Energizing Montana!

Our first two clean energy tours were a success! On June 11th and 18th I took a trip to Bozeman and Hamilton, respectively, to give folks in these two towns a tour of some of the clean energy projects which have been completed in the local community. AERO has a history of putting on these tours to connect local home and business owners to solar installers and funding organizations. These tours were a continuation of that history, although the last tour was five years ago.

The Bozeman tour was rather nerve-wracking: after only having one registrant two days before the event, I was close to calling it off to reschedule. Luckily, some last minute registrants came together and we had a nice turn-out of community members . The highlight of this tour was a 5 home micro-development built by Ed Adamson. A quirky, but highly intelligent home builder based out of Bozeman. Ed was able to give us an in-depth look at his home, featuring solar pv, solar hot water, recycled steel as framing for the structure, and passive solar incorporated into the whole project. But this was just the exterior of the home; Ed led us through his house, which featured more of the recycled steel he had welded and shaped himself. Poured concrete flooring with radiant heat embedded provides the home with warmth both from the solar hot water and thermal gain through his passive solar design. Ed included plans to add a wind turbine to the top of the home as well. Finally, Ed had stuccoed every house in the development himself, using locally sourced materials and a European style finish. Ed’s motivation for this project was to create housing that had character, but could be constructed relatively easily, while providing eco-friendly shelter for families. When we finished up at the micro-development, we took a short bike ride down to Bozeman Brewing Company using the amazing Bozeman trail system. When we arrived Todd Scott took us up to the top of the tasting room, where Harvest Solar had installed a 50 Kw Solar array, providing a good amount of the energy of the brewery. When on the roof, Brad Van Wert of Harvest Solar and John Bailey of Thunderbird Development gave us a more in-depth, technical look at the solar array. When the tour was completed we all got a quick look at the brewery and beer!

The Hamilton tour had a slightly different focus, the main components of the tour being Ravalli Electric Cooperative’s community solar project, Valley Solar and Homestead Organics.

Starting out at Valley Solar, the installer of the system was able to give us a more technical breakdown of the array. It was interesting to see a larger scale project from what we had seen in the past. It is also a good option for homeowners who don’t have optimal exposure to install. By purchasing panels at the site, you receive a credit on your next electricity bill but don’t have to worry about installing all of the system on your own home. We next took a trip through town to Homestead Organics, a small organic farm with a diverse set of sustainable energy and agricultural systems. The whole farm was great to see, and we also got a look at the new processing facility being installed for the poultry coop. (Stay tuned for more info on that from AERO as well!) The farm has three solar arrays, two for powering homes and one for cooling a greenhouse with a fan. The cutest part of the tour had to be getting to hold the baby La Mancha goats! The furry creatures were very playful and curious. Once we wrapped things up at the farm, we took a bike ride into town using the trail that runs all the way from Hamilton to Missoula! In town, we got to see the solar arrays on both Higherground Brewing and Bitter Root Brewery. While having  lunch at Bitter Root we took a short amount of time to talk about AERO’s new financing page which you should check out here

We hope you can join us for our last three tours this summer in the Flathead on July 9th, Helena on July 17th and Billings on July 30th! Stay tuned for updates.