Kenworthy Electric

Penny Per Watt
A conversation with Dan Kenworthy In November, MREA spoke with Dan Kenworthy, owner of Kenworthy Electric, about his family business and how MREA has weaved through his connection to the solar industry. How did you get into the solar industry here in Montana? I am a third-generation Montana electrician, following the footsteps of my father and grandfather, continuing to run the business since I bought it back in 1994. My first solar grid tie was actually with Henry Dykema, current President of the MREA Board of Directors. I worked on the grid tie for a solar system Henry installed on the Sheridan School as part of the “Solar for Schools” program. That got me pretty interested in solar installations. Then in 2002, a solar class came up in Butte that…
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Monitoring Solar Production Right from Your Phone

Monitoring Solar Production Right from Your Phone

Rooftop Solar
Renewable energy was on Nancy Larson’s radar before she found out about the Solarize Missoula program. “We had looked into geothermal, but it didn’t make sense at the time.” Last year, she saw an ad in a local paper for the Solarize Missoula program and decided to attend to get more information. Nancy admitted that without an introduction like the one she got at the meeting, she might not have moved forward on her own. Now, the Larsons have a 3.12 kW system installed on their roof. They worked with Remote Power Systems, who installed Fronius inverters which connect to a mobile phone app, allowing the owner to monitor real-time production from anywhere. Nancy has had fun this past summer watching the energy production on sunny Montana days. Nancy mentions…
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Baker Light Industries

Penny Per Watt
A conversation with Wayne Baker [caption id="attachment_1059" align="alignright" width="225"] Wayne Baker, owner of Baker Light Industries in Alder, Montana[/caption] In October 2016, MREA talked with Wayne Baker, owner of Baker Light Industries in Alder, Montana, about his background and how all the different renewable energy technologies he works with complement one another. How did you get into renewable energy? I took a job out of college down in Colorado working for a company that did automation and instrumentation for dams and waterways. In 1994 I installed my first solar panel charging a battery to monitor the water level in a reservoir. We did several projects like that where we had to build little off-grid power systems. In 1999 I came back to Montana and took a job with a company…
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Cattle Ranch Installs First Solar Array in Mid-Yellowstone Electric Co-op

Cattle Ranch Installs First Solar Array in Mid-Yellowstone Electric Co-op

Rooftop Solar
Noelle and Richard Pinkerton are proud owners of the first net metered solar array in the Mid-Yellowstone Electric Cooperative. Their 10 kilowatt solar system generates power for the barn, office, and outbuildings at their cattle ranch near Hysham, Montana. The Pinkertons were motivated to install solar by the prospect of lowering their power bills. John Palm, owner of Bozeman Green Build, who installed the Pinkertons’ solar array, points out that at 12.9 cents per kilowatt-hour, Mid-Yellowstone Electric’s rates are relatively high by Montana standards. This makes solar a particularly attractive investment. According to John’s projections, the Pinkertons will see a nine year payback on their solar investment and will benefit from an additional $55,000 in averted energy costs over the life of the system. Noelle Pinkerton reports that while their…
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Net metering study wraps-up with two important wins

Policy & Advocacy
At the culmination of a 15-month study of net metering, the Montana Legislature’s Energy & Telecommunications Interim Committee (ETIC) advanced two MREA priorities that will protect and expand rooftop solar. Both bills passed with bipartisan support and will be sent to the full Legislature for consideration in January 2017. ETIC’s study of net metering policies and economic impacts was initiated by the 2015 Legislature after a series of bills to expand net metering, and one bill to significantly roll back the statute, were either withdrawn or died in committee votes. The study touched on a range of topics including methodologies to weigh the costs and benefits of net metering, economic impacts of the solar industry in Montana, and interconnection and safety standards. Study findings The bipartisan committee reached a series…
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Solarize Missoula customer: “I would encourage everybody to do it”

Solarize Missoula customer: “I would encourage everybody to do it”

Rooftop Solar, Special Programs
Steve German had been thinking about solar for a while. “My daughter in Portland installed a system several years ago, and it’s been in my mind for quite some time that I should do it also,” he recalled recently. So when Steve read about ‘Solarize Missoula’ in the Missoulian late last year, he was interested. Solarize Missoula was a program to significantly increase solar installations in Missoula by making it simpler and more affordable for homeowners to pursue solar. The program was organized by the Montana Renewable Energy Association in partnership with the Missoula Federal Credit Union, Climate Smart Missoula, the City of Missoula, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. On December 1, 2015 Steve attended an information session about Solarize Missoula at the public library, and signed up…
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Legislature considers changes to Net Metering

Policy & Advocacy
The Montana Legislature’s Energy & Telecommunications Interim Committee (ETIC) is about to wrap up a 16-month study of Montana’s net metering law. Net metering has already driven millions of dollars of private investment in rooftop solar arrays and small scale wind turbines by giving Montana homeowners and businesses the option to generate their own energy, and the assurance that they’ll receive full, fair credit for extra energy they provide to their utility. As the study finishes up, ETIC is considering a package of draft legislation that includes a bill to increase the 50 kilowatt net metering system cap to 250 kilowatts for universities, National Guard facilities, local governments, churches and other tax exempt properties. Another bill would trigger a detailed cost/benefit analysis of net metering when output from net metering…
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Solar Hot Water and Solar Electricity Cut Costs for Bozeman Affordable Housing Project

Solar Hot Water and Solar Electricity Cut Costs for Bozeman Affordable Housing Project

Community Scale, Rooftop Solar
This fall, the first residents will move in to the brand new 136-unit Larkspur Commons affordable housing development in Bozeman, serving residents earning less than 60% of the area’s median income. They may not know it yet, but two types of solar energy systems will reduce utility costs at their new home. Larkspur Commons is being built to include both a 4,000 square foot solar hot water system and a 12.42 kilowatt solar electric array on its roofs. Larkspur Commons is owned by a partnership that includes Homeword of Missoula and GMD Development of Seattle. According to Steve Dymoke, Vice President of GMD Development, the decision to incorporate solar into the project was primarily about cost savings. In order to take advantage of a federal low income housing tax credit,…
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Independent Power Systems

Penny Per Watt
A conversation with Tony Boniface [caption id="attachment_1055" align="alignright" width="248"] Tony Boniface, Owner and President of Independent Power Systems[/caption] In July 2016 MREA talked with Tony Boniface, Owner and President of Independent Power Systems, about installing the first net metered system in Montana and how his small Bozeman business expanded to three states and several dozen employees. How did you get in to solar? I studied electrical engineering in college and worked at IBM after I graduated. It was a good job, but when I learned about solar in the late ‘80s, I knew it was what I wanted to do as a career. There wasn’t much literature on solar back then, or many training courses, but I learned about Solar Energy International and attended a two week training of theirs…
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‘Solarize’ Makes Solar Simple for Missoula Couple

‘Solarize’ Makes Solar Simple for Missoula Couple

Rooftop Solar, Special Programs
Ever since they bought their first home 20 years ago, Ben and Peggy Schmidt of Missoula have had rooftop solar in mind. The Schmidts have always been environmentally conscious; they both have graduate degrees in environmental studies from the University of Montana, and today Ben works as an Air Quality Specialist for the county, and Peggy, who has an environmental education background, works as a preschool teacher. As Ben explains, “I think it’s important to take some personal responsibility to reduce our carbon emissions and do what we can to address a serious global issue.” When they first looked into solar 20 years ago, they couldn’t afford it. But the price of solar has dropped dramatically in recent years, and by the time Solarize Missoula was launched in 2015, says…
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