July 20, 2016 | Jen Olson

Editor’s Note: A&R Solar continues to monitor the evolving battery storage market. In addition to waiting for the Tesla Powerwall to become available to installers in the Pacific Northwest, we are also researching other companies that offer similar systems.

While the Tesla Powerwall dominates in the media, a competitor is quietly gaining ground in the U.S. storage market.

Sonnen, a Germany company with corporate headquarters in Los Angeles, has completed more than 12,000 installs of its storage systems and has more than 50 percent of Germany’s storage market. Tesla is in the early stages of rolling out the Powerwall, and and there is no word as to when units will start shipping to the Northwest.

But beyond experience, there are two major differences between these two lithium-ion storage systems: Sonnen comes with a power inverter built-in while the Powerwall requires you to purchase a separate inverter. (Storage systems require inverters separate from your solar inverter.) Sonnen also offers a 10-year, 10,000-cycle warranty, while the Powerwall’s warranty is, well, a little complicated right now.

Storage systems are still gaining traction in the United States but are becoming increasingly popular as energy prices increase and the technology becomes more affordable. Many of the systems are stackable, allowing homeowners to increase capacity over time.

The most popular reason to invest in storage in the Northwest is to keep your family powered during outages. Because it recharges automatically during the day, storage is perfect for extended power outages.

Unlike generators, battery storage qualifies for the Federal Income Tax Credit as long as 75 percent or more of the energy it stores come from your solar energy system. While Washington and Oregon don’t have time-of-use surcharges (electricity prices increase at peak usage times), some industry experts believe that changes could be on the horizon. Having battery storage protects you from those rate spikes by allowing you to draw energy from your storage system during peak hours.

To receive the federal tax benefits, your home must be connected to the grid, even though Sonnen’s Eco system has off-grid capabilities.

Sonnen has won several awards, including Greentech Media’s 2016 Grid Edge Award for innovation, and Cleantech’s 2015 Company of the Year Award in both Israel and Europe. Its parent company has been in business for more than a century.

To learn more about Sonnen and other solar storage options, or to get a quote for adding a storage system to your existing solar PV system, please reach us at (206) 707-9937 or (503) 420-8680.

July 11, 2016 | Jen Olson

Thinking about going solar? Visit this Southeast Portland home that recently had a solar PV system installed.

Ask questions of the homeowner and a solar consultant in a fun, no-pressure environment. Wine, non-alcoholic beverages, and light snacks will be served.

Time: Sunday, July 17th, 4-6pm
Location: 1333 SE Clatsop Street, Portland 97202

With a diverse landscape and an enduring spirit of ingenuity and progress, Portland is fertile ground for the many benefits of solar energy. A&R Solar offers Oregonians advanced PV systems, expert installations, and in-depth industry knowledge that sets us apart from the competition.

Can’t make it, but still interested in solar? Call A&R at 503-420-8680 or fill out your information at the bottom of this page. Make sure to mention the Portland Solar Open House for a $500 discount when you go solar!

June 21, 2016 | Jen Olson

Tesla created a frenzy in the renewable energy market when it announced its first two energy storage products last year.

The Powerwall has been piloted in a few select areas in the United States but has yet to become widely available. However, Tesla isn’t the only–or the first–player in the storage game. A number of competitors are emerging in this new market, from established companies to startups that have yet to release products. The good news for consumers is that battery storage will qualify for the Federal Income Tax Credit, as long as the battery system is charged more than 75 percent from solar.

We’re watching the battery storage market carefully and wanted to introduce you to a few of the companies that are competing with the Tesla Powerwall:


sonnenone_tect_specs_home2x_3Sonnen (pronounced zon-nen) has been dubbed “The Tesla Killer” by some industry insiders.

The German-based company began offering its system to U.S. customers in December 2015. Meanwhile in Germany, the company launched a community network platform where a virtual grid powered by solar and storage allows members to trade power among themselves while exporting the excess to the public grid. The CEO calls the platform “the Airbnb of energy.”

Compared to the first Tesla Powerwalls being deployed now, Sonnen has more than 10,000 systems in use around the world and is in the eighth generation of its residential battery product. In the United States, systems have been installed in 12 states, including Hawaii, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, South Dakota, Missouri, Louisiana, George, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. It also offers a 10-year, 10,000-cycle guarantee, meaning that the company stands behind the system the first 10,000 times it is discharged and recharged. That’s more than 27 years if you are using the system one full cycle a day.

Adara Power

Juicebox34Founded in 2013 as JuiceBox Energy, Adara Power offers an 8.6 kWh storage system for residential use. The company says it has installed systems in seven U.S. states, including California, Nevada, New York, Maine, Hawaii, Utah and North Carolina.

The system, comprised of lithium-ion batteries, has a controller to monitor the state of the battery, the PV output and building load from the inverter. It has a 10-year, 4,000-cycle guarantee.

Sunverge Energy

Battery_Sunverge_outdoor_02Sunverge is a California-based company that was founded in 2009 and recently announced a partnership with New York utility Con Edison to offer storage to more than 300 households as part of a pilot project.

Its latest release, the Solar Integration System (SIS), is suitable both for installation into existing home solar systems and for packaging with new solar panels. It can automatically isolate from the grid in the event of a loss of grid power then deliver power to the site with no interruption in service or loss in power. Sunverge has a 10-year warranty.


second2Orison is a startup that aims to be “the Nest of the energy industry,” referring to the programmable, self-learning home automation products. Orison recently took to Kickstarter and raised almost $350,000 to help fund its lightweight, easy-to-install batteries, which you can plug directly into an existing wall outlet. At 2.2 kWh, the basic unit won’t give you a lot of backup power, but it’s somewhat expandable. An app lets users check how much money they’ve saved and see the general usage statistics from the device. A wall unit has customizable LED backlighting, while the tower unit has a Bluetooth speaker and five USB ports. Orison offers a 10-year, 5,000-cycle guarantee, but it remains to be see if or when it will be available.


08325374-photo-02.jpgSchneider Electric’s EcoBlade is a scalable storage system that hangs on a garage wall, much like the Tesla Powerwall. The EcoBlade includes lithium ion batteries, charge controller, inverter, and energy management software. The 5 kWh EcoBlade is expected to be released in 2016.

June 15, 2016 | Jen Olson

If you are considering adding a solar energy system to your home or business, you’ll want to do your research when considering which installer to choose.

We’ve come up with a list of questions that can help you identify quality companies. When you’re informed, you can invest in your energy future with confidence.

We’ve created a downloadable PDF for you to print and use during your discussions. Below are the questions and our answers.

Q) How many years has your company been installing solar?
A) Ten years come March 2017. We’ve been at this awhile.

Q) What do your warranties cover and for how long?
A) Our Perfect 10 Warranty includes a 10-year Workmanship Warranty, 10-year Free Equipment Replacement Program, and our 10-year Highest Production Guarantee.

Q) What is your guaranteed system production?
A) Our Highest Production Guarantee means your solar system will perform as promised, or we will pay you 110 percent of any missed energy savings and incentive payments.

Q) What is your General and Electrical Contractor License Numbers? Do you subcontract any of the work, and if so, what are their License Numbers?
A) Our sales, design, permitting, accounting, installation, electrical, and customer service are all under one roof. If your installer is subbing out work, who are you going to call if it goes wrong? Here are our license numbers:
WA Electrical: RSOLAS*903JM // WA Contractor: RSOLASC936KB
OR Electrical: C1179 // OR CCB: 207641

Q) How many projects have you installed in the Northwest?
A) By 2017 we will have installed more than 1,000 residential, commercial, community solar, and utility-grade systems in Washington and Oregon. Experience matters when it comes to your home.

Q) How much insurance do you carry?
A) We carry 4x of what’s required: $1 million/occurrence, $2 million aggregate. Ask if there are any current claims against your solar contractor’s insurance that might affect you as one of their customers.

Q) Do you have a list of references that we could speak to who have installed the specific products that you are proposing?
A) Absolutely – do you want them from one block over, or two? Joking aside, we’re pleased to provide local references who will give you an honest appraisal of our work.

Q) What are your, Yelp, BBB, Google, and Facebook review scores?
A) 4.93/5. Yelp: 4.5/5. BBB: A+. Google: 5/5. Facebook: 4.3/5. Here’s where you can get the real stuff on solar contractors. Make sure to click “other reviews” at the bottom of Yelp.

Q) Did the contractor visit the property, take measurements, and conduct a solar shading analysis, or was it done remotely over the internet?
A) We always show up before the install. Ever buy jeans on the internet that actually fit? We haven’t. Your house is as unique as your fingerprints, and someone should probably come and see what’s what.

Q) Are you a pre-certified contractor with our utility if they have this program? (PSE, SnoPUD, Seattle City Light, PGE, Pacific Power, EnergyTrust, etc.)
A) Yes, yes, and yes – and it didn’t come about just by filling out a form. Call up your utility, and ask what it’s like working with your solar contractor and if they rate them.

Q) Do you pay your workers fairly, and are you involved in the communities you serve?
A) Absolutely. A&R Solar is in it for the long haul and that starts with treating people incredibly well. We were the first employee-owned solar company in the Northwest (we currently have 11 employee-owners) and are proud to be a B-Corporation, directing us to contribute to the communities we serve. This is a really fun part of our jobs:

Q) Do you have any certifications or ongoing training that hold you to a higher standard?
A) NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) is solar’s gold standard and each of our departments (design, install, project management, sales, executive) has at least one NABCEP Certified member. NABCEP Certification is the ultimate validation of experience and knowledge in the growing solar industry.

model 3
April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

Tesla made news again recently for discontinuing one highly-anticipated product and accepting down payments on another.

Tesla announced recently that it has discontinued its much-discussed 10-kWh residential battery and has pulled all references to it from its website and press kit.

A smaller system, called the Daily Powerwall, is still being built, the company said.

In simple terms, the Powerwall stores energy. It is designed to bank excess energy produced from a home’s solar energy system during a sunny day for use at night or to provide backup power if the grid is down. Some industry analysts believe that it could eventually revolutionize how homes and businesses get their energy–instead of being reliant on a utility, they simply could power their own buildings by converting energy from the sun.

However, the lithium-ion battery solution is extremely costly, about 30 percent higher than traditional lead-acid batteries that are used in most backup systems. A&R continues to monitor these developments and will be installing Powerwall systems once they become available.

Model 3
While retooling its battery strategy, Tesla scored big with electric vehicle fans by opening up its yet-to-be-released Model 3.

Within a week, more than 325,000 people paid a $1,000 down payment on the Model 3, which has a $35,000 starting price.

A $7,500 federal tax credit is helping to drive all of those down payments. However, the tax credit is limited to the first 200,000 cars from any manufacturer.

Many EV owners are also solar energy system owners, opting to charge their vehicles through renewable energy. A typical driver would need about 3 kW worth of solar to power 100 percent of the EV’s annual energy needs.

April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

A Seattle church that installed solar won an award for its efforts to combat global warming.

Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church received the recognition from Interfaith Power & Light, a national group that encourages religious congregations across the country to address global warming by reducing their carbon footprint.

The church’s system–installed by A&R Solar in 2015–saves six tons a year of carbon dioxide from electricity that isn’t drawn from the electrical grid. In 2015, St. Andrew’s will have reduced or offset approximately 80 percent of its carbon emissions.

The effort is part of a covenant adopted by the National Episcopal church aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from every facility it maintains by a minimum of 50 percent by 2019.

The church also installed an eGauge monitoring system to help track the solar panels’ production and the facilities energy consumption.

All parishioners who install solar with A&R will receive up to a $500 referral bonus, and the church will receive a matching donation.

The church is active in a variety of environmental initiatives, including serving shade grown coffee, growing organic produce, which is used as part of its feeding ministries, and having a robust recycling, on-site composting and waste management system.

Read more about Saint Andrew’s solar panels.

Longview-Cowlitz PUD2
April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

A&R Solar recently wrapped up another community solar project, this time on the Cowltiz PUD’s administrative building in Longview along the Oregon border.

Utility customers can opt-into the program purchasing units at $100 each. In exchange, they receive credits toward their bills and also financial incentives from the state.

The 58 kW project allows utility customers who may rent or not have a site suitable for solar to participate in renewable energy.

The cost of the program is paid for by the ratepayers who opt into the program.

Portland-Emerson St
April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

IMG_20160324_084313This northeast Portland home’s solar energy system will offset more than 95 percent of its energy consumption.

The 6.84 kW system features (24) made-in-Oregon SolarWorld modules and two SMA inverters.

Edmonds Lutheran Solar
April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

A church in Edmonds that feeds seniors, hosts 12-step groups, and serves as a learning center for kids is now powered by solar energy, thanks in part to a donation from A&R Solar.

The 9.9 kW system, together with conservation measures, should offset almost a third of the church’s power costs. A volunteer community group selected the church as the recipient of the donation as part of the Solarize South County campaign in 2014. A&R worked with the church for more than a year to make the installation happen.

“Doing social good is baked into our DNA at A&R. We believe that solar energy can make the world a better place in a very fundamental way,” said Reeves Clippard, CEO of A&R Solar.

The system features 36 made-in-Washington panels. It was donated in part by A&R Solar, and itek Energy in Bellingham also contributed. Contributions from the congregation made up the rest.

The system should pay for itself in about five years and keep producing electricity for a few decades.

Greenbridge2 3x4
February 5, 2016 | Jen Olson

We see it all of the time: When one homeowner on the block installs solar, others follow.

By installing solar on your house, you get to set an example for others in your neighborhood and community.

Sometimes neighbors can have questions about your new system and might even challenge the installation. Here are a couple of things to know:

Can my HOA ban my solar energy system?

No. State law in both Washington and Oregon prevents homeowner associations from outright prohibiting the installation of solar PV systems as long as the system meets all health, safety and performance standards required by state and local permitting authorities.

We’ve had dozens of customers over the years who belonged to an HOA. We’ve found that many times, the design that we include in our quote is enough to soothe concerns. We are also happy to meet with the HOA board, answer any questions, and go through the state law to show how our system will comply.

Here are some helpful links from Northwest Solar Communities about HOAs and solar:

HOAs & Solar PV
HOA Letter from Oregon Department of Energy
Solar on Condos

Will my system cause glare for my neighbors?

This shouldn’t happen. The whole goal of a solar panel is to absorb, not reflect, sunlight. In fact, solar panels incorporate anti-reflective glass that’s rated for installation at airports where glare is a serious concern for pilots.