Tag Archives: carbon footprint

Planning a New Garage or Carport? Great Solar Installation

Great time to incorporate solar into your construction project.  Planning ahead gives you the opportunity to get the most out of your new project.

Call for a free solar estimate today.

Embedded Energy – Solar Module Manufacturing and Pay Back

Embedded Energy - Solar Module ManufacturingOne 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.

Solar Electricity and Net Metering

Grit-tie Net Metering Solar Electric Systems:  Many Montanans have solar arrays “net metered” into the grid, through Northwestern Energy or a local co-op.  Net metering customers receive a credit on their electricity bill for each kilowatt hour of electricity generated on-site and exported to the utility grid. Most net metering systems are wired to provide energy to the customer’s home or business before exporting any excess to utility lines. Most utilities carry forward bill credits from month to month, but never pay the utility customer anything for excess power. With NorthWestern Energy the “clock” resets annually.  In Montana, SBS Solar we recommend an April reset.  This allows for the consumers solar electric system to generate the maximum energy during our long solar summer days and consume the power during the shorter colder winter days.    

To help assess how large your solar system needs to be we start with your utility bill.  This allows us to calculate your average annual usage.  You can design a system to run up to 100% of your average annual loads. It is that easy.   Call today for your site assessment, load calculation and personalized solar electric quote.  406-541-8410

Generating Solar Electricity – Helena Montana

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.

Join the Solar Revolution

Solarize Missoula 2015-2016


Over the fall, winter and spring of 2015-16 Climate Smart Missoula worked with partners on the Solarize Missoula community campaign to dramatically increase solar installations in Missoula by making solar simple.  Solarize was a resounding success. Check up on the progress with Round 2. Be a part of the solution.  Call today.  406-541-8410

Solar Electric System Missoula Montana

Solar Electric (Photovoltaic) Modules and Snow in Montana

It is December in Montana.  We received our first snowfall that stayed with us.  Temperatures have dipped.  We received a call:  “Help.  It is a beautiful day outside and my inverter is in nighttime mode.”  We asked if there was snow on the modules.  Sure enough, they were covered and the modules were shut down.

Not to worry.  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 solstice. Our sizing programs illustrate this well.  December sunlight is summarized as 1.7 equivalent average sun hours while July data shows 7.5 average hours.  So relax.  Modules are generally set at an angle that enough snow will begin to shed, temperatures permitting.  The cells are of dark colors that increases melting and with enough consecutive sunny days your modules will be generating power once again.

Fun Facts:  Net-metered homes in Montana, energy production and usage are reset annually April 1st.  So your solar electric photovoltaic system generates power in July (running your meter backwards) and you can use that generated credit now when your modules and you are snowed in.

Ground Mounts Versus Roof Mounted Solar Electric Modules

What are the advantages and disadvantages of ground mounts versus roof mounted solar electric modules?

Roof Mounted solar photovoltaic modules have the advantages of low cost and height, generally above nearby obstacles and harms way.  This economical method utilizes the trusses of the structure to secure the modules.  However the roof is not ideal in every case.  Perhaps there are significant obstructions to sun exposure on the roof, such as nearby trees, buildings, or terrain.  Or the roof itself has obstructions that will interfere with full sun exposure, such as sky lights and chimneys.  Remember even the shadow from a deciduous tree limb in winter is substantial enough to reduce the output of a solar module.  In these cases a ground mount might be the preferred option.  Advantages here include ease of snow removal and variety in the location of the array.  We typically work with an excavator and pour concrete to secure the mount which increase the total cost of the system. Electric code also requires a fence surrounding the array to restrict access. Give Dan a call to discuss ideal installation for your solar electric system.

Use your Solar Electric generated electricity most efficiently.

Use your Solar Electric generated electricity most efficiently.  Begin by looking at the largest energy loads in our Western Montana area, Heating, Cooling, Hot water, Lighting, appliances, and other electronics.


Check out Consumer Reports latest How to Tame the Energy Hogs in Your Home.

Considering a solar electric system for your home?

Considering a solar electric system for your home?  Begin with your loads, or energy usage.

According to the US Energy Information Administration conventional lighting can consume 15% of the average home electric usage on a monthly basis, 30% in commercial structures.

I dug around and found some of the early compact florescent bulbs that we have used.  Remember them?  Often we needed special fixtures because the ballast and the bulbs were so large.  And we always needed enlarged harps for our lamps.  Times have change and so have the bulbs.  Now we are actually switching to LED technology.  But what might be right for you?


Check out Consumer Reports latest take on CFs vs LEDs…cost, color, consumption and brightness.


Compact Florescent Light Bulbs

Vintage Collection of Compact Florescent Light Bulbs. Click here for What’s new.

SolarEdge Optimizer/inverter technology – multiple roof planes and shading

This home on Lost Horse Creek, between Hamilton and Darby, MT is tucked away in a beautiful quiet nook shaded by a forest of ponderosa pines.  The multiple roof planes and shading at select times thru the solar day offered unique issues. The SolarEdge inverter with individual module optimizer technology offered an excellent solution.  Shading such as this and the traditional string inverter technology is limiting.  As shading of one module in a series string of up to 12 modules can easily decrease the power output all 12 modules.

An additional benefit to the SolarEdge optimizer/inverter equipment allows the use of differing module sizes and mounting angles.  This provides a great deal of flexibility and allows your system to grow over time.  The difference in cost of a 3800 watt inverter vs a 6000 watt inverter is only a few hundred dollars.  So it is very economical to go with the larger inverter and add modules in the future as budget allows.

SolarEdge Optimizer/inverter technology is the next step with improvements over both string and micro inverters.  The optimizer also allow for individual module monitoring. And best of all optimizer offer all the advantages of micro inverters at a lower cost.