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,…
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‘Solarize’ Makes Solar Simple for Missoula Couple

‘Solarize’ Makes Solar Simple for Missoula Couple

Rooftop Solar, Special Programs
Ever since they bought their first home 20 years ago, Ben and Peggy Schmidt of Missoula have had rooftop solar in mind. The Schmidts have always been environmentally conscious; they both have graduate degrees in environmental studies from the University of Montana, and today Ben works as an Air Quality Specialist for the county, and Peggy, who has an environmental education background, works as a preschool teacher. As Ben explains, “I think it’s important to take some personal responsibility to reduce our carbon emissions and do what we can to address a serious global issue.” When they first looked into solar 20 years ago, they couldn’t afford it. But the price of solar has dropped dramatically in recent years, and by the time Solarize Missoula was launched in 2015, says…
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‘Solarize Missoula’ Spurs Homeowner to Fulfill Longtime Goal

‘Solarize Missoula’ Spurs Homeowner to Fulfill Longtime Goal

Rooftop Solar, Special Programs
Gary Hawk of Missoula has had many occupations in his life—Congregationalist minister, professional woodworker, university professor—and now that he’s retired he has been able to fulfill a decades-long dream: owning a rooftop solar system. Gary’s interest in renewable energy dates back to the environmental movement of the ‘70s, when he first began to explore how his spiritual convictions converged with his environmental beliefs. It was clear to Gary that fossil fuel use was degrading the climate and the environment, and he has been attracted to renewable energy ever since. The ‘Solarize Missoula’ program was the catalyst Gary needed to fulfill his goal of rooftop solar. Solarize Missoula was a program to dramatically increase solar installations in Missoula by making it simpler and more affordable for homeowners like Gary to go…
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‘Aunty Joy’ Turns to Solar

‘Aunty Joy’ Turns to Solar

Rooftop Solar
At an age of “almost 90,” Joy Des Rosier of Whitehall, Montana is not one to leave problems for future generations. Her late husband, who passed away in 2003, always had interest in wind and solar power. A couple of years ago Aunty Joy, as she is affectionately called by friends and family, decided to do a bit of research into what it would take for her to transition to a renewable energy system. Joy expressed her motivation in a phone interview: “We do need a better energy system, and I realize a lot of Montanans depend on coal, but I didn’t want to have to.” After looking into solar and wind power, she decided solar would be her best bet. Her house and garage were built facing south, ideal…
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‘Solar Wall’ Warms Up Wentzel Apiaries

‘Solar Wall’ Warms Up Wentzel Apiaries

Other Technologies
Shawn Wentzel is a third-generation beekeeper and owner with his wife Allison of Wentzel Apiaries in Twin Bridges, Montana. In addition to keeping bees and processing honey, they grow 350 acres of sainfoin hay and raise cattle. Bees are attracted to the sainfoin and use it to produce high-quality honey; and after the sainfoin flowers, it’s harvested and fed to the cows. Several years ago Shawn and Allison reached out to Wayne Baker, owner of Baker Light Industries, a renewable energy business in Alder, Montana. At the time they were burning $8,000 worth of propane each year and looking for a way to reduce fuel costs. Wayne suggested a high-efficiency wood boiler. Today, the wood boiler saves the Wentzels $7,000 per year in fuel costs while providing the heat that…
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Solar Complements Ground-Source Heat Pump for Helena Family

Solar Complements Ground-Source Heat Pump for Helena Family

Other Technologies, Rooftop Solar
When Katherine and Shahid Haque-Hausrath bought their home in South-Central Helena, one of their first tasks was to replace the antiquated, unsafe heating system. After considering their options they decided to install a ground-source heat pump. Ground-source heat pumps take advantage of the fact that the earth, just a few feet down, maintains a much more constant temperature year-round than the air. By using the ground as a heat source in winter and a heat sink in summer, ground-source heat pumps can heat and cool a home quite efficiently. The Haque-Hausraths liked the idea of reducing their heating bills as well as their environmental footprint, and the decision also made sense financially: after tax credits, the ground-source heat pump cost only a little more than a new conventional heating system.…
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Horse-Drawn Wagons Bring Solar to Remote Montana Ranch

Horse-Drawn Wagons Bring Solar to Remote Montana Ranch

Other Technologies, Rooftop Solar
Solar arrived this fall at a remote guest ranch in southwest Montana…and it came by horse-drawn wagon.  The ranch is surrounded by wilderness, and all people and equipment must travel 13 miles by horse and wagon to access it. Motorized vehicles are prohibited by law. The off-grid ranch, which houses up to 30 people at peak season, was until recently powered by a diesel generator running 24 hours a day.  Of course, that meant bringing in thousands of gallons of diesel by horse-drawn wagon, at great expense.  This year, the ranch contracted with Independent Power Systems (IPS) of Bozeman to install a battery bank that will cut generator run time in half, reducing diesel consumption significantly. According to Barton Churchill of IPS, “This was a very unique off grid power system for…
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Solar, Energy Efficiency Revitalize Historic Borden’s Hotel

Solar, Energy Efficiency Revitalize Historic Borden’s Hotel

Rooftop Solar
Borden’s Hotel in downtown Whitehall, Montana has a colorful history as a saloon, hotel and dance hall dating back to 1913.  But in the decades following the death of original owner Hilda Borden in 1971, the Whitehall landmark has been mostly vacant and fallen into disrepair. Several business owners tried and failed to make a go of it, stymied in part by the high energy bills of an old, leaky building. A 2009 fire proved to be the turning point for the old hotel.  That fire, which destroyed five neighboring buildings but spared Borden’s Hotel, prompted the nonprofit Jefferson Local Development Corporation (JLDC) to purchase the building with the goal of revitalizing downtown Whitehall. With the help of federal and state historic preservation tax credits, JLDC undertook a major renovation…
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Solar “An Easy Decision” for Watson Irrigation

Solar “An Easy Decision” for Watson Irrigation

Rooftop Solar
For Watson Irrigation of Townsend, Montana, solar was primarily a financial decision. “It penciled out quick and easy,” explains Konnor Kelsey, Watson Irrigation Operations Manager.  “We’re expecting a seven year return on investment, and the warranties are ten years for the inverters and 25 years for the panels. Equipment that’s paid off while it’s still under warranty?  It was an easy decision.” In fact, Konnor explains that the firm would have preferred to install a larger solar array, but was prevented from doing so by state law. Watson Irrigation’s solar array is 50 kilowatts, the maximum allowed by the state’s net metering law.  It would have taken a 70-75 kilowatt array to offset their electricity use.  A larger array “would have been a no-brainer,” Konnor says. “[The law] is a…
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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…
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