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!
One 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.
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.
- 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 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.
Have 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.
Do 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.
- 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.
SBS 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 email@example.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.
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:
- Non Profit
- Geographic Location
- Participant Match ( at least 10%)
- Educational Value
- System Maintenance
Solar 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.
Fact: Solar panels work with light, not heat so it doesn’t matter how cold it gets outside.
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.