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, 2018 and March 31, 2019;
- Unrestricted Grants (up to $500,000): March 31, 2019;
- 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.
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 #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.
Near Darby Montana 1986
Hamilton Montana 1994
Hamilton Montana 2016
Myth #2 Solar doesn’t work in Montana
Fact: Montana is a great state for Solar. Solar electric systems have been installed and working in Montana for over thirty-plus years. Our first company Sunelco helped to make many of these systems possible. We lived off grid and used the products that we sell every day. That being said, the true game changer in Montana was net-metering system. 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.
Still time to order your solar electric system to qualify for the 2016 30% Federal Tax Credit. Don’t let this sunset on you.
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.
SBS Solar is super excited to show you the latest Habitat for Humanity of Ravalli Co home in Stevensville, Montana. This is an all-electric home with new energy star appliances, LED lighting and a very well insulated envelope.
With a $17,000 grant from NorthWestern Energy, SBS Solar was able to install a 30 module, 7.5kWh array with a grid tie inverter and an air source heat pump. We installed this system in December and made the final tie into the grid and installed a net meter on January 2nd.
Net Zero Habitat for Humanity home in Stevensville, Montana
30 module, 7.5kWh array and a grid tie inverter
Grid Tied Inverter
Air Source Heat Pump
As of this writing 5 months later, the system has made more power than what the home used thru the building process. We utilized electric, milk house, resistant type heaters to keep our workers warm and set the drywall mud. We eventually installed an air source heat pump in March, after the coldest period of winter.
Now that the family has moved in we will see how well all the systems preform and the actual electric usage. Depending on this power usage, we will see if they are actually netting the big Zero at the end of the year.
It was a lot of fun, and a honor, being part of the design and building of what is possibly the first net zero home in Western Montana.
There has been much talk about solar grants in our region this summer. It’s no secret that solar sales were up by near triple in first quarter for most solar installers in the greater Missoula and Western Montana region, as seen in this article in April 2012 in the Missoula Independent. And then the grants suddenly went dry in July of this year. Another article in the Indy shares the details.
Here’s the gist:
- Northwestern Energy gave out $3/watt up to 2000 watts (or 2kw) for grid-tied Solar PV installs in their territory. This amounted to the $6000 grant folks would commonly ask for.
- After the 2010 election, some state legislatures threatened to cut the state tax credits of $500/tax payer, $1000/couple, but it stood true. And the 30% Federal tax credit remained strong.
- In 2011, hard costs dropped nearly 40% for Solar PV, taking that $6k grant on a 2kW from a 30% coverage on an $18.5K system to a 50-60% coverage of install total on that same 2kW system, now costing under $11K.
- By early 2012, solar energy was hitting an all time high in popularity on a national and global scale – everything from solar in China and India to solar on the White House, to solar farms in the southwest and solar financing companies popping up.
At this point at SBS Solar, like most local installers, we were selling our grants faster than we could get them. At the same time, Northwestern Energy was having more requests than ever for solar grants, especially in the Missoula area, and they were maxing out their grant fund. This, coupled with the drastic drop in pricing, brought things to a (temporary?) standstill in early summer of this year.
What we do know is that Northwestern Energy asked the MREA for a recommendation on how to proceed. We at SBS Solar, and many of our fellow installers, weighed in with similar sentiments. Cut the grants per watt in half to $1.50, but keep the maximum grant at $6000. This would mean that a 2kW system now gets a $3000 grants ,and someone could get a $6000 grant for a 4kW system. This would be awesome! A triple-bottom-line here: Customers get a great grant and are now incented to go with a larger system instead of stopping at 2kW, Installers are now selling larger systems (and perhaps more often) and Northwestern Energy is getting double the renewable energy put back into their grind for half the cost, thereby getting them to their renewable energy mandate faster.
So…. here we with no grants, a state tax credit and a federal tax credit that could be in jeopardy depending on the outcome of the November election, and little action in the market.
Enter the SBS Solar Private Solar Rebate. We are offering a rebate for solar customers that is competitive with the aforementioned MREA recommendation to Northwestern Energy. Roughly $1.50/watt. We also have two different solar financing options, one state sponsored and one private.
If you’re interested in solar today, don’t wait for an answer until November (at the earliest), when you can get our rebate today: www.sbslink.com. 406-541-8410. Ask for Dan.
This is a great article… thought provoking with good information… suggesting that perhaps Solar Thermal is dead, unless you’re a laundromat or a college campus.
Now that PV rates have some down substantially, combined with various state and utility incentives, as well as federal tax credits, the article suggests it cheaper to heat w/ Solar PV rather than with Thermal.
We’ll followup to this post in a week or two with the numbers from Missoula and Montana so see if this actually makes sense in our area, or not.
Until then, enjoy the article… and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Our Energy Intern/Office Manager, Nick Bowman, recently gave this short talk for one of his classes at UM. We thought it made for an interesting blog post which has some talking points about renewable energy you might not have heard or might find interesting or useful:
Montana, with its huge potential for renewable energy, could do more to use its resources to help strengthen the economy.
Montana is currently ranked 22nd in the nation for the amount of renewable energy produced, yet has enough available resources to become 3rd in the nation if properly developed and invested.
Montana potential for wind is due to its topography. High mountains combined with spacious plains are perfect for developing wind farms. Wind Energy alone has enough power to produce 370 times the amount of electricity used by the state. Here is a great potential for economic growth.
In places where buildings are a barrier, as they decrease the amount of wind which can be harvested, we could use solar power to create renewable energy gains. We need to increase the monetary incentives for solar installation, particularly in light of the cancelation of energy grants by Northwestern Energy.
Montana is also one of 13 states which can produce energy from geothermal hot spots. The technology of geothermal is constantly improving and needs to be developed in order for this technology to be effective without compromising the environment.
Yet with all this in mind Montanas still spend 4.7 billion dollars to produce fossil fuels every year.
Increased implementation of green energy is only possible through the contribution of the average American who wants to better this great nation. Political activism, alternative energy advocacy and service are among the few ways which people can contribute to helping renewable energy succeed in this struggling economy. I would recommend that, if nothing else, each and every person reminds their representatives that they support sustainable energy.
Let’s make a difference.