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 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.
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.
Solar Myth#1: Solar panels are too expensive.
Fact: Solar energy pricing is at an all time low according to reports released by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Installing a solar electric system on your home increases resale value. A U.S. Department of Energy study showed that buyers will pay up to $15,000 more for a home equipped with solar panels. Adding even more saving potential, government tax credits can offset the cost of a solar energy system with a 30 percent federal tax credit (currently through 2019) and in Montana a 500.00 per tax payer tax credit.
Watch as Dan and the SBS Solar Team finish installing 30 325 watt Solar World solar electric modules on a Schletter ground mount at a fixed 30 degree angle.
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.
This system is comprised of 40 -255 watt modules to create a 10kW array. The brewery building is located next to a baseball park which includes a ball net held in place with a number of telephone poles south of the main building. Add to this a cell tower to the Southwest. All of which creates areas of shading at specific times through the solar day.
Because of this shading we opted for micro inverters as their primary advantage is a reduction in losses when portions of the array are shaded. We also mounted a portion of the array on the west facing roof as this is totally free of shading and very visible from the main street intersection. Unlike string inverters with one MPPT channel where all modules need to be of the same orientation and angle, micros give us flexibility and allow any orientation for multiple modules.
A smart TV is mounted in the main room of this local watering hole where it is easy to see just how much power the array is producing. This is a great way to show off your solar system if you have a public area.
The owner and managers of the brewery utilized every possible incentive available here in Montana. Because of their location they were able to secure the USDA 25% grant, a partial grant from NorthWestern Energy, and the low interest loan program (3.25%) from Montana DEQ.
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.
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.