Category Archives: Montana Solar Electric

Selway the SBS Solar Dog Visits the Solar Electric System at the Darby Montana Library

SBS Solar Dog visits the Darby Library
Selway the SBS Solar Dog was reading the Darby Community Public Library’s web site.

“Described as the “Sistine Chapel of Small Diameter Roundwood,” the Darby Library is an inspiring example of what partners can do when they put their minds together. The Library Board worked with area architects and engineers to create a building that is not only functional, but also reflects the culture and heritage of a timber town that once employed hundreds in five sawmills, and the spirit of the many residents that contributed in ways large and small.”

Energy efficiency played a large roll in the design and construction of the Darby library.  It boasts a heat pump system that keeps the 5000 square foot structure comfortable as well as good insulation and energy efficient windows.  This made a net-metered solar electric system a natural.  Once again the volunteers sprang into action.  The Darby board contacted Dan Brandborg with SBS Solar and together they designed a system that will cover 88 % of the annual electric needs.  Grants were written donations made and collected and in Feb of 2017 the system was installed and the net-meter connected.

Today the Darby Library solar electric system features 62 SolarWorld solar panels and two SolarEdge Grid tie Inverters with 10,000 watt continuous output.  Using the  SolarEdge Grid tie Inverter, Model SE-10,000-US  the system can me monitored from anywhere.

The library continues to grow in community use, and is a beacon for energy efficiency and new technology. The library provides eleven desktop computers and five laptops for public use, a free meeting room for group use, free WiFi, and multiple book collections. Serving a population of 4,300 in a 1,376 square mile area, the library is the center for community activities.
Darby public library goes solar

Montana Solar Featured when Montana Governor Vetoes Anti-Solar Legislation

Montana Solar Dog says Solar Modules are Groovy

Selway the SBS Solar Dog was very happy when Montana Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed Senate Bill (SB) 7 last week.

Frank Andorka writes in PV Magazine,Sanity prevailed in the Montana’s governor’s mansion last week as Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed a bill that would have effectively ended net-metering in the state. (Read all the details)

Solar Panels are Fragile and Easily Broken Solar Myth #10 – Busted

Solar Myth #10  Solar Panels are fragile and easily broken

Fact:  Solar Panels are durable and can resist golf ball sized hail at 100 mph..  Solar Modules are made with tempered glass like the windshield of your car.  Solar panels are solid state, no moving parts and have a 25 year production warrantee.

We shot these videos at the SolarWorld factory near Portland Or in 2014.

Solar Myth #9 – Busted

Solar Myth # 9 Manufacturing solar panels requires more energy than the solar module will produce.

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.

Solar Myth #8 – Busted

Solar Myth #8  Solar will get more efficient, so I should wait (I don’t want to buy the first VCR)

Fact: Solar is a mature technology, and there has never been a better time to install solar.  Basic solar photovoltaic technologies have been around for more than 30 years. While efficiencies have increased and costs have decreased, the basic solar electric panel is the same solar technology used in the 1960’s and 70s. The solar industry, like other electricity-generating industries, does not evolve as rapidly as the electronics industry has. (unlike computers or cellphones which experience dramatic improvements in short periods of time). When panels become more efficient, it simply means you wouldn’t need as many, because they’re better at converting. Given stable technology profile, a 30% federal tax credit (currently sun-setting in 2019) and a 500.00 per tax payer Montana State Tax Credit, solar is more affordable than ever and makes sense right now. Once installed, the panels are solid state, with no moving parts and have a 25 year warranty.

Solar Myth # 7 – Busted

Solar Myth # 7 I will have an excess of energy that will go unused and will be wasted

Fact: Nearly all modern solar panel systems are connected to the conventional electric utility grid. When this happens, your meter spins backwards and your utility company credits you for that power. This grid-tied method tends to be the most convenient for homeowners. This is ideal for us in Montana, because of our long solar days in the summer and shorter days in the winter time.  In Montana the utility company will not write you a check for excess energy that you produce.  So generally your system will be sized to accommodate your average annual usage.  (determined by your utility bill).  Each year the solar electric system generates power during peak season (summer), and you consume power during the darker, shorter days of winter.  The utility company (each one slightly different dates) resets once a year and the process begins again.

Solar Myth #6 – Busted

Solar Myth #6 Solar panels require maintenance

Fact: Solar panels are solid state, have no moving parts, do not require regular maintenance and come with a 25 year warranty. Dust and debris can collect on solar modules, but most panel owners never clean the panels and instead rely on the rain to do the job for them.  Generally when it comes to  snow our recommended action is wait for the sunshine.  In Western Montana, grid-tie, net-metered homes make a majority of their solar power in the summer months.  Winter power generation is a bonus, rather than a necessity.  The days are shorter, the sun is lower and the sky is often overcast.  This does not mean that we don’t generate any power, it just means that we generate significantly less in the months around winter solstice.  Modules are generally set at an angle that enough snow will begin to shed, temperatures permitting.  The cells are of dark colors that promote melting and with enough consecutive sunny days your modules will be generating power once again.

Solar Myth #5 – Busted

Solar Myth #5  When the utility grid goes down I will have back up power.

Fact:  When the power goes out, grid-tied systems go out too. That’s because it’s not safe to be pushing electricity back out onto the utility wires while workers may be trying to fix the problem. Your inverter (the big box near your meter that converts DC electricity created by the panels into usable AC current) recognizes that the grid is out and shuts your system off.  A possible solution is to add batteries into your solar electric system for short term back up

Solar Myth #4 – Busted

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Solar Electric Mounting Structure

Solar Myth #4  Solar panels will cause my roof to leak, deteriorate, or collapse

Fact: Most solar panels are not attached directly to the roof itself, but rather to a mounted railing system. Solar engineers add sealants to fill in any gaps and often the mounts are surrounded by metal coverings that act as an extra barrier from the elements.

Solar Myth #3 – Busted

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Photovoltaic solar panels will produce energy on cloudy days.

 

Solar Myth #3 Solar Doesn’t work when it is cloudy

Photovoltaic solar panels will produce energy 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.