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Old 08-06-2010, 01:58 PM
6 posts, read 11,225 times
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MT seems to be one of the only states that has it's act together producing renewable energy, both residential and commercial. i am going back to school for a year to get certified to install solar systems. i was wondering how the job market is in MT, especially the western part of the state (ie. Missoula, Kalispell, etc), for solar installers? any help is appreciated. thanks!!
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Old 08-06-2010, 04:20 PM
Location: Where the mountains touch the sky
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Welcome to the Montana board HarryHood.

I have worked in alternative energy, (primarily R&D) for many years starting with ethenol production in the early 1980s.

You must remember that while there are a couple of companies that sell or install photoelectric systems in Montana, it is not a premier place for that application.

We have far too many overcast days especially west of the divide during the winter and our latitude is too far north to make solar systems the best choice for someone looking to install such a system.

For example we will only have 8 hours of daylight at midwinter when the energy need is greatest.
Solar panels are rated at 1 full sun at the equator for their output. We are a long way from the equator.
A good solar panel will be around 20 - 25% efficent (ie: amount of sun available to electricity output). When you factor in we have a lot of cloudy days, and even at our best don't rate one full sun of power during the winter, the efficency of the system is dramatically lowered and you have to have more than the usual 3 days reserve in batteries, or you will be using your gas powered generator backup a lot, and you have to have a lot more cells to catch the limited amount of sunlight when it is available.

This makes solar systems more expensive here, and not the best choice if someone wants to go "off the grid".

We have far more wind, geothermal and hydroelectric resources here if you are looking to work in alternative energy production.

We also have vast reserves of natural gas, coal and oil.

The primary drawback to any form of energy production in Montana is we already produce far more than is required for the citizens of the states use, but the lack of transmission lines to move the power to market limits how much we can actually produce.

If your heart is set on solar systems, I would reccomend looking further south to the sunnier areas.

Good Luck.
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Old 08-07-2010, 03:11 PM
Location: Bozeman, Montana
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There is a successful solar energy company in Bozeman called Radiant Engineering.
It was started back in the 1980's.
Radiant Engineering Home
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Old 08-07-2010, 06:40 PM
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thanks for the information. i figured wind would pretty much be the dominant source for renewables in MT. just thought i'd test the waters.
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Old 09-20-2013, 10:51 AM
Location: Bozeman, Montana
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Default Solar Energy In Montana

To update this thread with more info, the company I referred to earlier, Radiant Engineering Inc., in Bozeman, designed and installed the solar hot water heating system for the new Simms Fishing Products manufacturing building. The link to read about the Simms solar hot water project is here:
Design & Engineering

They also invented and patented a highly efficient radiant heat transfer plate that is extruded aluminum, made in the USA (Portland, OR) called ThermoFin. It has been featured on the This Old House program.

They have a Facebook page, named Radiant Engineering, and a Pinterest page, where you can see more photos, videos, information, and product and service explanations if you are interested in retrofitting your house with radiant heating. There are even before and after pictures showing how they have replaced old boilers with new boiler technology.
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Old 09-30-2013, 07:22 AM
Location: SW Montana
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My two cents; there is quite a lot of attention being given to active as opposed to passive solar right now. While I more than agree there are many places, especially in western Montana, where overcast days are much more numerous, close to 3/4 of the state benefits from quite a few degree-days of sunshine.

Homes and businesses that are built to take advantage of passive sunshine will work at least some even on relatively cloudy days, even in winter. We have a small rental which has a south facing greenhouse, lightly insulated, which on a sunny 0ºF day in the winter will easily achieve 80ºF or better and remain above freezing at night. I have black 2" piping running in a repeating "S" pattern 6" from the windows (double panes salvaged from a house) which pre-heats the water going into the hot water heater; it achieves between 80ºF-100ºF+ on that same kind of day.

Think of the possibilities of good construction, modern materials, and property placement. I more than believe there is vast room for improvement in energy efficient passive solar housing. Just have to get people used to the idea that homes don't necessarily need to be squares or rectangles.

Hard sell, that...
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