Blog

Legislative interim study of net metering gets underway

Policy & Advocacy
The members of Montana’s Energy and Telecommunication Interim Committee (ETIC) met on June 5 to establish their work plan over the coming eighteen months. The legislative interim committee, which is composed of four Republicans and four Democrats, selected a study of net metering as one of their primary focus areas. The study is guided by SJ 12, a resolution that passed the 2015 Legislature calling for a study of net metering. Within the broad scope of SJ 12, a cost/benefit analysis of net metering will receive the most attention of the committee, followed by a review of safety regulations for net metering systems, an examination of Montana incentives for net metering and a report of the economic impacts of the industry. Ben Brouwer, MREA’s Policy Director, provided guidance to ETIC…
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Missoula Couple Inspired at Clean Energy Fair to Go Solar

Missoula Couple Inspired at Clean Energy Fair to Go Solar

Rooftop Solar
Eric and Donna Mendelson built their home in Missoula in 2008 with energy conservation in mind. The walls are constructed of structural insulated panels (SIPs), and the heating system is a hybrid high-efficiency heat pump and high-efficiency gas furnace. Eric explains that the furnace heats the home when outside temperatures are coldest, and the heat pump takes over when it’s warmer than 28-30 degrees F, maximizing the overall efficiency of the system. The Mendelsons didn’t include solar in the initial design of their home, but they hoped to add a solar array one day. So they jumped at the chance to learn more about solar at MREA’s Clean Energy Fair in September 2014. At the fair, they attended workshops on solar electricity and financing and incentives, and chatted with several…
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Solar is Natural Fit for Remote Prairie Reserve

Solar is Natural Fit for Remote Prairie Reserve

Other Technologies, Rooftop Solar
Grouse Camp is a remote, off-grid collection of yurts in northeastern Montana that belongs to the American Prairie Reserve (APR), a nonprofit organization that is working to build the largest wildlife reserve in the lower 48 states.  School groups come to Grouse Camp to learn about the prairie and its wildlife, and volunteers use it as a base to remove fences and build trails on the reserve.  Public campgrounds are nearby. An hour south of Malta, Grouse Camp is far from the nearest power lines.  Before last summer, a gasoline-powered generator provided power to the largest of the six yurts, which includes a kitchen, radio communication system, and gathering space.  The power was essential, but the generator’s noise and the need to buy and haul in gasoline were hassles for…
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New Solar Array Lights Up Capital High School

New Solar Array Lights Up Capital High School

Community Scale, Rooftop Solar
Ever since Tom Pedersen, a science teacher at Capital High School, had solar panels installed on his home in 2010, he’s been thinking about how great it would be to put solar on the school. “I believe in teaching stewardship to my students,” says Tom, and “we have a great flat roof on the gym that [I realized] could be a power plant for the school.” When the school gym was slated for a new roof in 2014, the timing was right. Tom worked with Jack Isbell, owner of Solar Montana in Helena, to secure funding from NorthWestern Energy’s Universal Systems Benefit program to cover the cost of the panels and installation. The school contributed thousands of dollars worth of engineering and structural work to make the project happen. Jack…
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Bozeman Couple Saves on Propane with Solar Water Heating

Bozeman Couple Saves on Propane with Solar Water Heating

Other Technologies
Karen and Jan Foust of Bozeman have always had an interest in solar energy. Their water heater runs off propane, and the thought of using free energy from the sun to reduce their propane use always appealed to them. Last year, the Fousts got in touch with Todd Hoitsma, owner of Liquid Solar Systems of Bozeman. After considering their needs, Todd recommended a 35,000 BTU solar hot water collector coupled with a 60 gallon solar storage tank. This system would provide about 10,000 gallons of hot water per year, which would be expected to meet about 70% of the Fousts’ annual hot water needs. The total cost of the system was $5,900, but Todd explained that the state Alternative Energy Tax Credit as well as a federal tax credit would…
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Net Metering at the Legislature: Half-time Report

Policy & Advocacy
Over the past few weeks, MREA’s priority legislation to make renewable energy more accessible and affordable to Montana consumers has been killed by the Montana Legislature. Hundreds of Montana businesses and individuals contacted their legislators, urging them to vote for MREA’s priority bills, but the outpouring of support wasn’t enough to overcome the powerful influence of utility lobbyists in Helena. HB 192, sponsored by Rep. Art Wittich (R-Bozeman), was heard on January 19th, with an impressive turnout of fifteen businesses, consumers and organizations lining up in support of raising the cap from 50 kilowatts, an amount decided in 1999 when net metering legislation was first passed in Montana, to 1 megawatt. As John Palm from Bozeman Green Build pointed out, the low cap limits opportunities for large energy users to…
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Three Forks Pole Mounted Solar Array Supports Montana Manufacturing

Three Forks Pole Mounted Solar Array Supports Montana Manufacturing

Rooftop Solar
When Leandra Hill of Three Forks, Montana, decided to install a solar energy system on her property – a former dairy farm –  she discovered that her rooftop was just not viable for solar.  To maximize solar output, a south-facing roof aspect is important, but all of her south-facing roof space was shaded by large trees.  Luckily, she learned, there was an alternative: a pole-mounted solar array. Ms. Hill’s recently-completed 15 kilowatt pole-mounted solar array is expected to provide 100% of the annual electricity use of the two houses and shop building on the property.  And the system doesn’t just produce local, Montana-made solar energy, but it also supported Montana manufacturing.  The array was installed by Bozeman-based business Onsite Energy, using an innovative pole mount technology designed and manufactured by…
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MREA’s 2015 Policy Priorities: Defend and Expand Opportunities for Distributed Renewable Energy

Policy & Advocacy
Net Metering: Fair Credit for Clean Energy Broadly distributed around Montana are more than 1,000 solar arrays, small wind turbines and micro hydro projects that provide power to homes, businesses, schools, farms and ranches. When the wind is blowing or the sun is shining and these generators produce more energy than the owner is using, the extra electrons flow onto the power grid and are sold by the utility to neighboring customers. Montana law guarantees that renewable energy system owners get full credit on their power bill for each kilowatt-hour of clean energy they provide to the utility. That’s fair. Let’s keep it that way. Why are Utilities Putting up Barriers to Rooftop Solar? Renewable energy is helping Montana families and businesses take charge of their energy costs like never…
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Solar “Just Made Sense” for Bitter Root Brewery in Hamilton

Solar “Just Made Sense” for Bitter Root Brewery in Hamilton

Rooftop Solar
According to Jason Goeltz, general manager of Bitter Root Brewery in Hamilton, Montana, the decision to install a 10 kilowatt solar array on the roof last spring was a natural reflection of the brewery's commitment to sustainability – and a prudent financial move as well. "Sustainability is a significant driving motivator for many of our business decisions," explains Goeltz. With sustainability in mind, the brewery has recently cut back on packaging of its 22 ounce glass bottles and is transitioning to aluminum cans. They will soon be installing an electric vehicle charging station onsite. Given the abundance of sunshine in the Bitterroot Valley, the solar array "just made sense," says Goeltz. The economics of solar didn’t hurt, either. The solar array helps to shield the brewery from rising energy costs, and…
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Solar-Squared for Low-Income Housing Complex in Havre

Solar-Squared for Low-Income Housing Complex in Havre

Rooftop Solar
Residents of the low-income Hill View Apartments in Havre, Montana will soon be enjoying double the benefits of solar energy: solar photovoltaic panels and solar thermal collectors will work side-by-side to produce electricity and hot water for the 52-unit complex. The new solar arrays are part of a complete renovation of the complex with an eye toward energy efficiency, including added insulation and new windows and boilers. The project also features construction of a new, energy-efficient community building, which includes meeting rooms, laundry facilities, and a Head Start school and playground. The project was developed by MT Preservation HV LLLP, a partnership which includes HomeWORD, a nonprofit developer of affordable and sustainable housing headquartered in Missoula, and GMD Development of Seattle. Hill View is one of five low-income housing complexes…
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