With community support, Lewis and Clark Library goes solar

With community support, Lewis and Clark Library goes 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…
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Net Metering Cost-Benefit Analysis Process Underway

House Bill 219, passed by the 2017 Legislature and signed by Governor Bullock, directs the Montana Public Service Commission to oversee a cost-benefit analysis conducted by NorthWestern Energy of customer-generators (i.e. utility customers who use grid-tied, net-metered systems). This analysis could have significant impacts for net metering customers and renewable energy installers in Montana. House Bill 219 requires NorthWestern Energy (NWE) conduct a study on the costs and benefits of customer-generators (i.e. net metered customers) before April 1, 2018. NWE is required to submit this study to the Public Service Commission (PSC) who will then review the study and make…
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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

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…
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Legislative Wrap

updated May 9, 2017 The 65th Legislature has adjourned, and we at MREA are left with a feeling of both relief and frustration. Over the past 4-months, MREA staff worked with board members, colleagues, and our individual and business members to oppose attacks on net metering, the alternative energy loan program, and more. At the same time, we worked to advance legislation that would have created jobs and supported energy independence. We owe a large thank you to everyone who dedicated their time to come to Helena to testify this session, submitted comments online, and made phone calls to Legislators.…
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First LEED Platinum building in Montana now using 100% solar

First LEED Platinum building in Montana now using 100% 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…
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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

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)…
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Legislative Half-time Report: Net metering

The past 8 weeks have been spent working hard to defend and promote net metering policy here in Montana. A huge thank you to all the MREA members and many others who called, sent emails, came to Helena to testify, and attended a thrilling rally. Even with all of this overwhelming support for positive action, it is clear the influences working against net metering continue to prove themselves too challenging to overcome. However, there is still important work to be done in the remaining months of the session. The bills that we brought forward to expand net metering have all…
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Steep Roof Means Great Winter Production

Steep Roof Means Great Winter Production

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…
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Kenworthy Electric

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…
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Monitoring Solar Production Right from Your Phone

Monitoring Solar Production Right from Your Phone

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…
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