A conversation with Dan Kenworthy
In November, MREA spoke with Dan Kenworthy, owner of Kenworthy Electric, about his family business and how MREA has weaved through his connection to the solar industry.
How did you get into the solar industry here in Montana?
I am a third-generation Montana electrician, following the footsteps of my father and grandfather, continuing to run the business since I bought it back in 1994. My first solar grid tie was actually with Henry Dykema, current President of the MREA Board of Directors. I worked on the grid tie for a solar system Henry installed on the Sheridan School as part of the “Solar for Schools” program. That got me pretty interested in solar installations. Then in 2002, a solar class came up in Butte that was actually put on by Chris Borton, another Board Member of MREA. That got me even more motivated, and I started to get into grid-tie projects here and there.
How is your business connected to the renewable energy industry?
We are a full service electrical contractor, but about a third of our business is now related to the solar industry. Another third is related to generator systems, which relates heavily to the solar work. There are some off-grid projects that we work on that focus mostly on tying together solar panels with a generator on-site. We had a pretty big year for off-grid systems in 2016 especially. One interesting solar project we recently completed was setting up solar pond aerators, which are more typically done using a windmill.
What are your favorite things about working in the solar industry in Montana?
The excitement comes from the remarkable new products and ideas we are seeing. Solar, in particular, is being used for things like sign and street lighting, remote camera sites for wildlife studies, pond pumps and aerators, river cameras and for powering our homes, offices and ranches. For me personally, one of the greatest things is seeing the interest my youngest son has shown in these systems.
Why did you decide to support MREA through the Penny Per Watt program?
I want to give back because in a way, MREA and the people here are how I was originally connected to the industry. I feel like I am where I am in the solar industry because of MREA, and I’m grateful for that. The lobbying efforts are also a big motivator. As a small business owner, sometimes it’s hard to get that message out there. It’s great that MREA can do that for us.