Solar Blog


Off Grid-No Compromises

SunnyCal just completed a major off-grid residential system upgrade in the California foothils.  The customer wanted it all…power for his home, power for drying room, power for greenhouses, power for water well.  With three mini-split AC units, three outbuildings, and numerous house guests, it was a pretty tall order.

The system we installed had the following equipment:

1) 11kW inverter power

2) Two 3800W charge controllers

3) Twenty-eight 270W solar modules (7560W)

4) 20kW of lithium batteries

5) 12V solar systems in two shed structures

6) Outdoor distribution board to distribute power to five seasonal greenhouse.

7) Diesel generator start/stop control to boost battery charge if needed.


The final system is able to operate all customer loads with no concern for power dropout or restart headached. Recent weeks have seen heavy AC cooling use, full-on harvest work, and ramp-up of drying room environmental control. So far the generator has only been needed when operating the additional sustained load of the well pump for many hours across several days.


Going forward, the customer indicates he will probably add another bank of batteries in order to power sustained surge use…but he is in no hurry.


Battery box before upgrade:

Battery after upgrade:

























Solar Inverter before upgrade:


Solar Inverter after upgrade:

Diesel Generators For Continuous Use

Finally…….we located a top grade diesel generator for use with our solar customers.   SunnyCal now offers Aurora Diesel generators as our preferred generator for off-grid and battery backup customers.    These generators offer A LOT !

                     + Warranty is valid in continuous-use power applications (voids Generac generators  warranty)

                     + Maintenance intervals are 500hrs between oil changes

                     + Units come with remote control panel and wireless start options

                     + Fuel tank is integrated. Avoids extra propane tank & trench.

                     + Industry-leading  2/5 year warranty

                     + Get a longlasting diesel generator for less than inferior propane solutions

                     + And last of all……they are quite, operating at 1/2 the rpm’s of gas and propane generators

These generators will likely be the last generator you ever need to purchase.  We have customers using diesel generators that are more than 50 years old.   That is cool!



Off-Grid Cannabis Farm

Changing laws for cannabis growers is driving need for off-grid solar systems. 

Greenhouse 1a

Bob operates several greenhouses  on his property that is located beyond the reach of PGE power. Needing to avoid the cost and noise of 24 hr. generator operation, he turned to SunnyCal Solar for an off-grid sollar system. 

In a field  about 60 yards from his home we installed a ground mounted 7600W solar array.

Array Pic 1a


In his garage, we installed two Schneider 5500W inverters, two 3000W charge controllers.The entire system operation is controlled through the main distribution panel.

Dual Inverter Sys. 1a


For his battery bank we installed 80 lithium battery cells. Each cell produces 3.2V, and all together create a 48V bank. Each set of five cells has a battery management circuit to ensure proper balance of voltage in all the cells. In total these produce an 18 kWhr lithium battery bank. Bob can see his battery voltage and charge level directly from the monitor panel next to the main circuit breaker.

Battery close up 1a reduced

Now his home and grow lights can be powered by solar energy.  When the load gets too high, or the batteries get drained due to limited sunlight, the backup diesel generator will turn on to top off the batteries.

This solution enables immediate operation of his 2 acre farm business, while providing normal home power. The high cost of installing PGE power poles for miles was saved.

This is by all meanings of the words, a GREEN FARM!


Battery+Solar PowerHub Improves Solar Payback

The evolution of utility company rateplans has reduced mid-day solar backfeed credits. The new trend is to charge higher prices for energy used during evening hours. This means that peak solar production occurs at times when  the backfeed credits are lower.  : > (

For the average family pattern, the higher rate “peak hours” now apply during the busy evening activities. This can significantly increase the daily energy costs, even in solar-equipped homes.

Solar+batteries can be used to “time shift” in two beneficial ways.  

1) Customer can elect to entirely disconnect from the utility company during the peak hours of the evening, therby entirely avoiding the high peak time energy costs. The batteries charge during the middle of the day, and the energy is not used until later in the day.  

2) Alternatively, battery energy can be used to “shave the peaks” off evening energy use. This scenario enable solar owners to reduce the amount of energy they buy during the expensive hours.  This scenario will work well even on solar system with smaller battery banks.

Either of these methods essentially restore the peak time solar performance benefit that existed before the recent rate plan changes.  : > }

The SunnyCal PowerHubTM  is a solar inverter that contains battery options to enable "time shifting" of solar energy.  The PowerHub can scale up in size as customer needs grow (or utilty rateplans change). Initial systems can be purchased with minimal batteries if desired, and they can be expanded in the future.   The PowerHub is built in the USA.

Solar system owners can add PowerHub inverters to existing solar arrays, thereby adding “time shifting” and battery backup to existing systems.   The PowerHub also enables solar systems to continually produce power even during power outages.  Solar owners can now have unsurpassed benefits from their solar systems.

Click here to learn more

Solar in the Garden

This weeks customer wanted solar in his garden.    Wants to harvest power I guess!  This system should “grow” him about $350 of energy every month.


As you can see from the picture, the array actually stradles the boulders.

Typical Array Structure

And the power needed to go a long ways.  This  shows how trenching can be a big part of solar system installations.

Long Trench

Things turned out pretty well.

Solar Garden 2

This system required two inverter, so we had to add a dedicated breaker panel just for hte solar inverters.

Dual Inverter reduced

TIm and Dale did a good job on this one!


SunnyCal is Ramping Up

Well, another shoe has dropped….Sungevity has laid off the majority of their workers.  

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/sungevity-layoffs-solar-rooftop

Here at SunnyCal we are just ramping up.  Hopefully we can hire some of the good workers that are now coming on the job market. 

Your Solar Company Go Under?

Wow, my solar company went out of business, now what? 

As solar prices continue to fall, many of the solar companies who depended on excessively high sale prices or lease financing are falling away. In the past months many solar owners whose systems were installed by SunEdison and The Solar Company(thesolarco) now find out bad news when they call for support.

Typically a company that is going out of business will start the process by laying off of many employees, having a period of poor support to customer problems, followed by the inevitable announcent to go out of business.

So where can a system owner go from here?  

The best way to think about preserving your investment (and keeping your electric bill low), is to think about solar support like your medical doctor.  It is best to have a pre-existing relationship “before the problems develop”, then when you need support, the relationship is in place already.

SunnyCal Solar is sympathetic to the fact that a person who has a failed solar system is in a tough spot.  Not only do you have the ongoing solar payment, but the failure can cause your PGE bill to begin racking up big monthly bills also.  You get his with a financial double-whammy.

The SOLAR CHECKUPTM is a monthly service program offered to solar system owners. This program starts with a thorough documentation and testing of your solar system, then on a monthly basis we check on your system performance. A monthly record is maintained of your system performance, so any degradation of the system output over time can be supported by real data.  Battery backup system programs include battery maintenance and testing.

Solar sytem owners can join the SOLAR CHECKUPTM program, even if your system was not installed by SunnyCal Solar.  There is a small startup fee for such systems to cover the cost of creating the system documentation.

The typical cost for SOLAR CHECKUPTM starts at $29 per month for the basic service, and increases with the number of inverters in the system. For many solar system owners, losses of single month of system failure will more than pay for an entire year of this service.

For more information call Becky at 209-464-6100.

Get Ready to be a SUPERUSER

Are you ready to be called a “SUPERUSER”?  

Beginning on March 1, 2017 PG&E is enacting a new new rateplan that will expose all their residential customers to the possibility of being classified as a SuperUser, and paying high penalty rates as a result.  To be clear, PGE explains this is a “State-mandated” increase. Many consumers have already received the “warning letters” form PGE, indicating they are in danger of receiving the “High Usage Surcharge”.

What is the rate plan? The new rateplan is another step in rate changes that will result in ever-increasing utility bills for most households.  In March, PGE will change from 3-tiers of prices, down to only 2-tiers; problem is the increased price of the second tier to be as high as the previous third tier.  That means as soon as you blow through your tier one usage, you will be essentially moved with to the highest tier price.  This can cause many bills to double.

The SuperUser is what happens next.  When the amount of energy you use exceeds 4x your tier one allowance, your become a SUPERUSER !   How much will the “High Usage Surcharge be?”, well this is where things get fuzzy.  The PGE website indicates as of 2/2/17 that the Surcharge will be defined by the PUC in January.  I guess things are kind of backed up.  My suspicion is either the PUC or PGE is waiting to see the outrage over the other rate increases before they announce yet another increase.

Aside from becoming an energy hermit or moving to a 2-room city apartment, the ultimate solution for most homeowners will be to install a solar system with battery storage. These homeowners can benefit form solar, and use the batteries chop off the energy peaks during the expensive times of the day.

The SunnyCal PowerHub enables solar power with a few batteries to be installed now, and gradually add more batteries over time.


SunnyCal Solar Power Backup in Flood

The Sierra Foothills have seen a lot of rain this winter. Below is a picture of a  solar powered building that has  been flooded….repeatedly!    Note the lights are sill working.

No problems so far.      

Flooded bldg 1a reduced


Solar Industry Changes

The final months of 2016 brought about the first indications of change in the solar electric industry, and that trend continues in 2017.  These changes are creating tremendous financial opportunities for solar buyers.

Aug. 2015   Sunpower announced layoff of 1600 workers following dismal  Q2 results (USA Today)

Aug. 2016   Solar City, after continued financial losses over years, has had layoffs and restructuring(SJ Mercury News). Recent rumors seemingly indicate a shift from solar leases over to actually selling systems.

Sept. 2016   Solar World announces layoff of 500 workers from USA factories due to profitibility concerns prompted by recent downward market pressure on solar modules(PV-Tech).

Other companies to watchcould be The Solar Company, First Solar, SunRun, Sungevity & Vivint Solar.

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The result can be a blessing in disguise for comsumers looking to add solar.  The general slowdown has caused prices of solar modules to drop by more than 50% in some cases, leading to unheard of low prices for new system installations. 

It seems the trend is for increasing numbers of solar installations to be performed by  smaller, often local, contractors. The days to robo-calls hounding consumers may be on the decline, replaced instead by local contractors providing installations within their local communities.  

I expect recent events, and this trend,  will ultimately lead to more satisfied solar owners.








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