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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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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With community support, Lewis and Clark Library goes solar

With community support, Lewis and Clark Library goes solar

Community Scale, Rooftop Solar
Walking down S. Park Avenue in Helena, you might find yourself gazing onto the roof of the Lewis and Clark Library. Where before there may not have been much of a view, today there are rows upon rows of solar panels. Unlike most rooftop installations, the location of the Lewis and Clark Library affords passers-by a view of the 50kW solar array, completed this past March by Bozeman Green Build. A unique opportunity presented itself when the Library began planning to replace the roof. “We were already planning on replacing the roof,” says John Finn, Library Director. “We were approached by Sleeping Giant Citizens Council (SGCC) who suggested we look into making the new roof ready for solar while we were at it.” From there, a number of groups came…
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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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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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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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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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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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