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Who You'll Meet at the Fair, Part 3: Energy Experts and Professionals

Who You'll Meet at the Fair, Part 3: Energy Experts and Professionals

Special Programs
The 8th Annual Montana Renewable Energy Fair is coming to Bozeman. From 9am to 4pm on Saturday, August 11th, individuals from around the state will meet in Bozeman to rally under a common banner of supporting renewable energy and learning more about its various benefits for Montanans. Taking place at the Gallatin Country Fairgrounds (901 N. Black Ave.), visitors will get the chance to experience a variety of workshops, exhibits and activities all centered around clean energy. The fair will include: demonstrations of solar, wind, and energy efficiency technologies and concepts; an electric car show; activities for kids; and, of course, food vendors. Fairgoers will have the opportunity to meet professionals in the clean energy field, industry members and experts, and conservation and energy advocates. In this series, we’ll be…
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Lithium Battery Technology for Home and Business – presented by Blue Planet Energy

Safety & Training
Join us on Friday, August 10th for an industry designed training for installers working with solar + storage systems, presented by Kyle Bolger, Vice President of Engineering with Blue Planet Energy. This one-day workshop will explore the emerging technology of lithium based energy storage systems for homes and businesses, with an emphasis on off-grid applications. The research, development, and implementation of lithium based energy storage systems for homes and businesses is transitioning into a mature and readily available market, with incredible potential to change the traditional design of solar PV systems. Some of the topics for this workshop will include differences in various lithium battery technologies, expected life cycles, warranty periods, cost considerations, and general design parameters. *Space is limited to 25 participants >> Click here to register << Details…
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Who You'll Meet at the Fair, Part 2: Industry Leaders

Who You'll Meet at the Fair, Part 2: Industry Leaders

Special Programs
The 8th Annual Montana Renewable Energy Fair is coming to Bozeman. From 9am to 4pm on Saturday, August 11th, individuals from around the state will meet in Bozeman to rally under a common banner of supporting renewable energy and learning more about its various benefits for Montanans. Taking place at the Gallatin Country Fairgrounds (901 N. Black Ave.), visitors will get the chance to experience a variety of workshops, exhibits and activities all centered around clean energy. The fair will include: demonstrations of solar, wind, and energy efficiency technologies and concepts; an electric car show; activities for kids; and, of course, food vendors. Fairgoers will have the opportunity to meet professionals in the clean energy field, industry members and experts, and conservation and energy advocates. In this series, we’ll be…
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Who You'll Meet at the Fair, Part 1: Advocates

Who You'll Meet at the Fair, Part 1: Advocates

Special Programs
The 8th Annual Montana Renewable Energy Fair is coming to Bozeman. From 9am to 4pm on Saturday, August 11th, individuals from around the state will meet in Bozeman to rally under a common banner of supporting renewable energy and learning more about its various benefits for Montanans. Taking place at the Gallatin Country Fairgrounds (901 N. Black Ave.), visitors will get the chance to experience a variety of workshops, exhibits and activities all centered around clean energy. The fair will include: demonstrations of solar, wind, and energy efficiency technologies and concepts; an electric car show; activities for kids; and, of course, food vendors. Fairgoers will have the opportunity to meet professionals in the clean energy field, industry members and experts, and conservation and energy advocates. In this series, we’ll be…
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Benefit-Cost Study of Distributed Generation Leaves Questions Unanswered

Benefit-Cost Study of Distributed Generation Leaves Questions Unanswered

Policy & Advocacy
In April, the cost-benefit analysis of distributed generation (i.e. rooftop solar) initiated by House Bill 219 was submitted by NorthWestern Energy to the Public Service Commission. The report is now public and is required to be included in the next electric rate case, which is expected to begin in September. Staff at MREA have reviewed the study. First, no work papers, data spreadsheets, or any other supporting materials were included with the report. This makes it incredibly difficult to verify the report’s claims. This lack of transparency is concerning, especially considering the ultimate goal of this report was to bring clarity to questions on rooftop solar, not create further confusion or suspicion. Without the ability to verify the claims made in the study, they cannot be taken as fact. Second,…
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Missoula Electric Cooperative offers members renewable energy through Community Solar Project

Missoula Electric Cooperative offers members renewable energy through Community Solar Project

Community Scale, Rooftop Solar
Missoula Electric Cooperative offers members renewable energy through Community Solar Project The Missoula Electric Cooperative (“MEC”) is a member-owned electric provider that services rural customers in the county of Missoula. In August of 2016, MEC completed installation of their second shared solar array, located on the rooftop of the Frenchtown elementary school. A shared solar array, commonly referred to as a “solar garden,” is a large array of solar photovoltaic panels with several key characteristics: the project is usually owned and operated by an energy provider; they are large, single installations; and they are offered in portions to multiple “subscribers” who can lease or purchase one or multiple panels in the array. This allows the customer to reap the benefits of the solar energy system, even though it’s not located…
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Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 2

Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 2

Policy & Advocacy
In Part 1 of this series, we gave an overview of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC), including a brief history and a description of key elements of its role and structure. In Part 2, we focus on the PSC’s role in energy related issues, and specifically on three important electricity related responsibilities: creating customer classes and setting rates; overseeing long-term planning processes; and setting contract terms for Qualifying Facilities. Creating Customer Classes and Setting Rates The PSC is charged with creating customer classes for investor owned utilities, and setting the electricity rates (i.e. prices) for those classes. Since utility customers use electricity and the grid differently, they may be grouped into different classes so they can be charged differently. Per Montana law, “Classifications may take into account the quantity…
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Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 1

Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 1

Policy & Advocacy
As of March 1, 2018, NorthWestern Energy has one month to submit its distributed generation (i.e. rooftop solar) cost-benefit analysis to Montana’s Public Service Commission (PSC). The analysis is the latest in an ongoing debate over net metering policy that most recently resulted in House Bill 219. HB 219 passed in the 2017 Legislature and mandated NorthWestern Energy to study the costs and benefits of distributed generation customers. Throughout this process, a number of questions have come up: why is the utility overseeing the study and not the PSC? What happens once the study is finished? How will this affect Montanan’s ability to go solar? Many of these questions circle back to the importance of understanding the Public Service Commission and its role. Many Montanans do not realize the scope…
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Sibanye-Stillwater Smelter Installs Montana's First Behind-the-Meter Industrial Scale Solar Array

Sibanye-Stillwater Smelter Installs Montana's First Behind-the-Meter Industrial Scale Solar Array

Rooftop Solar, Utility Scale
As of December 20, 2017, the Sibanye-Stillwater metallurgical complex in Columbus can now boast the first “behind-the-meter” industrial scale solar installation project in the state. The 100 kW solar array was installed by OnSite Energy, based out of Bozeman. The project was completed in a short time-frame to accommodate the end of the fiscal year, and the OnSite crew of four pushed through an icy December to complete the installation process. Many commercial and residential solar installations in Montana are net-metered, meaning when the panels are producing more energy than is being consumed on site, that excess energy is exported back to the electric grid for other customers to use. There is currently a 50 kW cap on net-metered systems for NorthWestern Energy customers. The Sibanye-Stillwater project is unique in that…
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What do these solar tariffs mean?

Industry & Technical, Policy & Advocacy
Last week the President ordered 30% tariffs on imported solar cells and modules. These tariffs are nothing short of artificial price increases, leaving many in Montana to wonder how this will affect their ability to purchase solar. This will be a surmountable, albeit frustrating, speed bump on the road towards energy independence. ​The decision, touted as a way to bolster american manufacturing and create jobs, is projected instead to cost the american solar industry 23,000 jobs. Most of these will be in installation, which makes up the majority of the solar industry. In Montana, installation makes up approximately 80% of the solar industry. These are small businesses, hiring a local workforce, and providing well paying jobs. Already, the uncertainty over the tariffs has caused businesses to curtail expansion. The tariffs…
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