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Learn from my mistakes... lookback at my botched installation (NorCal PG&E Territory)

holeydonut

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
2,642
1,982
East Bay NorCal
I got a PM asking me to explain just "how bad" my 7.9 kWp + 3x Powerwall installation was since it seems like I posted an infinite set of problems throughout the last year. I'll just share the details here in case anyone is browsing TMC to research solar+ESS for their own house. This shows you what a messed up installation looks like.

Keep in mind I still don't have PTO, but if you're 44 weeks in, does it really matter another 3 weeks?

The main root cause of my terrible experience is that Sunrun simply wasn't ready to sell Powerwalls. I'm basically beta testing their processes; and their processes SUCK. This shouldn't take away from Sunrun having some really good-hard-working people. The issue lies squarely on process and experience. Nobody over there was ready to face the challenges of ESS since they were so used to solar-only stuff. And nobody over there was accustomed to dealing with an un-cooperative PG&E. Our friendly (sarcasm) monopoly knows PV+ESS hurts their profits the most; and they have folks that will fight homeowners to prevent the installs. Sunrun wasn't ready for that combat.

I had to take on the role of project manager using the wealth of information here on TMC (especially @Vines and @wwhitney). If left to their own devices, Sunrun would have made me pay an extra $10k; and the finished system would be super messed up.

Keep in mind, ZERO of the 44 weeks in my experience was a delay due to parts availability. Sunrun had the Powerwalls in stock since they were entering 2020 with a fresh initiative to be a major Tesla Partner. Sunrun had TEG2 inventory in hand well before my permit was ever issued by the County. Had Sunrun employed fully knowledgeable ESS folks with an end-to-end advocate, I think this install would have taken about 3 months tops (12 weeks). Admittedly, COVID and sheltering in place slowed things down; about 5 of those 44 weeks were lost due to COVID delays and me not being able to get anyone to visit my home.

Sunrun has a great team of doers (the people who put the panels up and run the core operations). I can't stress this enough. The actual 2 weeks of work their installers did on my house to get the solar and ESS hooked up was very good. The failings were all in Sunrun's design and internal lack of experience unblocking issues. 42 weeks of pain, red tape, stupidity, frustration to get access to 2 weeks of great work by great crews.

If you're shopping for an outfit for your own home; make sure they know how to deal with all the hurdles required to install ESS. Tesla Energy is probably your best bet simply because they should know the most. But as we've seen, Tesla can't give white glove service since they're now a volume shop focused on razor thin margins with no room to deviate from their cookie cutter script.

If you go with a smaller shop to get flexibility and a personalized touch... make sure they employ the right people to unblock the issues in my list below. Or else you face the problem of becoming your own PM which is not fun at all.

Here's the overview of all the stupid stuff that has happened each week of my install. Major blockers that required my attention to resolve are highlighted in red. The # of emails includes both email messages coming from Sunrun and outbound messages from me. But the message count excludes the texts between me and various ops folks.

upload_2021-2-22_10-29-6.png
 
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Ampster

Active Member
Oct 5, 2012
1,903
535
Kenwood, California
44 weeks was nothing compared to my simple grid tie install which took over 64 weeks to get PTO. In my case they quoted a service panel upgrade, perhaps not realizing that my panel was fed by buried underground cable. My install was also in late 2017 so coordinating PG&E was delayed because of the fires earlier, and the field guys were tied up with infrastructure repairs. I also agree the field people with PG&E, the building inspector and my installers people were very good.
During that time, somehow my system was turned on but no generation was recorded on my bill but the meter showed generation. I cycled my heat pump water heater and tried to charge my EVs during solar production periods to used the available power. I did not have to pay for the system until the PTO was received. Stuff happens and it usually works out in the end.
 

holeydonut

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
2,642
1,982
East Bay NorCal
44 weeks was nothing compared to my simple grid tie install which took over 64 weeks to get PTO. In my case they quoted a service panel upgrade, perhaps not realizing that my panel was fed by buried underground cable. My install was also in late 2017 so coordinating PG&E was delayed because of the fires earlier, and the field guys were tied up with infrastructure repairs. I also agree the field people with PG&E, the building inspector and my installers people were very good.
During that time, somehow my system was turned on but no generation was recorded on my bill but the meter showed generation. I cycled my heat pump water heater and tried to charge my EVs during solar production periods to used the available power. I did not have to pay for the system until the PTO was received. Stuff happens and it usually works out in the end.


Lol yeah some installs just take forever for a couple of reasons. I feel like I was slapped silly with dozens of completely stupid things that would have been non-factors if sunrun had a better design team.

I’m glad I didn’t have to upgrade or lengthen my underground service line. That is like $10k of total costs. It’s nuts!
 

jboy210

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Dec 2, 2016
5,947
3,997
Northern California
Lol yeah some installs just take forever for a couple of reasons. I feel like I was slapped silly with dozens of completely stupid things that would have been non-factors if sunrun had a better design team. ...

Might be Covid also. Everything in 2020 was affected by Covid. Much of the delays we had in our paperwork to get PTO was due to Covid. First, the city permit office closed for months. People were "working" from home as well as kids were "learning" on Zoom. Then the inspection teams went from video to onsite V2 to video to onsite V3 inspection policies. Then Tesla got a few numbers wrong and PG&E rejected the PTO app, then ...
 

holeydonut

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
2,642
1,982
East Bay NorCal
Might be Covid also. Everything in 2020 was affected by Covid. Much of the delays we had in our paperwork to get PTO was due to Covid. First, the city permit office closed for months. People were "working" from home as well as kids were "learning" on Zoom. Then the inspection teams went from video to onsite V2 to video to onsite V3 inspection policies. Then Tesla got a few numbers wrong and PG&E rejected the PTO app, then ...

Nah, I know COVID was a thing early on. But the straight up gaffs that Sunrun's designers did have nothing to do with COVID and more to do with not knowing my house, Tesla Powerwall 2, and Gateway 2 tech. Here are some examples of roadblocks that weren't related to COVID or PG&E...

The Sunrun designer(s)...

looked at photos of my old main panel and thought I had a 125A service to my home since the "biggest breaker" in it was 90A.
didn't know non-backup loads could be metered with an upstream CT
didn't know the TEG2 had an optional internal panelboard
thought Powerwalls + Gateway could export full load to the grid while the home drew full load for consumption
didn't know that OCPD's could be used as disconnecting means for ESS in Contra Costa county
didn't know what size conduit and conductors to use for 200A service
thought Contra Costa county had setback requirements away from skylights
 

h2ofun

Active Member
Aug 11, 2020
3,279
744
auburn, ca
Nah, I know COVID was a thing early on. But the straight up gaffs that Sunrun's designers did have nothing to do with COVID and more to do with not knowing my house, Tesla Powerwall 2, and Gateway 2 tech. Here are some examples of roadblocks that weren't related to COVID or PG&E...

The Sunrun designer(s)...

looked at photos of my old main panel and thought I had a 125A service to my home since the "biggest breaker" in it was 90A.
didn't know non-backup loads could be metered with an upstream CT
didn't know the TEG2 had an optional internal panelboard
thought Powerwalls + Gateway could export full load to the grid while the home drew full load for consumption
didn't know that OCPD's could be used as disconnecting means for ESS in Contra Costa county
didn't know what size conduit and conductors to use for 200A service
thought Contra Costa county had setback requirements away from skylights
I just drove my some sunrun trucks and they are putting solar on a house. I just shut my head. Seeing the number of trees that will shade the panels just has me saying boy are there great marketing folks out there.
 

jboy210

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Dec 2, 2016
5,947
3,997
Northern California
I just drove my some sunrun trucks and they are putting solar on a house. I just shut my head. Seeing the number of trees that will shade the panels just has me saying boy are there great marketing folks out there.
I have shading on my SolarRoof and am still happy with it. This shading kills much of solar production during late fall (from 80-90 kWh/day in late Spring, down to 5 kWh/day). But the estimate of annual production is still below what we are actually seeing. So as long as they hit the projections I am OK with the shading. And in our area, it is not like you can do anything about shading from trees with the city's Heritage Tree (no-cut) ordinance.
 

holeydonut

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
2,642
1,982
East Bay NorCal
My installer, Sunworks bit the bullet on that one. In the final analysis I have learned enough that I don't think upgrading the size of the service from PG&E would matter in the future but a bigger panel darated down to the service conductor size would be all I would need.


Lol I hope your gas riser is 36" or more away from your main panel...
 

aesculus

Still Trying to Figure This All Out
May 31, 2015
4,625
2,652
Northern California
Keep in mind I still don't have PTO, but if you're 44 weeks in, does it really matter another 3 weeks?
I am now at 90 days which is small compared to 44 weeks, but Tesla admitting that is on the high side. In talking with PG&E today they claimed anytime a question comes up that needs new input, you get tossed back into the start of the queue again. This results in a 30 day count down clock restarting. Sheesh!:eek:
 

Ampster

Active Member
Oct 5, 2012
1,903
535
Kenwood, California
Lol I hope your gas riser is 36" or more away from your main panel..
It is less than 36" but the install was approved and passed the final inspection in March 2019. If I face that dilemma in the future I would have no issue having them cap off or remove the natural gas service. I lived in an all electric home before with an induction cooktop. Todays split systems are much more efficient because you only have to heat or cool the the rooms you occupy.
 

holeydonut

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
2,642
1,982
East Bay NorCal
It is less than 36" but the install was approved and passed the final inspection in March 2019. If I face that dilemma in the future I would have no issue having them cap off or remove the natural gas service. I lived in an all electric home before with an induction cooktop. Todays split systems are much more efficient because you only have to heat or cool the the rooms you occupy.


I wish PG&E were as chill about the 36" rule for me... they literally set my project back 2 months to bicker over if a Solar Ready MSP was considered 'generation equipment' in the PG&E Greenbook definitions.

BTW, as part of me researching solutions to the 36" malarkey... I got a quote to see what it would take to cap off my gas service and remove the riser. That part is actually owned by PG&E since it comes before the gas meter. It's a minimum $2,000 of engineering fees plus some other costs that would be TBD.
 

Ampster

Active Member
Oct 5, 2012
1,903
535
Kenwood, California
they literally set my project back 2 months to bicker over if a Solar Ready MSP was considered 'generation equipment' in the PG&E Greenbook definitions
For that and other reasons, I made the decision to not go for any rebate money which literally took PG&E out of the loop as far as my hybrid inverter was concerned. All I needed was a building permit since that part of my system is behind the meter and my GT equipment under the PTO is the only thing doing any export.
No doubt PG&E has two silos and I suspect there is little communication or coordination between the gas and electric entities. I did hear a comment from someone who had a conversation with the PG&E CEO during the bankruptcy. His input was that PG&E would like to be out of the retail natural gas delivery business. That was consistent with other trends in California but may take years to accomplish.
 

holeydonut

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
2,642
1,982
East Bay NorCal
For that and other reasons, I made the decision to not go for any rebate money which literally took PG&E out of the loop as far as my hybrid inverter was concerned. All I needed was a building permit since that part of my system is behind the meter and my GT equipment under the PTO is the only thing doing any export.
.

You still need PG&E to grant a service disconnect so folks can remove the meter and safely work on the MSP. I didn't think it was possible to completely remove PG&E from the equation on the electricity side.
 

Ampster

Active Member
Oct 5, 2012
1,903
535
Kenwood, California
I didn't think it was possible to completely remove PG&E from the equation on the electricity side.
I don't know what the process would be for gas. One alternative would be to cap off the pipes on my side of the meter. Unless there is a monthly fee I would theoretically have no usage.
On the electrical side, you are correct, the building code requires a grid connection if one is available. Since I drive two Teslas I never expect that it would be optimum to not use some of the grid connection. I also expect to see more fixed pricing but I can live with that, especially if I can get credit at peak rates and charge my Teslas off peak. I know NEM 3.0 is on the horizon and I do not know the timing of my next project. I do think that the political environment in California should continue to favor some benefits for renewable energy.
 
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holeydonut

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
2,642
1,982
East Bay NorCal
Little dose of good news for this thread... (no, I don't have PTO yet... I just got an email that said my application had an error and is being re-sent to the queue).

But here's a picture of my home energy as tracked on the Tesla App. It's such a good feeling seeing that PG&E line completely FLAT. #happydance.

upload_2021-3-2_8-55-15.png


We did 4 loads of laundry, dishes, cooked dinner, and nobody had to think "hey what time is it? should I wait till later???" I know you peeps in California have seen the "let it shine" advertisement where people store solar in pots and pans and trap wind energy in some balloon. The CPUC/Utilities are trying to brainwash you through this "Energy Upgrade California" initiative into thinking you're the problem for using energy at the wrong time.
 

jboy210

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Dec 2, 2016
5,947
3,997
Northern California
Little dose of good news for this thread... (no, I don't have PTO yet... I just got an email that said my application had an error and is being re-sent to the queue).

But here's a picture of my home energy as tracked on the Tesla App. It's such a good feeling seeing that PG&E line completely FLAT. #happydance.

View attachment 641342

We did 4 loads of laundry, dishes, cooked dinner, and nobody had to think "hey what time is it? should I wait till later???" I know you peeps in California have seen the "let it shine" advertisement where people store solar in pots and pans and trap wind energy in some balloon. The CPUC/Utilities are trying to brainwash you through this "Energy Upgrade California" initiative into thinking you're the problem for using energy at the wrong time.

Not sure about the wrong time. The utilities push off-peak usage and it does look like most of your heavy consumption was off-peak and while the sun was out. We operate the same way, doing laundry during the day.
 

holeydonut

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
2,642
1,982
East Bay NorCal

holeydonut

Active Member
Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
2,642
1,982
East Bay NorCal
Not sure about the wrong time. The utilities push off-peak usage and it does look like most of your heavy consumption was off-peak and while the sun was out. We operate the same way, doing laundry during the day.

Yeah, but we did the dishes and laundry during the evening peak. Bottom line, nobody had to pause and think "what time is it" before doing a chore. When people talk about ROI of a system; it's literally priceless to be able to keep this mindset of just doing what you need to do when you need to do it instead of looking at the clock.

When it gets hot enough to run air conditioning... I'm going to set the damn thing to 74 and not give a thought about pre-cooling the house or doing some energy rush-hour BS.
 

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