Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Solar Made Easy. Is Solar Right for You?

Making solar easy in Missoula   Climate Smart Missoula, Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA), the City of Missoula and Missoula Federal Credit Union presented an informational workshop about going solar. Their aim – to make it easy! The goal is to help the consumer understand the process of installing a solar electric system and what barriers stand in the way.   Links to all the resources are Here.

Is Solar right for you?  Solar Energy, Missoula-Style!  Solar Process Flowchart

Navigate the flow-chart below to go step-by-step through the process of understanding the local solar landscape, and then chart your own path!

Solar Installer Missoula Montana

Embedded Energy – Solar Module Manufacturing and Pay Back

Embedded Energy - Solar Module ManufacturingOne often stated myth is that manufacturing solar panels requires more energy than the solar module will produce is simply not true.

According to a 2004 National Renewable Energy Laboratory study that analyzes several different panel technologies, “Producing electricity with photovoltaics (PV) emits no pollution, produces no greenhouse gases, and uses no finite fossil fuel resources.” and it takes only 1 – 4 years for the energy savings accumulated by producing electricity from solar to equal the energy cost of producing the panel.

Solar technology has improved in the years since this study was conducted, and production efficiencies have driven the “energy payback period” down even further.  Solar modules generally have a 25 year warranty and can continue to produce long after that time frame(at a slightly reduced rate) lifetime production of a solar module exceeds far embedded costs.

Affordable Housing Valley Villas Solar Electric System Hamilton Montana

Valley Villas-Solar Electric Hamilton Montana Valley Villas is one of the largest solar electric systems in Montana.    It has many unique features, three separate buildings, 34 apartment units, with two laundry rooms.  SBS Solar used all SolarWorld 325 modules and Fronius inverters.

The developer and architect on the project kept their eye on efficiency.
Apartments feature:

  • Air source heat pumps for heating and cooling
  • All energy efficient appliances
  • High performance insulation in the ceiling and walls
  • LED lighting indoors and out
  • High-E windows and doors
  • All 17 lower level units also incorporate handicapped accessible design features
  • Energy efficient washers and dryers in each laundry room
  • And of course individually Net Metered photovoltaic systems to help with energy costs

This landmark installation offers efficient affordable housing units that are a model for the affordable housing industry.

Solar Panels on a cloudy day in Western Montana

Solar Works in Montana on Cloudy Overcast Days

Solar Panels on a cloudy day in Western MontanaSolar electric modules will produce energy even on cloudy days. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, consider that solar panels on a rooftop in foggy San Francisco produce nearly the same as the ones in nearby sunny Sacramento. Consider too that Germany (with a climate not that different from Vancouver Canada) leads the world in residential solar right now, and it is generally an overcast climate.

While the amount of sunlight your panels receive is important, a more accurate representation of the amount of energy your panels can produce is referred to as peak sun-hours or equivalent full sun. It is important, first of all, to note that “peak sun-hours” are not the same as “hours of daylight.” Peak sun-hours refers specifically to how much solar energy is available in an area during a typical day. As a comparison Phoenix Arizona has equivalent full sun value of 6.5, in Western Montana we use the equivalent full sun value of 4.5.  The same equivalent sun hour value as a good part of the continental United States.

Montana is a Great State for Solar.

Solar Installation Missoula MontanaHave you ever heard that solar doesn’t work in Montana?  Simply not true.  Montana is a great state for solar.  Dan Brandborg has been selling, installing and living with solar electricity in  Montana for 30 plus years.

That being said, the true game changer in Montana was net-metering.  This allows Montanans to harness the sunshine generated on our long solar days in the summer time, feed back into the utility grid and use the power during our shorter winter days.  Solar irradiation levels vary across the United States, but every state receives enough sunlight to make solar a good investment. Solar panels will continue to produce a significant amount of energy even on overcast days. Germany has more solar than any other country in the world (and six times the installed capacity of the U.S.), yet Germany’s solar resource is roughly equivalent to that of Alaska.  Solar can work in almost any climate, as long as panels are properly installed in an un-shaded location. Solar panels work with light, not heat so it doesn’t matter how cold it gets outside. In fact, solar panels perform better in cooler temperatures than very hot temperatures.

Small Business Owners Invest in Energy Independence with REAP Grants

Bitterroot Brewery solar electric systemDo you own a small business in Montana (outside the city limits of Missoula)? The USDA Rural Development, REAP (Rural Energy for America Program) offers up to 25% grants for total eligible project costs, as well as loan guarantees.  Partnered with the 30% federal tax credit your savings really add up.

This program helps increase American energy independence by increasing the private sector supply of renewable energy and decreasing the demand for energy through energy efficiency improvements. Over time, these investments can also help lower the cost of energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers.

Application Deadline: 

  • Grants of $20,000 or less: October 31, 2017 and March 31, 2018;
  • Unrestricted Grants (up to $500,000): March 31, 2017;
  • Loan Guarantees are competed continuously throughout the year.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to invest in the long term health of your business with an investment in solar energy and energy savings.

Call Dan for a free solar consultation today 406-541-8410.

Generating Solar Electricity – Helena Montana

Beki Glyde Brandborg of Helena Montana hails from a long family history of conservation and environmentalism. The most recent step on her journey to make a difference in the world was to install a solar electric system that will produce 100% of her homes electric usage.  Through the years Brandborg has purchased Energy Star energy efficient appliances, burned firewood to heat her home (with electric backup), used the most efficient form of lighting available (currently LED) and updated the insulation on her 1970s style home.

Her newly minted 5.85 kW solar electric system sports 18 – SolarWorld 325 watt modules and a 7600 SolarEdge inverter (ready for battery).  Beki knows that the job of caring for the planet and its people is never finished, but for the time being she knows that the energy that her home consumes is generated by the sun.

Solar Pioneer Continues Roof Top Revolution

Solar Pioneer Continues Rooftop Revolution
Russ Lawrence joined the decentralized power revolution years ago with his home in the mountains outside of Hamilton. When he decided to move to town he knew he wanted to maintain his energy independent lifestyle.

Russ is an efficient user of electricity, so using average annual estimates of utility usage (he has not yet been in the home a full year) SBS Solar sized the system to provide 100% of Russ’ annual electric needs.  He is anticipating excess production and plans to convert from his efficient natural gas furnace to an air source heat pump.

One of his first FaceBook posts of his new system included his NorthWestern Energy net-meter running in reverse.

Feed energy back to the grid with NorthWestern Energy Net-Meter.

Feed energy back to the grid with NorthWestern Energy Net-Meter.

 

Solarize Missoula Update

Caroline Lauer with Climate Smart Missoula, quoted in the Missoula Independent in 2015 says Missoula is considered a pilot city for the Solarize campaign, a grassroots movement to increase home solar installations and educate interested residents across the city.

“There’s a tremendous amount of momentum behind renewable energy, particularly solar energy, and it just shows all of the dedication that community leaders have toward making Missoula a more sustainable place.”

Here are some fun installations from Solarize Missoula 2016.  Join Them!!.