What are our most popular systems?

We specialize in residential installations of alternative energy.  We do install-and-forget grid-tied systems, as well as off-grid.  Our most popular installs are grid-tied solar PV systems that produce 250 watts per panel.  We also do wind turbines, off-grid systems, battery banks, and more.

How much solar should I get?

For grid-tied systems, Nortwest Energy will reimburse homeowners 1-for-1 in credit.  That means that at night, your power comes from the utility, but during the day, the power your panels produce spins your meter backward.  They will not reimburse above the amount you consume, so we tend to size systems to between 75-100% of your current usage.  That size usually ranges from ten to thirty panels per househould, about 2500 to 7500 watts.

Is solar a good investment?

The quality of investment in Solar is linked directly to electricity prices.  In Hawaii, where electricity costs $o.40 per kilowatt, solar is one of the very best investments one can make.  In Montana, where electricity costs $0.11 or so per kilowatt, the return on investment on systems we install ranges from about 9-13% per year ROI for the life of the system.  That outpaces bonds and savings accounts, as well as most interest rates, and is competitive with the stock market.

Some time during 2013, due to chinese manufacturer’s entering into the solar game, and for a while the world experienced a glut of solar panels.  This drove the price of panels into the basement, and they’re not likely to fall further in price.  With tax incentives set to expire in 2016, now is a great time to invest in solar.

How do the tax credits work?

There are currently two tax incentive programs to help defray the costs of going and saving green with alternative energy:

The federal tax incentive is a 30% tax credit against the costs of installing an alternative energy system.  These credits can be carried forward from year to year, if your credit exceeds your liability.  Visit the Energystar website for further details.

In Montana, there is an additional tax incentive of up to $500 per taxpayer, up to $1000 per household.  Use this form to apply for these credits.  Visit the DEQ Website for more information.

How much will my system cost?

With our variety of financing options, solar can lower your bills from day 1.  Wrapped into a 30 year mortgage, you’ll buy on credit, pay a very low electricity bill, and save money each month, all with very little down payment.  If you’re financing a house, adding a solar install into the mortgage is a no-brainer.

We charge a base price of just less than $3 per installed watt, but costs vary based on your system’s specifics.

For those buying outright, most systems pay themselves back in under 10 years.  With a 40 year lifespan of the panels, they pay for themselves four times over.

Photovoltaic systems have dropped tremendously in cost, both since their invention over 40 years ago, and since we went into business in 2005.  Typical competitor’s costs are $5 per nominal watt installed.  Depending on the specifics of your system, Solar Montana can typically install systems for under $3 per watt, and help you get you tax incentives and grants to make it cost even less.

How long do photovoltaic (PV) systems last?

Solar systems, having no moving parts, can last a long time.  They can withstand high winds, and will typically outlive the roofs we install them on.  We have seen panels manufactured in the 1970’s which still produce 70% of their rated capacity.  While we cannot guarantee that your new panels will last as long, panels have only gotten better since then.

The the manufacturers offer 25 year warranties for the panels we sell.  They won’t hold up to bullet holes, falling bulldozers, or full-on tornado strikes.  They are insurable and durable to most weather you are likely to experience.  The best way to ensure and extend the life and effectiveness of your PV system is by having it installed and maintained properly.

What are the benefits of installing solar at my home?

If “a penny saved is a penny earned” is a philosophy you believe in, solar panels can start making you money from day one.  They are a durable, simple way to save money.  The energy source is free, not polluting, and largely maintenance free.

What kind of warranties can I expect from my system?

The solar electric modules we install typically carry a twenty five year warranty. The grid-tied inverters we install carry a ten year standard warranty. The off–grid inverters carry a two year warranty with optional five year warranty. Most of the wind generators we install have a five year warranty. Solar Collectors (for hot water) have a ten year warranty. Batteries vary in warranty but some have as high as ten years. Most other components, such as charge controllers have a two year warranty. We warranty our installation and craftsmanship for one year.

What kind of maintenance is required for a PV system?

For a grid-tied photovoltaic system, very little maintenance is required. Periodical cleaning of the modules is desired.

Do I need batteries for a grid tied system?

No.  In a grid tied system, the utility acts as your storage device. This reduces the cost and complexity of a system. It also means when the power shuts off, your renewable energy system shuts down. This is a safety measure for utility workers repairing downed lines.

Can I use photovoltaic modules to heat my house?

We do not recommend using PV as a heat source, as electric heat is inefficient.  You would be better off using a different heat source such as wood heat, solar thermal, geothermal, or a high-efficiency furnace.


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