Speak up on Regional Power Plan

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has released a draft 20-year energy plan that will guide energy resource decisions in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. It’s crucially important that the Council, which is composed of two members from each of these four states, supports a final plan that prioritizes energy efficiency and renewable energy. Distributed solar resources can play an important role in serving our region’s electricity needs, but it’s important for the Council to hear from you. Every five years the Council updates its long-range energy plan guiding the deployment of electricity resources in the Bonneville Power Administration service…
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Flathead Electric Taps into the Power of Community Solar

Flathead Electric Taps into the Power of Community Solar

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…
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Committee weighs the benefits and costs of net metering law

At the September meeting of the Montana Legislature’s Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee (ETIC), MREA’s Policy Director, Ben Brouwer, presented a preliminary evaluation of the economic impact from net metering on NorthWestern Energy ratepayers and the state’s economy. The message to Legislators from MREA was clear: the economic benefit of net metering far outweighs the costs. The Committee’s study of net metering, triggered by the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 12 in the 2015 Legislature, has entered the data gathering phase. At the committee’s request, electric utilities, the electrical workers’ union and renewable energy industry groups submitted responses on September…
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Clean Power Plan: Governor Bullock needs to hear from you

In August the Environmental Protection Agency released the Clean Power Plan, a responsible step to fight climate change. The plan sets Montana on a path to cut carbon pollution from power plants while re-investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy. This is a path that will protect our clean air and key industries while making room for new jobs in the clean energy sector. But to take full advantage of this opportunity, we need Governor Bullock’s leadership. Let him know that you support a Montana solution to the Clean Power Plan that puts efficiency and renewable energy first. Governor Bullock…
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Power Optimizers Maximize Solar Production on Bozeman Home

Power Optimizers Maximize Solar Production on Bozeman Home

Gary Weiner first considered solar for his Bozeman home about a decade ago. He liked the idea of getting his energy from a renewable source, not to mention the idea of increasing his property value with solar. But at the time, he decided it didn’t pencil out. “It was more expensive back then,” he recalls. His decision was partly based on the partial shading of his roof, which he believed would make rooftop solar impossible and require a costlier freestanding solar array. News about falling solar prices prompted him to take another look earlier this year. This time, Gary got…
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Take Action: Stop Montana Dakota Utilities’ Attack on Solar

In a recent filing before the Public Service Commission, Montana Dakota Utilities proposed a 21% rate increase for their customers. On top of the double-digit rate hike, the utility wants to penalize homeowners who generate their own solar power by adding a new surcharge for net metering customers. MDU hasn’t disclosed how much the solar surcharge will impact an average solar customer, but there’s no question that the fee will make it more difficult for homeowners to control their own power bills with a rooftop solar array. MDU is taking energy choices away from their customers. All of this is…
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Solar-Powered Beer at the New Butte Brewing Company

Solar-Powered Beer at the New Butte Brewing Company

The Butte Brewing Company is a local legend. It opened in uptown Butte 1885, and though its doors shut in 1965, advertisements for its “Butte Special” beer still grace the sides of several historic uptown buildings. Tony and Teresa Olson, natives of Butte and Anaconda, respectively, bought rights to the Butte Brewing Company name and broke ground on a new home for the brewery in 2012. The Olsons were determined to honor the character of the old brewing company while bringing it into the 21st century, and sustainability was an important component of their plans from the beginning. The new…
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Legislative interim study of net metering gets underway

The members of Montana’s Energy and Telecommunication Interim Committee (ETIC) met on June 5 to establish their work plan over the coming eighteen months. The legislative interim committee, which is composed of four Republicans and four Democrats, selected a study of net metering as one of their primary focus areas. The study is guided by SJ 12, a resolution that passed the 2015 Legislature calling for a study of net metering. Within the broad scope of SJ 12, a cost/benefit analysis of net metering will receive the most attention of the committee, followed by a review of safety regulations for…
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Missoula Couple Inspired at Clean Energy Fair to Go Solar

Missoula Couple Inspired at Clean Energy Fair to Go 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…
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Solar is Natural Fit for Remote Prairie Reserve

Solar is Natural Fit for Remote Prairie Reserve

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,…
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