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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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…
Read More
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.…
Read More
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,…
Read More
Flathead Electric Taps into the Power of Community Solar

Flathead Electric Taps into the Power of Community Solar

Community Scale
Not everyone lives in a home that’s right for solar. Until recently, Montanans that rent their homes or have shady rooftops had no way to benefit from solar electricity. But now they do...at least, if they're members of Flathead Electric Cooperative. Flathead Electric has just completed construction of the first ‘community solar’ project in the state, called the Solar Utility Network, or SUN. Community solar involves a group of people coming together to build one large solar array, as an alternative to each of them putting solar panels on their own rooftops. That means anyone can participate, even if their roof isn’t right for solar. It also lowers costs due to the economies of scale of a larger array. Flathead Electric provides power to more than 48,000 members in the Flathead Valley and…
Read More
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…
Read More
Billings Public Library solar array: "A gamble with no losing side"

Billings Public Library solar array: "A gamble with no losing side"

Community Scale, Rooftop Solar
The brand-new Billings Public Library, which opened in January 2014, features on its roof a 30 kilowatt solar photovoltaic array installed by MREA member business Bozeman Green Build. The solar array is net metered, meaning that when the solar panels produce more electricity than is needed in the building at any given moment, the excess power flows out onto the grid and the city receives a credit on its power bill for the library. The array was funded in part by a Universal Systems Benefit grant from NorthWestern Energy. The solar array was incorporated into the new library building with the intent of achieving LEED Gold certification. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the most widely used green building certification program worldwide. The solar array…
Read More