Solarize Central Montana is a campaign of Central Montana Resource Council. We are bringing together community members from Fergus and Judith Basin Counties to get more solar energy in Central Montana. Solarize Central Montana is working to select expert installers and gathering information you need to consider going solar on your home or business. The campaign will officially launch in February.

If you’ve ever thought about going solar or if you’re curious to learn more, sign up for a (free!) assessment on your home or commercial property and attend upcoming Solarize webinars! Solar assessments on homes and businesses will begin after February 2022, and installations are expected to start in late Spring.

Check out the recording of Solarize Central Montana’s “Solar Made Easy” Event!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Solarize?

Solarize is a short term local effort that brings together groups of potential solar customers through widespread outreach and education. This model helps customers access solar installation companies that are offering competitive, transparent pricing.

Who is eligible to join Solarize?

If you live in Fergus or Judith Basin Counties and own your own roof, you are eligible to join Solarize.

How do I know if my home or business is suitable for solar?

A south or southwest-facing roof are the most ideal locations for a solar electric system. Shading can cause a decrease in your system’s ability to function at its maximum capacity. To avoid this, ensure trees and other obstructions, current and future, do not compromise your system. When you schedule your at-home solar assessment, your solar installer will provide specific information on your roof’s viability.​

How does solar PV work?

A solar PV system generates electricity by converting sunlight into electricity that can be used in your home. This reduces the amount of electricity you need to purchase from your utility. Your utility keeps track of how much electricity you supply to the grid as well as how much you purchase, and bills you only for your net electricity consumption.  

How are solar PV systems sized?

The size of a solar PV system is often described in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). 1,000 W = 1 kW. Watts are a unit of power, just like the horsepower of an engine. They express the maximum possible output of energy the system can produce at any point in time. When sunlight strikes solar PV panels, they produce electricity that is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). Kilowatt hours are the units of energy you buy from your utility and use in your home to run your appliances, lighting, and electronics. Your system will be sized based on the amount of energy you use and the amount of usable space on your roof.​

Will the system produce electricity on cloudy days?

Yes, just not as much. Under an overcast sky, panels will generate less electricity than they produce on a clear, sunny day.​

What sort of maintenance is required?

Solar electric systems require very little maintenance. Rain showers will generally take care of the pollen and dust that fall on your solar panels. You may have to trim trees and maintain branches to protect your system from falling limbs, minimize shading and maximize electric production.  Snow removal is not necessary or recommended unless proper precautions and tools are used to avoid personal injury or damage to the panels. 

Will my system produce power if there is a blackout?

Without a battery backup, grid-tied solar electric systems won’t operate when the power goes out. You can add a battery backup to your system to keep the lights on during a blackout, typically these types of backup systems can range from $5,000- $15,000.​

How much will I save by installing a solar electric system?

Your solar savings depend on the size of the system you choose, your annual electrical usage, electricity rates and any financing option that you choose. With your solar assessment, you will receive information on much electricity your new system is expected to produce on an annual basis and an estimation on how much you will save on an annual basis.​ Sign up for an assessment on your home, ranch, or business to find out!

Will I still receive a monthly electric bill after installing a solar electric system?

Yes. You will receive a monthly bill from your utility company as you always have, but the amount owed will differ depending on your monthly electrical usage. Depending on how your system is sized, you may accrue credits in the more productive summer months, which can be carried over and used in the less productive winter months.​

Are federal incentives available for my system?

The federal government provides an income tax credit equal to 21% of your system’s total installed cost, net of state incentives. This can be claimed on your tax return. This tax credit is set to expire in 2023. The ITC is a 30% tax credit for solar systems on residential (under Section 25D) and commercial (under Section 48) properties.

Are there financing options available?

Yes.  The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has a Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program (AERLP) which provides low interest loans (3.25%) for renewable energy projects like installing a solar PV system. You can find more information at the DEQ website here.

How does solar impact my property values?

Studies have shown that homes with solar energy systems sell for more than homes without them. However, your property value will only increase if you own, rather than lease, your solar panel system. In most parts of the country, going solar will actually increase your property value more than a kitchen renovation.

About Central Montana Resource Council:

Central Montana Resource Council is a grassroots organization working to protect water quality and quantity from corporate privatization, over-withdrawal, and degradation and to research and develop local food production and distribution and improve the self-sufficiency of Lewistown.

Contact:

Questions about Solarize Central Montana? Contact Bronya Lechtman at bronya@northernplains.org or (406) 248-1154.