We are picky when it comes to who’s modules we use. After three decades of working with a good number of manufacturers we developed two main criteria which dominate our selection process. Number one is a company which has staying power. We have seen too many companies come and go, leaving us with a long-term warranty with no one to support the product. A 25-year module warranty is standard in the industry. You cannot operate as a module manufacture without it, whether or not the company will be there. Bankruptcy clears long term commitments unless the company takes actions to cover their warranties.
Number two qualification is a track record of standing behind their product and the companies brand. The two companies we work with are just plain proud of their product. It helps when you talk to workers on the factory Floor who when queried tell me this is the best job they have ever had and you can feel this is more than just a job.
This is why we work with SolarWorld of Hillsboro, Oregon and L.G. from South Korea. Both companies have been around the solar block, have a high-quality product which they are committed to support for the long run.
What module wattage is best and why we work with high power 355 watt or higher modules.
It’s simple really, the more power per module the less space it requires on your roof or mount structure. Lower wattages, especially below 295 watts, cost less yet this cost savings is lost as we need to install more modules to achieve the same total array output. More individual modules increase the number of mounting structure material, optimizers and installation time and costs.
Companies leading the industry put much energy into maximizing cell efficiencies. There are hundreds of solar module manufactures around the world. Like many products today, it is a buyer beware world.
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.
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.
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 #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 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.