worlds largest consumer, is the primary cause. However about a 30% increase is still expected in module sales. Every year people always say the market is going to sink in the next year. We have done our share of talking too much about solar’s economics being so dependent on incentives and warning people but I have changed my mind.\n\nThere is so much more to think about than economics. The production of nuclear waste, the ongoing destruction of the environment, dependence on foreign oil, the depletion of oil supplies and the effects of air pollution and changes with our climate are a few good examples.\n

Working in solar

\nIn nearly 40 years of working in solar I have never seen it do anything other than get better every single year. We have always believed in being fearless and going “all in” went it comes to buying every good deal that comes our way for PV modules or BOS. We have never done anything except grow and gain from this approach with solar. The cost of manufacturing has not come down much from one year to the next but the cumulative effect of  approx. a quarter percent increase a year in module efficiency a year for the last 25 years and the increase of electrical costs form a symbiotic relationship that guarantees solar success to reaching wide spread cost effectiveness within a decade as long as we in the industry just keep working fearlessly and aggressively.\n

PV industry

\nRecently someone asked me if we were going out of business because of the low prices we were selling at in our current winter clearance sale. I assured them I will be working for solar till I drop dead.  I have been working in the PV industry before a single Megawatt system had been installed. It was my passion then and it’s my passion now. I feel exactly the same as I did about it 37 years ago. As long as I have a roof over my head and food on the table I think I could do it forever it has so much promise for mankind and everyone can get involved. It’s not rocket science. Everyone who has a solar home has a solar story. Most people love to hear about them. Solar energy breeds passions that are much higher than a nuclear breeder does. That’s why solar next year will grow again and that’s why the incentives will continue because every day people are beginning to see that money spent by our government for solar is a drop in the bucket compared to government spending to support the Nuclear and Fossil Fuel industry.\n

Solar Energy

\nWithout any doubt solar energy deserves the same support from our government as it has from the people certainly as much if not more than the oil industry which is the most profitable industry in the world, I believe. The world loves solar energy and so does America. I think next year we might see lower profits unless Germany and Spain makes an adjustment and maintain the incentives they offered last year. It could happen . It would not surprise me in the slightest especially after they see how many jobs that were created and how much infrastructure will be lost. It would be typical solar energy and its affect on people everywhere   .

Lots of Distributors On The Internet Don’t Have Warehouses

They make their ads and web sites look like they have big warehouses and they have nothing. They take orders then just  find other suppliers to drop ship it. It’s ok but we don’t do that.\n\nI’ve never seen pictures of any big warehouses full of inventory on the website of Wholesale Solar, SolarHome, Affordable Solar, AltE, or any of the other companies advertising hundreds of products “IN STOCK AND READY TO SHIP NOW!”. As far as I know we are the only ones who do. At least the others don’t show it if they do and that seems like a pretty important thing you would want to know. There are a lot of companies out there that are nothing but computers.

What is the difference between Grade A and B Modules?

Basically NOTHING if its a name brand PV Module.\n\nElectrically (they use the same factory specification sheet), output wise (the generate the same flash test results), life time (the same 30 to 40 years or longer), certification (the same UL, ETL, CE the mfr. normally gives), warranty (the same 20 to 25 years the same as they normally give).\n

B Modules

\nSome B Modules may have a couple of tiny insignificant cosmetic blemishes generally invisible from several feet away. Most are not visible at all.\n\nYou can look on our web site and see a typical example of a blemish. www.sunelec.com

What If All The Solar Business Failed?

Maybe this would happen: Everywhere you looked people are trying to get rid of stock as fast as they can. All those factories in China, Germany, Japan are closing left and right. They could not sell their stock not even at $1.30/watt because all the supports were withdrawn. Solar had to compete against .10/watt utility power.\n\nI kind of saw this happen once. Because of a poorly written piece of legislation everyone in the State of New Mexico could have as many free $10,000 solar water pumping systems they wanted. You just had to pay 1 cent of taxes and you were qualified. You had to get your system ‘so blueprints approved with a stamp by an engineer with the state energy office and he loved to do it. He was a big supporter of PV. It took them about 6 months to rewrite the legislation to end it and all these systems in downtown Albuquerque got torn down and moved out to the hills where they made perfect sense on off grid independent homes and buildings.\n

Grid tied systems

\nSo maybe this would happen. the panels installed on grid tied systems as well as the modules that could not be sold because of oversupply would migrate towards these areas as well. It would be a boom for off grid living and land developers in rural areas where no power existed. In the mountains, foothills and on islands solar would flourish like never before. Non profit organizations providing assistance to areas in need might find a lot of help for their schools, clinics, orphanages, etc. as well.\n\nI saw a map of the world one time with thousands of tiny people painted in. Most of them were huddled in offices, cars and the military and those areas were about half the earth’s surface. Those areas were all grey, and brown but on the edges of the earth where it was nice and green still where all these other people who were enjoying life so much more than the other people who were going crazy dealing with greed, lust, fame, war, etc. Some of them were actually using solar panels out there I think.\n

Solar Panels

\nAt .50 and .75/watt solar panels would provide plenty of cheap electricity for years to come. Maybe its about time to start thinking about moving out of the city. I hear Panama is nice, the Bahamas, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Colorado, Polynesia, Australia…\n\nThen after the next big disaster like a couple of super tanker spills off of Cal. and Florida and/or an oil embargo or other nightmare where there isn’t any more gasoline for no one knows how long all the funding for solar will come back into fashion and they can rebuild all those power plants reenact all the financial incentives and you can come back and get another system so you can fly back and forth from the city to go to movie theaters, grocery stores, shopping malls, golf courses, sports events and fast cars and great restaurants.

Solar Module Availability Increases as Solar Cost Decreases

At Solar Power Int. the largest solar conference in America, they said it would happen around Thanksgiving. They were wrong. It started happening about 3 weeks ago. We have been getting offers of name brand modules being available in MW quantities throughout the world. The prices range from $1.80 to $2.05/watt. The minimum order is 1 container. This is all for crystalline mono or poly.\n

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  • Thin film is $1 to a $1.15/Watt. Minimum order is (depending on who you know) 1 pallet to 1 container.
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\nAll prices are FOB Factory.\n

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  • Of course B Grade (Cosmetically imperfect – with UL and 25 year factory warranty with the same power output specifications and tolerance as A’s) will be 10 to 20% cheaper.
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  • And, C Grade (no UL, an independent 20 year warranty, but everything else the same as a B) will be 25 to 45% cheaper.
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\nFor example if A’s (Perfect) were $2/watt, B’s would be $1.75 and C’s $1.50/watt. D’s (low power, maybe unframed laminates and with cosmetic imperfections) if you can find them in resonable numbers can be 98cents to a $1.20/watt. See our price list and inventory to get a better idea. Remember an A grade solar panels has a 40 to 50 year life span, so C’s and D’s should last from 20 to 30 years, we think. Anyway we never see them again after we sell them and that’s because everyone like them, unless of course someone drove a fork lift into them. I’ll let you know a little secret you can actually buy D grade modules for as little as 50 cents/watt and if they are real small like 2 watts (great on boats to keep battery from ever going dead) you can get them for free. You just have to ask.\n\nThe one exception is BOS (all the stuff that goes along with the modules) you won’t be able to buy a Xantrex C35, C40 or C60 charge controllers for a long time and its the same for their TR line of modified sine wave inverter/chargers. This is significant because Xantrex (now Schneider) make some of the most cost effective charge controllers and inverter/chargers in the world. Its not due to demand they say its due to a parts shortage (the parts are called FETS and they use them in computers, I think, anyway I don’t believe it).\n

Solar Panels

\nSo there you have it, now that the solar panels look like they are ready to drop to world record low prices you can’t find a good cheap inverter charger or charge controller. Who wants to pay $300 to $500 for an MPPT after they’ve been paying $125 for a standard charge controller. After all if you don’t have shading problems (who installs PV arrays under shadows anyway?) you don’t even need an MPPT. Even Morningstar is sold out for charge controllers. If you find some let us know.\n\nAnyway the reason the modules are so available is because the incentives world wide are decreasing. The amount of the tax credit, refund or rebates as well as the FIT’s (Feed In Tariffs) are decreasing as well as the pace of enacting new incentives in new states here and in others areas internationally. People are getting upset about the economic changes in their lives and fighting back at government spending. It’s easy to feel pissed off but have you ever seen a chart of the incentives (tax credits) enjoyed by the oil, coal, and nuclear industry compared to the Solar Industry, its 2500 to 1! It’s all hidden in a huge bundle of legislative and legal bull woven together by about 5000 fossil fuel lobbyists and 1000’s of various Representatives and Senators over the last 75 years\n

PV Installations

\nOne area that is looking good are the RFP (Request For Proposals) for PV Installations on Schools and Universities across the country. Everyday we get a string of 5 to 15 major RFP’s for 10 to a couple hundred kilowatts of PV systems per install. 100 KW is a 40 ft. container of 200 watt modules. It’s Obama stimulus money just now showing up I guess. Frankly we haven’t been able to find the source. It ends up showing up in local newspapers. An RFP clipping service picks it up for us. Unfortunately we can’t do anything with it. The deadlines are usually like 5 days away and it has to be installed by a local contractor. I guess the bureaucracy has to make sure that a good deal of the money is wasted by acting hastily and allowing local contractors to inflate the price of the systems.\n\nNever get a single quote that includes both the installation and the system. At least have them separated otherwise you will end up paying more for the installation than for the entire system. The average cost of installing a system should be $1 to $1.50/watt but systems are selling for as much as $8/watt. Installers are getting paid more than accountants or lawyers when its your money the government is spending.\n\nJohn\n\nBy the way we just got some great deals in (about 8 more containers) so look at what we got and you should be in agreement that the pricing we just discussed is very real. Finally Never use a Grade C or D module on a high voltage system. 48, 24 or 12 volt independent power systems are totally safe to use them on but never on high voltage on=grid systems without batteries.\n\nNot all installers/contractors, lobbyists and/or politicians are bad, unfortunately the majority of them are, so don’t give up the good fight, logic ran out in Government a long time ago a friend of mine from Toronto reminded me yesterday. We intend to save this Planet for our children, they are everything we need to fight for and in the end we will win or go down fighting for solar energy and them. It’s that simple.

Misc. Solar Stuff

From our communication with the Chinese it’s clear they think and want everyone to believe that the solar market in 2011 is going to be great. I wonder why? We will see, we hope it will be, but we are watching the market closely.\n

SUN modules made with Silicon Ribbon Technology

\nWe just got in 6 containers of SUN modules made with Silicon Ribbon Technology, we are not allowed to say who we get them from, but they are cheap and beautiful and high quality as usual. They run from 200 to 215 watts mostly 17 Volts. You can see them listed under Sun Modules. They are available for approx. $1.82/ watt per module, 1.68/ watt per pallet (28) and $1.55/ watt per container. Call or e-mail Louis, Adam or john Kimball for help: 305-710-9645, [email protected]\n\nNow we are competing against ourselves: We are now negotiating for about 5000 modules from a major supplier at an extremely low price. If it happens it will alter the price per watt nationwide even at Sun Electronics, we think. We should know in 1 week. The chance of it happening is about 10%.

BAD NEWS

Conservatives take control in U.S. mid-term elections from top to bottom. STOP THE SPENDING – that may mean solar incentives. Just in the last couple of hours we have answered received  emails from Chinese manufacturers, received over the last two days, with new lower prices, even a couple companies in the U.S.\n\nEuropean Companies from Spain and Germany are also trying to get rid of product to us. It may be only a couple of cents lower per watt but we think the momentum is building for a major price decrease.\n\nWe are rethinking our strategy and we may be lowering our prices for BOS (inverters, batteries, charge controllers) (our SMA inverters are already below cost) and maybe panels as well, in some cases to “at cost” because we carry so much stock ($7M), and our financial situation is good, so we can afford it. In fact we have just hired 5 more people and added 7 new phone lines. However, unlike anyone else, we sell mostly overstocked, discontinued, slow moving, and blemished inventory we buy from suppliers such as Evergreen, GE Solar, BP Solar, Kyocera Solar, Schott, Sanyo, etc. at substantially cheaper prices than Grade A (not that we don’t stock and sell tons of Grade A). We have learned to keep less of Grade A than the discounted modules to avoid potential severe inventory devaluation when we there is a volatile drop in $/we PV prices because of a political change.\n

PV market

\nThe PV market is volatile and politically motivated (it gets votes). Who knows, maybe even conservatives will allow solar incentives to continue for fear of touching the general public’s generally hopes for a solar world. It’s hard to find too many people who put solar down except for the talking heads on MSNBC. Perhaps because the general public doesn’t understand how truly expensive it is, without the incentives. Even then you have to keep the costs at the bare minimum for a solar system to make economic sense and affordable to most people.\n\nIf you live in Haiti where electricity no longer exists or in an off grid home in area where no incentive exists, its worth it. Even our UL listed 42 watt module that only produces 2 cents of electricity a day is actually worth $42 ea. because you don’t have a choice and a Haitian can have a radio and a light. An off grid would have to turn on a noisy and very inconvenient diesel generator. But if the option is paying one cent a day in the city most people would as soon use it and flick the switch that’s already there,.. certainly least from an economical point of view. There are some great other reasons to buy solar like protecting our natural environment and ecosystems. Although a few people don’t seem to care about that as much, usually adults of course and never the kids.\n\nWe have this idea that one day a year it should be kids day (I think I have written this before),  on this day kids get to run the world. It could be sort a of a cross between take your kids to work day and a nice Halloween day of pretend. They could write down and we adults could take notes on what they would do if they were in charge. I think we would lean a lot about how messed up things are. The best ideas could then be consolidated and organized into a a great book every year for all of us to think about. If you don’t think so just ask any 4 year old what kind of house they would like to live in and then to draw a picture of it.\n\nYeah, yeah we know we’re way off the subject but I don’t think anyone reads this thing anyway. We just do it for fun. Very similar to the company, we think. What a great place to work or do an internship.

Panel Price Survey Coming Tomorrow

We are now blocked from Wholesale Solar’s and Solarhome.com’s web site. Affordable will probably be next. Anyway we have begun preparing our survey and will publish it tomorrow. It was compiled by electrical engineering students from the U.S., Japan, France and Pakistan.\n\nWe just wanted to mention that every single one of our solar panels as well as inverters are cheaper than Wholesale Solar’s, Affordable Solar’s and Solar Home’s, ( three most heavily advertised on the internet). we think. Click this blog or our home page tomorrow to click on it.

Two Of The Best Independent Public Solar Websites

My old friend Steve Klamath runs dsireusa.com which gets thousands of hits every day because it tells everyone everything about all  the solar energy incentives available including the rules and regulations in the United States.” It’s possible that they might soon have an International one pretty soon”, he told me at the most recent Solar Power Int., SPI show in L.A. Continue reading