MTPR

solar energy

New terms for small solar projects across Montana might have been knowingly set to discourage development. That's based on a conversation caught on a hot mic last week during a mid-session break for a Public Service Commission meeting.


Solar panel installation.
Wayne National Forest (CC-BY-2)

After supporters of the so-called Solar Jobs and Energy Freedom Act rallied in the state Capitol yesterday in support of more solar energy development, legislation to do so stalled in committee today on a tie vote.

House Bill 504 failed to get enough votes to move out of the House Energy Technology and Federal Relations committee.

Brad Van Wert, also known as Solar Guy, gives a speech at a brewery in Kalispell, Montana earlier this month.
Nicky Ouellet

If you ever go on Facebook, you may have noticed a new face popping up in your newsfeed. Solar Guy, or Brad Van Wert, is the face of Charge Montana, a coalition of renewable energy advocates, to get Montanans excited about solar energy, and more specifically, legislation that affects the cost of electricity.

Utility companies say homeowners' solar panels can end up being subsidized by other customers.
(PD)

Legislation introduced Wednesday in the Montana House would require officials to study how renewable energy generators, like solar panels, impact the utility bills of the people who don’t have them.

Solar panels can help trim down the utility bill of homeowners, but some say it shifts that cost onto other utility consumers who don’t have personal energy generators on their home. There’s no consensus on that.

Republican Representative Daniel Zolnikov of Billings
Mike Albans

As more solar panels go up on homes and businesses across the state, lawmakers in Helena are debating the economic incentives for doing so. Buying solar panels isn’t cheap, and it’s an investment that Norman Mullen, who lives in Helena, hopes new legislation can protect.

Groups campaigning for the expansion of renewable energy sources rallied nearly a hundred supporters in front of NorthWestern Energy headquarters in Butte, MT Oct. 10, 2016.
Corin Cates-Carney

  About 100 advocates for renewable energy walked through uptown Butte earlier this week, chanting and thrusting signs in the air. Some protesters kept time on wooden blocks, tambourines and drums, as they walked toward the state headquarters of Montana’s largest utility company, NorthWestern Energy.

Groups To Rally For Alternative Energy In Butte

Oct 7, 2016
A 2005 state law requires Montana utilities to buy a total of 75 megawatts of energy from small-scale, locally owned producers of renewable electricity from wind, solar, and hydro sources.
(PD)

On Monday, environmental advocates will protest in front of NorthWestern Energy’s Montana headquarters in Butte. The group 350 Missoula and others say NorthWestern isn’t moving quickly enough towards renewable sources of electricity. The rally is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. Monday at Emma Park in Butte, followed by speakers from the Montana Environmental Information Center and other groups in front of NorthWestern Energy’s headquarters.

Solar Energy Advocates Ask Feds To Reverse Price Suspension
(PD)

This week, Montana’s Environmental Information Center and solar energy advocates asked federal authorities to reverse a state regulator's decision earlier this year that advocates say is killing clean energy jobs.

Mountain Water Company.
Cherie Trusler

The private company that owns Missoula’s city water system got slapped with a financial penalty today.

Our Capitol reporter has details on that, as well as efforts to change how much renewable energy companies can charge customers. Reporter Corin Cates-Carney followed the action and joins us now to fill us in.

Utility companies say homeowners' solar panels can end up being subsidized by other customers.
(PD)

A North Carolina solar energy company says it’s prepared to sue Montana if state utility regulators stick by their decision on how much they can charge for electricity.

Solar panel installation.
Wayne National Forest (CC-BY-2)

Montana’s utility regulators took unprecedented action Thursday when they suspended price rates for solar energy. It's a win for NorthWestern Energy, but it could slow growth in Montana’s solar energy industry.

Community Solar Project Opens In Ravalli County

May 26, 2016
Mark Grotbo, general manager of Ravalli Electric Co-op stands in front of the solar panels that now line the side of Highway 93 near Victor.
Bree Zender

Governor Steve Bullock was in Victor Thursday to help open a new private solar energy facility.

A stretch of solar panels now line the side of Highway 93 near Victor. The new facility, Valley Solar, is the third community solar energy project to open in Montana. Gov. Steve Bullock spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.
File photo (PD)

Former Governor Brian Schweitzer says Montana is well-positioned to help lead what he believes is the country's inevitable energy revolution.

"We're one of the 31 states that passed a [mandatory] renewable energy portfolio. Electricity that we're using in Montana, more than 15 percent of our portfolio is already from renewables."

Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is bullish on the future of energy generation and distribution.

Schweitzer's written a new book titled "Power Up.energy" in which he asserts an energy revolution is underway in the United States. He says our dependence on foreign fossil fuels can and should be replaced within 20 years by natural gas, solar and advanced battery technologies.

Solar panel installation.
Wayne National Forest (CC-BY-2)

Fans of non-petroleum energy are having a “Clean Energy Fair” in Missoula’s Caras Park Saturday. Diana Maneta, the executive director of the Montana Renewable energy association says they’ll be unveiling a new initiative called Solarize Missoula.

Kevin and Marti Murphy and their children at their home in Colstrip.
Amy Martin

Kevin Murphy has worked at the Rosebud coal mine for 15 years, running a bulldozer which works in tandem with a dragline – a machine as big as a ship with a giant boom that extends 300 feet up into the air. The dragline perches on the lip of an open pit, scraping away hundreds of feet of rocky soil to reveal the black seam of compressed prehistoric peat that humans have been burning for fuel for millennia.

Development of solar energy is undergoing a renaissance as the price and downside of fossil fuels increases. Author, physics professor and solar energy expert John Perlin says the use of solar energy goes back thousands of years.