Category Archives: Energy Efficiency

Missoula’s City Life Community Center soaks up the sun

Northwestern Energy grant, local donations help youth center install 72 solar panelsNorthwestern Energy grant, local donations help youth center install 72 solar panels

City Life Community Center is getting into the energy-efficiency game after landing a $50,000 grant to install 72 solar panels atop the center’s roof.

City Life director Bob Grace was joined by 10 volunteers and a crew from SBS Solar on Saturday to install the 23,400-watt solar array. Nine tons of ballast ensures the panels won’t leave the roof. The only change to the physical roof was two small holes drilled to conduit the energy into the building.  (Read the entire article at http://missoulian.com)

IF you have 15 minutes and want to see the future, check out this video!

This article sums up where are heading with our Industry.  We are proud to say we are working with the SolarEdge inverters and have been for some time.  If you are interested in more fun information , click on the Video link to see a great 15 minute look at the future. Who of us will be driving the first Google or Apple car on your block?

 

http://blog.renewableenergyworld.com/ugc/blogs/2015/10/elon_musk_s_gigafact.html?cmpid=renewablestorage1152015

 

 

 

Ground Mounts Versus Roof Mounted Solar Electric Modules

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ground mounts versus roof mounted solar electric modules?

Roof Mounted solar photovoltaic modules have the advantages of low cost and height, generally above nearby obstacles and harms way.  This economical method utilizes the trusses of the structure to secure the modules.  However the roof is not ideal in every case.  Perhaps there are significant obstructions to sun exposure on the roof, such as nearby trees, buildings, or terrain.  Or the roof itself has obstructions that will interfere with full sun exposure, such as sky lights and chimneys.  Remember even the shadow from a deciduous tree limb in winter is substantial enough to reduce the output of a solar module.  In these cases a ground mount might be the preferred option.  Advantages here include ease of snow removal and variety in the location of the array.  We typically work with an excavator and pour concrete to secure the mount which increase the total cost of the system. Electric code also requires a fence surrounding the array to restrict access. Give Dan a call to discuss ideal installation for your solar electric system.

Economical LED lighting is finally here!

Energy efficient LED LightingWe have finally arrived at point in time when LED’s are at equal or less cost of the compact fluorescent, curly bulbs.  This is a major achievement as LED’s last much longer, are again, much more efficient than compact fluorescents and contain no mercury which requires special handling when recycling.

When we started working and living with solar systems 30 years ago we had no choice but to use incandescent bulbs.  Mr. Edison’s revolutionary bulb though was eight times better at producing heat than it is at producing light.  So if you want to keep that pump house from freezing or warm those chickens you have the right bulb.  But otherwise it’s time to cycle these antiques out of your home.

When compact fluorescents arrived on the scene, we were a
ble to order these at 12 volts DC and these bulbs lasted for decades.  Then they became available at 120 volts AC, the kind of power we all use in out US homes.  Then overseas manufactures reduced the cost and quality of some compact fluorescents.  I have had feedback from too many that CF’s only last a year or so.  Bummer, as the major manufactures such as Sylvania and GE still produce CF’s with excellent lifespans.  Our local utility was even moved to purchase a cheap brand of bulbs and send them out at no cost to the consumer. Never mind that the CF’s embedded energy to produce makes them a negative even after their increased efficiency.

So long live the LED.  Maybe these will be nick named as more true “Obama Bulb” as the times, they are a changing.

Use your Solar Electric generated electricity most efficiently.

Use your Solar Electric generated electricity most efficiently.  Begin by looking at the largest energy loads in our Western Montana area, Heating, Cooling, Hot water, Lighting, appliances, and other electronics.

 

Check out Consumer Reports latest How to Tame the Energy Hogs in Your Home.

Considering a solar electric system for your home?

Considering a solar electric system for your home?  Begin with your loads, or energy usage.

According to the US Energy Information Administration conventional lighting can consume 15% of the average home electric usage on a monthly basis, 30% in commercial structures.

I dug around and found some of the early compact florescent bulbs that we have used.  Remember them?  Often we needed special fixtures because the ballast and the bulbs were so large.  And we always needed enlarged harps for our lamps.  Times have change and so have the bulbs.  Now we are actually switching to LED technology.  But what might be right for you?

 

Check out Consumer Reports latest take on CFs vs LEDs…cost, color, consumption and brightness.

 

Compact Florescent Light Bulbs

Vintage Collection of Compact Florescent Light Bulbs. Click here for What’s new.

Equitpment and Battery Room for a Photovoltaic system

Montana Residential Solar Electric System

This is an excellent example of an on grid home that encompasses a battery bank. Equitpment and Battery Room for a Photovoltaic systemThis is an excellent example of an on grid home that encompasses a battery bank. This gives the home owner the best of all worlds. When the grid goes down this system provides power to major appliances, powering these thru what we term a critical load subpanel. These electrical loads typically include the water pump, furnace, communications and lighting. In normal day to day operation the system powers the home and sends any extra power backwards thru your meter, giving a credit toward your power bill. Having a system that provides both on grid feedback and battery backup for grid down times does necessitate additional equipment and cost over a more standard grid tie system.

12 Module Grid-tie Shop Solar System Hamilton Montana

Hamilton Montana Solar Shop

12 Module Grid-tie Shop Solar System Hamilton Montana

12 Module Grid-tie Shop Solar System Hamilton Montana

This Photovoltaic system is typical of many we install in Western Montana. Here we have 12 -235 watt solar modules which create a 2,820 watt solar array. The modules are secured with a flush mount aluminum racking structure which is tied into the rafters of the roof. Since this is a metal roof we have specialized neoprene gaskets at each penetration to assure no moisture will penetrate the roof.

A 3,000 watt Fronius grid-tied inverter is the third major component of the system. This unit receives the high voltage DC power from the array and converts it to 240 volt AC power which runs our household electrical loads and Sells any excess power back into the grid. The inverter includes circuit breakers and software which synchronizes with the utility grid and protects utility personal.

One interesting and sometimes overlooked fact is that a system such as this needs to see power from the utility grid to operate. If we have a power outage here, our system will go down even if it is good and sunny. Once the power returns the inverter waits five minutes watching for good steady power before it reenergizes.

If you are interested in having power with or without the utility, check out the battery based inverter systems. We also have a relatively new inverter option which provides a limited amount of power to a specific circuit (1,500 watts) when the grid is down and we have sufficient light to produce power.

Check Out this Net Zero Habitat for Humanity Home!

SBS Solar is super excited to show you the latest Habitat for Humanity of Ravalli Co home in Stevensville, Montana.  This is an all-electric home with new energy star appliances, LED lighting and a very well insulated envelope.

With a $17,000 grant from NorthWestern Energy, SBS Solar was able to install a 30 module, 7.5kWh array with a grid tie inverter and an air source heat pump. We installed this system in December and made the final tie into the grid and installed a net meter on January 2nd.

 

As of this writing 5 months later, the system has made more power than what the home used thru the building process.  We utilized electric, milk house, resistant type heaters to keep our workers warm and set the drywall mud.  We eventually installed an air source heat pump in March, after the coldest period of winter.

Now that the family has moved in we will see how well all the systems preform and the actual electric usage. Depending on this power usage, we will see if they are actually netting the big Zero at the end of the year.

It was a lot of fun, and a honor, being part of the design and building of what is possibly the first net zero home in Western Montana.