Category Archives: Montana Solar Electric

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.

Financing Solar – Missoula Federal Credit Union

Solar Panel Financing Missoula MontanaMissoula Federal Credit Union Offers Financing For Your Solar Electric System

Planning your solar electric system?  Thinking about financing? Missoula Federal Credit Union offers two loan options:  Solar Home Equity Loan or Home Energy Loan.

The Missoula Federal Credit Union is a
not-for-profit, member-owned financial institution, serving people who live, work, worship, or belong to
an association headquartered in Missoula, Lake, and Ravalli counties.  (Not a member?  No Problem. Becoming a member is easy, and is well integrated into the loan application process and can be done via mail, and need not include any financial services beyond the loan. Membership in the Montana Renewable Energy Association would qualify a
borrower for MFCU loans, making them available to the entire state.  Check out the Missoula Federal Credit Union Home Energy Loan Brochure.  Or Call (406) 523-3300.

Don’t forget:

Federal Tax Credits
Residential 30% Renewable Energy Credit (thru 2019)This tax credit is applicable for all primary and secondary private homes.  It includes all associated costs, such as installation and electrical work.

State (Montana) Tax Credits
Montana State provides a 500.00 per tax payer tax credit, or 1000.00 per couple for your solar installation. 

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.

Solar Electricity and Net Metering

Grit-tie Net Metering Solar Electric Systems:  Many Montanans have solar arrays “net metered” into the grid, through Northwestern Energy or a local co-op.  Net metering customers receive a credit on their electricity bill for each kilowatt hour of electricity generated on-site and exported to the utility grid. Most net metering systems are wired to provide energy to the customer’s home or business before exporting any excess to utility lines. Most utilities carry forward bill credits from month to month, but never pay the utility customer anything for excess power. With NorthWestern Energy the “clock” resets annually.  In Montana, SBS Solar we recommend an April reset.  This allows for the consumers solar electric system to generate the maximum energy during our long solar summer days and consume the power during the shorter colder winter days.    

To help assess how large your solar system needs to be we start with your utility bill.  This allows us to calculate your average annual usage.  You can design a system to run up to 100% of your average annual loads. It is that easy.   Call today for your site assessment, load calculation and personalized solar electric quote.  406-541-8410

How Much Would Your Solar Electric System Cost?

NorthWestern Energy Utility Bill for solar electric system designSBS Solar designs custom solar electric systems with your lifestyle and budget as our primary focus.

One of the best ways to size a solar electric system is to look at your utility power bill. On the NorthWestern Energy bill* in the upper left hand corner there is a graph that tells you how much energy your home consumes on a monthly basis.  This information and a Google view of your site for orientation and shading, enable the SBS Solar team to design a system with your needs in mind.  A site visit is then scheduled to verify information .We then follow-up with a detailed proposal that will quantify your total costs and savings.

You can provide us with your utility bill a number of ways.  Click Here and upload your utility bill, Email us info@sbslink.com, fax 866-255-1303, or mail (620 Fish Hatchery Rd Hamilton MT 59840)

*Electric Coop power users will need to contact their co-op offices to request the last years worth of power usage.

Low Income Housing Receives Solar Grant

 

Council Groves 48kW Solar Electric System Received USB (Universal Service Benefit) Grant

The SBS Solar team recently installed a 48kW solar electric system for Council Groves Apartments in Missoula MT.  Currently Council Groves Apartments maintains 72 units of low-income Housing for approximately two hundred residents, close to half of which are children under the age of 18.

 

A portion of the funds for this project were provided by USB (Universal Service Benefits) funding in Montana. In 1997 the Montana legislature passed an electric deregulation law that included language establishing a Universal Systems Benefits (USB) fund.

What are the Electricity USB Programs?

  • Low Income (energy assistance and weatherization)
  • Cost-Effective Conservation + R & D
  • Market Transformation
  • Renewables + R & D

Under this program (with these guidelines the E+ Renewable Energy Program (NorthWestern Energy) provides custom incentives for projects that benefit organizations and communities for non-profit or government facilities.  Projects receiving these funds often provide civic value including education and visible representation of renewable energy technologies to a broad audience. Broad Benefit Commercial solar PV incentives are awarded twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.

If your non-profit is interested in assistance with the grant application call Dan today. 406-541-8410.

The next round of proposals is due by November 1. Proposal information is included in the Anywhere Library Example and the application requirements.  

The 5 criteria used  to rank proposals are as follows:

  1. Non Profit
  2. Geographic Location
  3. Participant Match ( at least 10%)
  4. Educational Value
  5. System Maintenance

 

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Solar panels require a tracking system to follow the angle of the sun Solar Myth #12 – Busted

Solar Electric Mounting Structure, Montana solar, solar Montana, Missoula Solar, Missoula renewable energy, solar, photovoltaics, solar installations, energy consultation, solar power, energy, energy electric contractor, energy generation, grid-tieSolar Myth #12  Solar panels require a tracking system to follow the angle of the sun

Fact: Though tracking mechanisms can provide efficiency gains for your solar electric system, they typically do not increase efficiency enough to justify the additional expense and maintenance of moving parts in residential situations.   Generally a shade free, fixed roof mount system is he cost most effective installation.