How to Use the Solar Calculator
The best way to learn about local rebates, your home’s energy potential, and your eventual return on investment is to use our ModSun Solar Cost Calculator (see above). Enter your home address in the box, then click Check My Roof. You’ll get an instant picture of your roof’s productivity, your average energy expenses, and installation costs in your area—whether you decide to buy or loan. We’ll also provide system size recommendations and information about rebates and incentives you may be eligible for. Just select More Info under each purchasing strategy to learn more, and then connect with a solar pro.
Solar Panels for Billings Residents
Oil drilling and coal mining are very common in Montana, but the state is definitely working on diversifying its energy sources. Montana adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard that required 15 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable resources by 2015. It has already exceeded that goal with 25 percent of the state’s power coming from hydroelectric plants. The state also has a strong focus on building a strong wind energy program. With 205 sunny days a year though, opportunities to break into the solar market are vast for Montana. The city of Helena can produce roughly 2,250 kilowatt hours of solar electric power annually from a 1,000 watt utility-connected solar electric system, which is more than sunny Jacksonville, Florida and almost as much as Phoenix, Arizona, a top producer of solar power. Investing in solar power for your Billings home makes a lot of sense, both for the environment and for your bottom line.
Will My Solar Power System Stand Up to the Weather in Billings?
Yes. While Billings doesn’t get much rainfall, just 14 inches a year, that rainfall will be helpful in keeping your solar panels clean so that they can fully absorb the sun’s rays. In terms of snowfall, Billings gets quite a bit more snow than the rest of the country, 57 inches of snowfall a year compared to the national average of 25 inches. Light snow won’t hurt your solar panels and actually the bright, white snow on the roof and surrounding your home may actually make your system operate at peak capacity because it will reflect the sun’s rays so well.
If snowfall becomes heavy on your solar panels though, blocking out all light, your system will stop functioning. In that case, you may want to use a roof rake to clear the snow off the panels and relieve the panels of the added weight from snow and ice. Use extreme caution if you decide to work on your roof in such slick conditions. Like the rain though, as the snow melts it should do a good job of cleaning your panels for you. In terms of cloudy days, in Billings you can expect 112 partly-cloudy days. These days, even consecutively, shouldn’t have a large impact on your system—maybe a 5-10 percent reduction in capacity at worst.
It’s important to remember though that because Billings is normally so sunny, you will have generated a lot of excess energy during those sunny days to help get you through extended periods of dreary weather.
Are there Financial Incentives to Adopt Residential Solar in Billings?
Renewable Energy Installation Tax Credit: Montana offers individuals the opportunity to invest in solar power and receive up to a 35 percent tax credit on income generated by the investment. The alternative energy investment by the individual must be more than $5,000 to qualify. This credit is available for individuals building a new facility or purchasing a used facility, but the facility must be on the property of the individual and must have a generating capacity of 50 kilowatts or fewer. The tax credit must be taken the year the equipment is placed in service; however, any portion of the tax credit that exceeds the amount of tax to be paid may be carried over and applied against state tax liability for the following seven years.
NOTE: Taxpayers may not take this credit in conjunction with any other state energy or state investment tax benefits, or with the property tax exemption for non-fossil energy property.
The Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program (AERLP): Montana offers the AERLP for residents who want to install alternative energy systems.The program specifically mentions solar water heaters and solar photovoltaic systems (PV) as qualified expenses. Loan funds are restricted to these qualified expenses and services, including: equipment; engineering and consulting; installation costs; energy conservation measures; other qualifying items as approved by program managers. The loan is available for up to 10 years with a maximum payout of $40,000. Interest rates are set annually and fixed for the term of the loan. The rate for 2016 is 3.25 percent. To apply for the program, you’ll need to complete this form.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) accepts applications year round. Applications are ranked based on system reliability, return on investment, and potential for avoided fossil fuel consumption. If approved, applicants will be notified of available funds, or if there are no funds currently available, they will be notified of when new funds are anticipated to be available. For more information, you can contact the department at:
Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program
P.O. Box 200901
Helena, MT 59620-0901
Solar Property Tax Exemption for Billings Residents
Montana’s property tax exemption for recognized non-fossil forms of energy generation may be claimed for 10 years after installation of the property. The exemption is allowed for up to $20,000 in value for single-family residential dwellings and up to $100,000 in value for multi-family residential dwellings or non-residential structures. This is good news for homeowners as adding a solar power system to your home undoubtedly increases your home value. The general rule is that for every $1 in energy savings you can expect to see $20 in increased home value.
Solar Net Metering in Billings
Montana’s net-metering law applies to all customers of investor-owned utilities. Systems up to 50 kilowatts in capacity that generate electricity using solar are eligible. Currently, there is no limit on enrollment or statewide installed capacity. Utilities may not require customer-generators to comply with any additional standards or requirements beyond those established by the National Electric Code, National Electrical Safety Code, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), and Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Any net/excess energy produced by the customer is credited to the customer’s next monthly bill. The customer may choose to start the net metering period at the beginning of January, April, July or October to match seasonal farming cycles. At the beginning of the year — either in January, April, July or October, depending on the customer’s choice — any remaining unused kilowatt-hour (kWh) credits accumulated during the previous year are granted to the utility.