Powered by the SUN - renewable, clean energy!
One of the most innovative segments of our renewable market is solar energy. Free and abundant sunlight can integrate seamlessly into Montana's energy economy. Learn how each of us can contribute to a clean energy future! People around the state are making the decision to reject dirty energy sources that contribute to global climate change. It's time to chose energy that is naturally abundant and increasingly inexpensive.
Thanks to Tess Barker, University of Montana Intern, for developing this page.
How solar works
Solar energy can be captured to generate both electricity and heat.
- Photovoltaic (PV) cells harness sunlight and convert it to electricity using the photovoltaic effect. Typically made from silicon and other semiconducting materials, PV cells produce direct current (DC) electricity when struck by the sun's rays. This DC energy is then transformed into alternating current (AC) energy using an inverter.
- In a PV system, energy output and economic efficiency are dependent upon a number of factors, including system orientation, tilt angle, and technological sophistication. Additionally, sunlight exposure (or solar irradiance) at the system's geographical location also influences energy output. On average, Montana receives about 4 to 5 hours of peak sunlight per day.
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benefits of solar energy
Four to 5 hours of peak sunlight doesn’t feel like much to those living under the cloudy winter skies of Montana. Nevertheless, many Montanans have already implemented and realized the benefits of their own rooftop solar systems. Take a look at how you can benefit from owning a solar system in the treasure state, too!
- Rooftop solar systems are user-friendly and low maintenance. Systems often come with a power production warranty of up to 25 years.
- Systems can link to your home computer or application device so you can easily keep track your energy flow. Impress your friends with your savings!
- Your business or home’s resale value will increase with the installation of solar panels. In today’s greening world, more and more buyers view solar systems as value-added upgrades.
- Solar systems pay for themselves. When you create your own energy, both your dependence on the electrical-grid and your home’s energy-operating costs decrease. Some net-metering policies even provide retail credit for extra electricity generated from home systems.
- When you adopt a your home or business, you take a stand against global climate change. Sunlight is a clean and 100% emission-free energy source. Unlike uranium and fossil fuels, sunlight is abundant and found everywhere (even during Montana's grayest winters). A step toward solar energy is a step in support of clean energy.
- Rooftop solar is wildlife friendly. These systems contain no moving parts that would disrupt Montana’s most pristine habitats. They are unobtrusive and silent producers of
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is solar for you? ConsiderATIONS for implementation
Isn’t it time to investigate how solar power could be practically incorporated into your home or business? Consider such factors as financing, contracting, and installation.
Cost & Financing
A preliminary home energy audit is recommended for those interested in small-scale solar systems. In addition to calculating the energy savings you can expect to see over time, energy audits determine the size and cost of renewable energy systems for a home or building. Professional contractors are capable of performing highly accurate energy audits; however, online estimates are freely available if you're looking for a rough approximation. Check out resources such as SBS Solar, where in fewer than five minutes you can have a general (and free) estimate!
While price of solar energy has fallen dramatically over the past few decades, potential buyers are still encouraged to explore solar power rebates, tax credits, and incentives that make this energy even more affordable. For instance, Montana residents may claim an income tax credit of up to $500 for installing non-fossil forms of heating or electrical generation. For an extensive list of more incentives and policies, take a look at US Department of Energy’s Database of Incentives/Policies for Renewables & Efficiency.
Contracting & Installation
There are many solar dealers/contractors in Montana. Check with your energy provider to see which contractors are recommended or qualified in your area. If you're interested in receiving NorthWestern Energy’s Universal Systems Benefit (USB) renewable energy (RE) funds, see here for a list of qualified dealers/installers. The Montana Renewable Energy Association also provides a comprehensive list of businesses that work with renewable energy technology here.
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success on the home front
Communities everywhere are engaging solar energy as a viable alternative to fossil fuels and to be part of climate solutions. Read about their success stories:
- The city of Ellensburg, WA implemented the first community solar project in the US. Through this project, Ellensburg city electric customers can invest in jointly owned community photovoltaics and receive direct credits toward their electricity bills.
- The city of Los Angeles approved a long-debated Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program on Tuesday, April 9, to help bring solar energy to grid parity and build a stable clean energy market. The program is estimated to create 4,500 jobs and generate $500 million in economic activity.
- Solar Mosaic, a California solar project company, has raised $320,000 to fund five solar installations around the nation. See how they use a business model called “crowdfunding” to successfully support solar energy projects.
- 25 major US cities currently serve as the foundation of the US Department of Energy’s Solar America Cities. Through this federal-local effort, market barriers to solar energy development are being broken down, and the adoption of solar technologies has been greatly accelerated.
success stories from around the world
America isn’t the only nation where solar energy has been gaining ground. Across the globe, countries are realizing the wisdom in and benefits of using solar energy systems. Take a look at how Germany, India, and others are making the swap to solar power:
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Here Comes the Sun (opinion, Nov 2011)
Solar + energy efficiency= Utilities Power Down on Building Plans
Natural Resources Defense Council --
Provides a brief overview of American solar energy, including state profiles and technology basics.
NorthWestern Energy --
Details NorthWestern Energy’s procedures for Montanans wishing to pursue a photovoltaic system.
Montana GreenPower --
Provides a comprehensive overview of everything solar, from contractors and directories to tax credits and net metering.
Montana Renewable Energy Association --
Offers an accessible overview of Montana renewable energies, including contractor directories, incentive and tax credits information, and links to additional resources.
The American Solar Energy Society Inspirational information about solar from around the U.S.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Cool research and developing innovations.
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