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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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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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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Emerson Center for Arts and Culture Cuts Power Bills with New Solar Array

Emerson Center for Arts and Culture Cuts Power Bills with New Solar Array

Rooftop Solar
The Emerson Center for Arts and Culture, a nonprofit community arts center housed in a 96-year-old former elementary school in Bozeman, now boasts a very modern element on its roof: a 30 kilowatt solar array, the largest in the Bozeman city limits. The solar array is net metered, meaning that when it produces more clean energy than the building needs, the excess flows onto the electric grid and the Emerson Center receives a credit on its power bill. Those bill savings are fed directly back into the Emerson Center’s programs: it houses art galleries, event spaces, and a large theater, and hosts scores of classes, workshops, events and performances each year. The Emerson Center’s new solar array was funded by longtime Emerson Center supporter and renewable energy advocate Tim Crawford. Bozeman…
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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…
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