Darby Community Public Library to generate 88% of needs from solar PV

Darby Community Public Library to generate 88% of needs from solar PV

Community Scale, Rooftop Solar
The building that now houses the Darby Community Public Library opened its doors in September of 2004.  The 5,000 square-foot structure is a national demonstration building, showcasing a new type of construction featuring small diameter roundwood for beams and trusses. 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.  It was a true community effort, both in concept and practice. It was constructed using local contractors and suppliers incorporating as many locally made supplies as possible.  The furnishings were manufactured by local craftsmen and made from area timber products. Energy efficiency played a large role in the design and construction of the Darby library. It boasts a ground-source heat pump system, along…
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Legislative Wrap

Policy & Advocacy
updated May 9, 2017 The 65th Legislature has adjourned, and we at MREA are left with a feeling of both relief and frustration. Over the past 4-months, MREA staff worked with board members, colleagues, and our individual and business members to oppose attacks on net metering, the alternative energy loan program, and more. At the same time, we worked to advance legislation that would have created jobs and supported energy independence. We owe a large thank you to everyone who dedicated their time to come to Helena to testify this session, submitted comments online, and made phone calls to Legislators. Thank you for making your voice heard! While we are grateful that many of those bad bills never reached the Governor’s desk, we are discouraged that good bills, like the…
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First LEED Platinum building in Montana now using 100% solar

First LEED Platinum building in Montana now using 100% solar

Rooftop Solar
The “Home on the Range” building was renovated in 2003 to become Montana’s first LEED Platinum certified building, and is home to organizations that are committed to energy conservation (Northern Plains Resource Council, Western Organization of Resource Councils, and Western Native Voice). During the renovation, Sundance Solar Systems installed a 10kW solar electric system that has been able to offset 1/3 of the building’s energy use over the last ten years. Northern Plains Resource Council decided take the next step to offset 100% of the building’s energy use by pursuing additional solar project for the property. “The 10th anniversary of the commissioning of the building was coming up, and we wanted to do something big to celebrate,” says Kate French, Board Chair of Northern Plains Resource Council. “This building was…
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34.2kW solar array is largest on a Catholic Grade School in Montana

34.2kW solar array is largest on a Catholic Grade School in Montana

Community Scale, Rooftop Solar
Rev. Daniel J. Wathen and Kathryn Tilleman at the St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic School in Havre had been eyeing a solar array for the past four years. “We had it on our mind, but the finances weren’t working out for us,” says Rev. Wathen. They had tried working with a number of different groups, but found many don’t fund projects like these or didn’t have funding available. It wasn’t until Rev. Wathen was at a steam boiler maintenance training that he overheard a conversation about solar installations. That’s when he received a recommendation for NorthWestern Energy’s Universal Systems Benefits (USB) grants program. “NorthWestern was excellent to work with. They walked us through the whole process,” says Tilleman who is the school’s Development Director and worked on the grants for the project.…
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Legislative Half-time Report: Net metering

Policy & Advocacy
The past 8 weeks have been spent working hard to defend and promote net metering policy here in Montana. A huge thank you to all the MREA members and many others who called, sent emails, came to Helena to testify, and attended a thrilling rally. Even with all of this overwhelming support for positive action, it is clear the influences working against net metering continue to prove themselves too challenging to overcome. However, there is still important work to be done in the remaining months of the session. The bills that we brought forward to expand net metering have all died. Still, please reach out to your Senators and Representatives who voted to support those bills and thank them for their vote. It is important for them to know that…
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Steep Roof Means Great Winter Production

Steep Roof Means Great Winter Production

Rooftop Solar
Small nuances can make all of the difference when trying to maximize production from your solar panels. With winter sun angles providing high production out of a PV array, a well-angled, south facing roof can make a difference when dealing with snowstorms. "In short, the roof is steep", says Mike Sudik, owner of Big Sky Solar who installed the 2.6kW rooftop array on the Sembach-Tralongo Residence in December of 2016. The snow slides right off. "This is our first season with the system, but we've noticed it stays clear most of the time," says Mark Sembach. Mark, who travels often for work, mentioned having a low-maintenance system like this is ideal for him. While he's gone, the panels simply keep producing energy. "We monitor production about once per week at this point," says Mark.…
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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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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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