Latest articles by The Solar Nerd

Keep up to date on industry news and articles relevant to green living and the solar homeowner.

Illustration of a person cutting a contract
Stuck in a long solar lease contract? Here's what you can do.
As more people realize their disadvantages, solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) are shrinking in popularity, dropping from a high of 59% of the market in 2012 to only 37% in 2019. That’s still a sizeable chunk of the market, and some people regret signing these contracts. With 20 year contracts being common, solar leases can tie you up for a very long time. Many consumers sign them without doing adequate research, especially after being solicited by door-to-door or kiosk salespeople.
Photo illustation of the duck curve
What is the duck curve?
Here’s a super quick crash course on the electric grid: When you plug in a kettle or turn on your air conditioner, you add a little bit of load to the electric grid. This causes the voltage on the grid to drop by a tiny amount. If enough people do that at the same time, the operators of the grid respond by asking power plants to generate more power. This also works the other way: if power plants are cranking out more electricity than customers are using, power plants are asked to dial their power output down, or even shut off completely.
Photo of a house with all-black solar panels.
Latest attack on net metering in California defeated - for now
A revision to net metering rules in California that was working its way through the California Legislature failed to get enough votes on June 2 to move forward, killing the proposal for now. The proposal, Assembly Bill 1139, was authored by state assembly member Lorena Gonzalez and contained several controversial changes to California’s current net metering rules for solar homeowners, most notably: Substantially reducing the credit paid for selling excess solar electricity back to the utility.
Photo of aurora borealis
Will solar panels work after an EMP?
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a burst of electromagnetic energy. Like any magnetic field it’s invisible, but if it’s powerful enough it can knock out electronics or even the power grid. This happens because a moving magnetic field can generate an electrical current in a conductive wire. In fact, this is how a generator works. If you take a really big moving magnetic field and apply it to a really big wire - such as the transmission wires of the electrical grid - the resulting surge of electricity could be large enough to cause widespread damage to power plants, electrical substations, and other major infrastructure.
Photo of a shopping cart full of money.
4 tips on how to get the best deal on solar panels
Everyone likes a good deal, but not everybody knows how to get one. This is especially true of home solar which, for most people, is unfamiliar territory. Fortunately, the way to find a good deal on a home solar installation isn’t a lot different from any other major home renovation project. Read on for some simple tips you can follow before speaking to your local solar installer. Tip 1: Know which incentives are available to you One of the most important things to know as someone shopping for quotes on a home solar installation is the rebates available to you, especially tax incentives.
Closeup photo of a solar panel
When will solar panels be more efficient?
When it comes to buying solar panels for your home, the first thing that manufacturers usually tout is the panel’s efficiency. Solar panel efficiency refers to the amount of sunlight hitting the panel that gets converted into electricity. The intensity of sunlight can be expressed in watts - the same unit used to measure electrical power. For example, if 1,000 watts of sunlight is shining on your solar panel and it generate 200 watts of electricity, the panel is 20% efficient.
Photo of people looking at a bill
I have solar panels installed. Why is my electric bill so high?
Do you already have solar panels on your home? Normally that’s a great thing, but maybe you’re looking at your monthly utility bill and wondering why it’s not lower. For most people, helping the environment is one reason why people go solar, but the top reason according to market research is saving money on your electric bill. This is why it can be so frustrating if you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a solar installation or committed to a 25 year solar lease and you’re looking at a monthly electric bill that’s still pretty high.
Sunrun: The complete review and consumer guide
If you live in a city where home solar is popular, like any of the big cities in southern California or the Bay Area, you’ve probably heard about Sunrun. Maybe you’ve seen their blue vans rolling around town, or had their sales people knock on your door. Sunrun is the largest home solar installer in the US by a wide margin: they currently have about 14% of the US market. Not only that, but they recently acquired Vivint Solar, adding another 6% market share to their total.