MRSAP Phase Two Report: Community Engagement

MRSAP Phase Two Report: Community Engagement

Education and Information, Special Programs
In 2020, MREA launched the Montana Rural Solar Access Project with the goal of ensuring that our rural communities across the state have access to the independence, cost savings, and resiliency that distributed solar can offer. In the Summer of 2020, we kicked off Phase One of the project with a research and literature review to understand how rural communities have gained access to distributed solar development in other states, what opportunities and challenges those communities faced, and how organizations like ours could bring these best practices to Montana. This year, we launched Phase Two to ‘ground truth’ this research here at home. Between July and September of 2021, we held community meetings in Fort Benton, Havre, White Sulphur Springs, Red Lodge, Dillon, Hamilton, Forsyth, Glasgow, Columbia Falls, and Shelby.…
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Reflections on the ASES Tour in Montana

Reflections on the ASES Tour in Montana

Education and Information, Special Programs
Calhoun's solar-powered home in Whitefish, MT Every year the American Solar Energy Society holds their National Solar Tour, which encourages households and businesses with solar to host voluntary tours that local community members can attend. The tour provides opportunities across the country to learn from the tried-and-true experience of solar customers who have already gone through the process of installation. Here in Montana, we had participants across the state open their homes, in-person or virtually, to demonstrate their solar systems and answer questions about the process, and the benefits. Lee Calhoun, owner of Northstone Solar, participated for the first time this year, and encouraged several solar households in his community of Whitefish to do the same. Calhoun recently built his home with solar, storage, and energy efficiency in mind and…
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ASES National Solar Tour in Montana, Oct. 2-3

ASES National Solar Tour in Montana, Oct. 2-3

Announcements, Education and Information, Special Programs
Join a local Montana event! The annual National Solar Tour - organized by the American Solar Energy Society - is coming up this weekend! Touring a local installation is an opportunity for community members to see the technology, ask questions, and understand how solar is benefiting the lives and businesses of their neighbors. This is a great way to support the development of solar in Montana. We hope you can attend one of these Montana based events! Click on the links below to see the location, times, and featured technologies (like solar, storage, heat pumps, and more). Virtual events will 'launch' on October 2nd and be available throughout the weekend. MONTANA NATIONAL SOLAR TOUR EVENTS​​ Saturday, October 2 10a - 3p (Whitefish): Mountain Solar Home – Learn More* 9a -…
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MREA Gives Back: Whitehall Net-Zero Energy Affordable Housing Project

MREA Gives Back: Whitehall Net-Zero Energy Affordable Housing Project

Education and Information, Special Programs
December 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of MREA's founding. Two decades ago, a small group of renewable energy installers, advocates, and supporters formalized what would grow into the education and advocacy organization that we are today. We are grateful for the immense support from our communities and combined efforts driving the development of renewable energy in Montana! In continuing our mission of expanding renewables to all Montana citizens, MREA is celebrating our 20th year by 'giving back' and supporting clean energy projects that impact the lives of our broader communities. While we can't grant funds ourselves, our goal is to bolster partner projects by raising awareness, funneling financial support, and highlighting the socio-economic benefits of such projects. We hope you will consider supporting these projects to help make them a…
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MREA Gives Back: Habitat for Humanity Workforce Housing Solar

MREA Gives Back: Habitat for Humanity Workforce Housing Solar

Education and Information, Special Programs
December 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of MREA's founding. Two decades ago, a small group of renewable energy installers, advocates, and supporters formalized what would grow into the education and advocacy organization that we are today. We are grateful for the immense support from our communities and combined efforts driving the development of renewable energy in Montana! In continuing our mission of expanding renewables to all Montana citizens, MREA is celebrating our 20th year by 'giving back' and supporting clean energy projects that impact the lives of our broader communities. While we can't grant funds ourselves, our goal is to bolster partner projects by raising awareness, funneling financial support, and highlighting the socio-economic benefits of such projects. We hope you will consider supporting these projects to help make them a…
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Federal ITC Extended for 2 Years

Federal ITC Extended for 2 Years

Education and Information, Industry & Technical, Policy & Advocacy
Some great energy-related news coming out of Congress! The spending bill – which was signed into law just yesterday – includes a two-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) at the current 26%, rather than decreasing yet again at the end of this year. The ITC has spurred huge amounts of private investment in renewable energy. This is a big win for renewables! The tax credit was originally 30% of the total installed system cost. The ITC was due to step down in 2021 to 22%. This was part of a planned phase out of the credit, which was negotiated several years ago when the credit was extended. Eventually, the residential ITC will expire (in 2024) and the commercial ITC will remain at 10% (as of 2024). It's important…
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Solar Powered, Off-grid EV Charging

Solar Powered, Off-grid EV Charging

Education and Information, Industry & Technical, Other Technologies, System Profiles
This post was written by Christopher Borton, Co-founder and Director of the Sage Mountain Center and MREA Board Member. Chris recently made an exciting upgrade to the Center that promises to be part of the quickly evolving market of electric vehicles.  [caption id="attachment_3211" align="aligncenter" width="640"] EV charging at off-grid Level 2 charging station[/caption] The electric heater in my office is humming while outside it is 20 degrees F and our 2017 Chevy Volt is charging up from the solar electric panels on our site. In the 30 years we have operated Sage Mountain Center – our off-grid home and retreat center – we have always known there was a missing link in our sustainable lifestyle: clean transportation. We have organic and permaculture gardens, straw bale and cordwood buildings, solar heated…
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Solar and Snow: To Brush or Not to Brush

Solar and Snow: To Brush or Not to Brush

Education and Information
It's late October in Montana and we're already seeing some early season snowfall. Some Montanans are enjoying the early wintry vistas, some are getting excited for ski season, and for owners of rooftop or ground-mounted solar systems they may be wondering: do I need to clear the snow off of my panels? To Brush or Not to Brush A thin layer of snow is unlikely to be a problem. In fact, research has shown that as the panels begin to collect sunlight they'll warm up and the snow will typically either burn off of slide off of the panels without any need to brush them. At this point, the snow will actually clean the panels, especially if it melts and slides off naturally. Like rain, this will actually end up…
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Net Metering: So, what happens now?

Net Metering: So, what happens now?

Education and Information, Policy & Advocacy
Last Thanksgiving, distributed generation consumers and advocates had something to truly give thanks for: a unanimous (5-0) decision by the Montana Public Service Commission (MPSC) adopting MREA/Vote Solar's proposal to maintain net energy metering ("net metering", "NEM") rates and rate structures. The MPSC rejected a utility proposal that would have made it impossible for net metering customers installing rooftop solar and small wind, for example, to save money on their energy bills. The ruling was a huge win, but the question remains: so, what happens now? In short: nothing - and that's a great thing! We explore the more detailed answer to that question below. Read on for a look at net metering and what to expect in the coming months and years. Before we begin... A clarifying reminder that net…
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Show Me the Money: Financing and Incentive Updates and Changes in 2020

Show Me the Money: Financing and Incentive Updates and Changes in 2020

Education and Information, Special Programs
As the cost of renewable energy continues to drop, more Montanans are choosing to install distributed energy systems like rooftop solar and small wind. When considering an installation, there are important financing and incentive options to keep in mind. Some of these have gone through some changes - or nearly so - in the past year. In this blog post, we highlight three updates and changes to important financing and incentives that Montanans should be aware of as you look to install small solar and wind systems at your home, business, farm or ranch in 2020 and beyond. Net metering – Update: no changes! On November 25th, 2019 the Montana Public Service Commission (MPSC) ruled in favor of MREA and Vote Solar, preserving rooftop solar and unanimously rejecting Northwestern Energy's…
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