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 an annual basis. This information and quick view of your site (orientation and shading) enable the SBS Solar team to design a system with your needs in mind.
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.
- 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 5 criteria used to rank proposals are as follows:
- Non Profit
- Geographic Location
- Participant Match ( at least 10%)
- Educational Value
- System Maintenance
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.
Solar Myth # 11 Myth: Solar panels don’t work well in cold climates.
Fact: 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. Solar panels are built to withstand varying temperatures, and they can produce electricity from indirect light.
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.
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.
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
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 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.