Tag Archives: solar installation

Solar Installs – Spring Time In Missoula Montana

It is spring time in Missoula Montana.  Solar electric systems are popping up with the daffodils.

Why install a solar electric system now?

  • 30% federal tax credit still available in 2019.
  • State tax credit, $500.00 per tax payer makes this a great time to invest for the long term.

Call SBS Solar today for your free solar estimate.  406-541-8410.


NorthWestern Energy Electric Rate Case

Spring is finally happening after a long winter. Solar interest is especially high as a number of wheels are spinning which are creating financial deadlines for installing a home solar system.

As you may be aware, NorthWestern Energy has proposed a rate change for future net metering solar owners.  The rate change case has been filed with the Public Service Commission and it has gained significant traction.

Bob Lake and four other climate deniers make up our PSC and we know their anti-renewable voting record and desire to shut down as many renewable projects as possible.

Northwestern has requested that any new solar system have its own set of rates which in summary add significant costs of an estimated $600 a year for the average solar homeowner.  See the attachment for the cost breakdowns from our state solar group, Montana Renewable Energy Association. As members of this group we have filed as an intervener with the PSC and hired an attorney to represent us.

Bottom line for those wanting to go solar is the ability to be grandfathered in before the PSC finalizes the rate change.  We believe this to be in the June / July time frame. This timeline may change and if we are lucky, may not pass.

Adding to the confusion is a second and separate case for large solar and wind farms. We have seen progress here possibly opening the doors for larger projects, (recent press articles term these small systems, which they are not compared to a home system.) This is dealing with a separate case and attack upon renewables and not part of the homeowner net metering rate case.

If you have been thinking about adding solar and NorthWestern is your utility, now is the time to make it happen. Give us a call or email and let’s see if we can have your system in and inspected and permitted before the grandfather deadline.


Call for your free solar estimate today.  406-541-8410

St Pauls Lutheran Church in Missoula goes Solar

The SBS Solar team recently installed a 26.9 kW solar electric system for St Pauls Lutheran Church in Missoula MT.

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 us today. 406-541-8410.

The next round of proposals is due by March 31 2019. Proposal information is included in the Anywhere Library Exampleand the application requirements.  

The 5 criteria used  to rank proposals are as follows:

  1. Non Profit
  2. Geographic Location
  3. Participant Match ( at least 10%)
  4. Educational Value
  5. System Maintenance


Designing Solar Electric Systems with Growth in Mind

Solar Electric Systems Missoula Montana

There are many considerations to take into account when you are designing a solar electric system.  And growth is one of the considerations.  Perhaps you design a system to suit your current electric usage, but then want to add an electric car into the mix.  So the question is can you add to a solar electric system.  The answer is a qualified yes.

Discuss your current and potential needs with your design consultant.  Design the system with a large enough inverter to handle future additional modules.  Perhaps you hope to add batteries in the future.  All of this is significantly easier if your start with the end system in mind. Give us a call 406-381-5643.

Ground Mounting System with a Firm Foundation

Our ground mounts utilize galvanized steel posts which are set in concrete a minimum of four feet in the earth. Solar modules are long term, no maintenance by design so we want our mounting structure to be as well.

We are seeing some companies utilizing precast cement block to hold their solar structures.  This is a way around having a backhoe for installation and its cost.  However, any foundation built correctly, needs to be placed below the frost zone so it stays in one place.

Looking at a number of these precast units after one winter shows movement of one portion of the solar array one way and the next another direction. Frost heaving through the year has moved the entire precast block.  What will this look like after 10 years.  Not very good in our view.

We do not believe this is a place to skimp and have our own excavating equipment to keep the cost down as low as possible.

Missoula Clean Energy Expo, Saturday, October 20, 2018

https://www.missoulaclimate.org/clean-energy-expo.htmlSaturday, October 20, 2018
11am – 3pm
​Caras Park Pavilion
Get plugged in to the clean energy revolution! 

This free event will showcase local solar and renewable energy opportunities and businesses, energy efficiency, and other efforts that will help move our community to 100% clean electricity. 

Day of activities:

  • Noon: “Solar-ease” workshop + meet solar installers
  • 1pm:  Release of 100% Clean Electricity for Missoula draft “Options Report”
    • Mayor Engen, Amy (Climate Smart), Chase (City of Missoula). Panel discussion: Climate commitments and energy policy in Missoula & Montana, with Missoula FCU, MEIC, and more 
  • 2pm: “Virtual tour” of Missoula’s cool green buildings and homes
  • Meet green businesses and non-profits + learn how to go zero waste and save energy
  • Family-friendly activities – including pumpkins!
  • Take the 0-50-100 pledge  

Learn More

Missoula Solar home on National Solar Tour

Missoula Home on National Solar TourMissoula Solar home on National Solar Tour
When: Saturday October 6th 10:00 am – 4:00 pm 
Where: 5860 Kerr Drive Missoula, MT

For more than two decades, The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) has organized and delivered the largest grassroots solar event in the U.S., the National Solar Tour.

Solar open houses are a chance to visit homes and see local renewable energy in action!
Visit solar open house on the Tour to learn about:
Reducing electricity costs;
Supporting energy independence;
Protecting against power outages;
Reducing carbon emissions; and
Much more!
Have you ever considered installing solar panels on your home, cabin, or business?  Call Dan today for more information 406-381-5643 and get a free solar estimate today.

Financing Solar – Montana Department of Environmental Quality

Solar Energy Missoula MontanaMontana Department of Environmental Quality offers $0 down, low-interest loans for solar and other alternative energy systems. Call 406-444-6586 or click here for details. 

 The Montana Department of Environmental Quality offers $0 down, low-interest loans for solar installations and other alternative energy systems to individuals, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and government entities. For details about the Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program, call 406-444-6586, or click here

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. 

Micro Inverters versus SolarEdge


SolarEdge Inverter

Micro Inverters versus SolarEdge and why we do not use Micros anymore.
Nine years ago, Enphase Corporation from California introduced one of the first viable micro inverters and it was a big deal. The advantages were huge as no longer did we need to have long strings of 10 modules that suffered greatly when only one was shaded or covered with snow. As well we could now look at the production of each individual module and easily identify an issue. The monitoring was easy to employ with a simple data cable which transmitted production data to a website keeping track of production. Before this detailed monitoring was an expensive option.
That was nine years ago, a lifetime in this industry. Enphase upset the domination of several European manufactures who owned the world-wide inverter market. Several of these companies came out with there versions of micros. One Swiss company jumped into micros and a couple of years later discontinued this offering.
This was telling as one of the major questions of utilizing a microinverter is where it is placed. Micros sit behind the solar module in a hostile environment. Here in Western Montana we know that a summer day can start in the cool 40’s and end up in the 90’s. And up on your roof high afternoon temps are even more extreme. This a big temperature change for the electronics to tolerate on a daily basis.
Other parts of the planet do not see this extreme variation and this is less of a factor. However, the manufactures claim a 25 year warranty. The big question is will these electronics last as claimed. In our experience it is common to see a company with grand claims disappear with insolvency or reorganization saying goodbye to long term liabilities like warranties.
SolarEdge steps in and changes the Inverter world once again.
This inverter system is the next step in the evolution of the inverter. SolarEdge took the advantages of Micros and said goodbye the largest disadvantage of where the electronics do their job. By taking the bulk of the electronics and placing them on a protected wall or even better in a utility space, this reduces the operating temperatures and gives us a longer useful life. A small optimizer with much simplified electronics is placed behind the module and provides all the benefits of micros such as individual module level monitoring.
These inverters operate at an amazing 99% efficiency and have swept the grid tied solar market with a dominate hold of the world inverter market.
We have 450 micros out in the field and we can see some applications for this product yet SolarEdge remains our go to inverter technology.