“Big Sky Country” Montana earned its moniker thanks to its wide open spaces and diverse terrain. With low population density, plenty of space and parts of the state getting 200 days of sunshine a year, solar has the potential to play a strong role in Montana’s energy generation mix. Learn about the costs associated with making the switch to solar panels in Montana, and what the state is doing to help incentivize the change.

Montana’s Solar
Report Card

Grade
Methodology

To determine a grade for each state, our researchers and solar experts analyzed data on crucial solar-advancement criteria from the following sources:

We determined a rank from 1 to 10 for each state in each category. We then combined the scores with the following weights and assigned an overall grade for each state. Our goal is to encourage those considering solar for their homes to get a basic understanding of solar potential in their areas and discover the best opportunities for clean energy available.

Incentives & Rebates, 40%

Electricity Rate, 15%

Renewable Energy Policy, 30%

Interconnection Ease, 5%

Photovoltaic Potential, 10%

Electricity Costs in Montana

The national average for the cost of electricity is $.1273/kWh, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Montana comes in below that figure at an average $.1085 cents/kWh. More than 50 percent of the state’s electricity generation comes from coal. This is no surprise as Montana boasts one-fourth of the nation’s demonstrated coal reserves, states the EIA. However, “Big Sky Country” does take advantage of its natural resources, especially its fast-running rivers, and is the fifth-largest producer of hydro-power nationwide. The EIA notes that Montana also has some of the best potential for utility-scale wind and these types of projects are increasing.

Cost of Residential Electricity

Data from U.S. Energy Information Administration
*as of Q3 2015

Information and
Resources on Montana Solar

Solar Policies & Incentives

In 2014, Montana installed four MW of solar generating capacity, according the Solar Energy Industries Association. This amount of solar places Montana 46th in the nation in rankings completed by The National Renewable Energy Laboratory. While solar has not yet taken off in the state, Montana has adopted a renewable resource standard that requires retail electricity suppliers to get at least 15 percent of their electricity sales from renewable energy. Many of the rebates and incentives focus on renewable sources in general; however there are some tax credits and tax exemptions that can make solar an attractive proposition for businesses and homeowners.

REBATES/INCENTIVES

Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program:

Administered through the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, this program allows property owners to borrow up to $40,000 for the installation of energy efficient devices, including solar systems. The loan carries a 3.25 percent interest rate and must be repaid within 10 years.

NorthWestern Energy – USB Renewable Energy Fund:

This rebate program allows solar PV owners to receive $2,000 for residential properties and $0.50/watt for commercial properties. To be eligible, property owners must have their solar energy systems installed by a NorthWestern Energy qualified dealer or installer.

None for residential specifically

None for commercial specifically

POLICIES

Net Metering:

Since 1999, Montana law has mandated that utility companies credit customers that have alternative energy generating systems installed on their property. These credits are applied to customers’ monthly utility bills.

Solar and Wind Easements:

Under this law, those with solar and wind energy systems have the right to access to proper amount sunlight or wind for system operation.

Interconnection Standards:

Montana’s interconnection rules, which went into effect in August 2010, allow PV system owners to connect to the utility grid. Systems must not be more than 10 MW.

Universal System Benefits Program:

The Universal System Benefits Program, which was created in 1997, requires that utility companies charge its customers a fee that is used to fund renewable energy projects around the state.

Mandatory Utility Green Power Option:

Electric utilities are required to offer customers the option to purchase electricity generated by resources that include, but are not limited to, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

None for residential specifically

None for commercial specifically

TAX CREDITS

None for residential/commercial specifically

Residential Alternative Energy System Tax Credit:

Residential taxpayers can receive a tax credit for installing PV systems on their property. The maximum amount is $500 for an individual taxpayer and $1,000 for a household.

Alternative Energy Investment Tax Credit:

Tax credits of up to 35 percent against corporate tax are available to commercial or industrial property owners for alternative energy investments of $5,000 or more.

EXEMPTIONS

Renewable Energy Systems Exemption:

Montana allows property owners to receive a 100 percent exemption for 10 years after installing an energy generating system. Maximum amounts range from $20,000 to $100,000, depending on the size and type of the property.

None for residential specifically

None for commercial specifically

Companies Installing Solar in Montana

Harvest Solar Montana:

Locally owned, Northwestern Energy PV installer and provider of residential PV solutions based in Bozeman. Offers free site assessments and operates in Bozeman and surrounding areas.

Where it operatesBozeman

Independent Power Systems:

Specializes in design and installation of economic, self-sustaining solar and renewable energy systems. Team of professional in-house engineers, licensed electricians and certified PV installers serves Bozeman, Montana, Colorado and Massachusetts

Where it operatesBozeman

Year of opening1996

Oasis Montana:

Sells, designs and installs solar PV and wind power systems, as well as solar water pumps and DC appliances for grid-connected and off-grid homes. Completed the largest grid-tied solar power system in Teton County in 2011.

Where it operatesStevensville

Year of opening1998

OnSite Energy:

Locally owned and operated company that provides solar PV systems sales, design, installation, operations and maintenance, as well as training and education. More than 300 PV project installations completed. NABCEP certified.

Where it operatesBozeman

Year of opening1992

Solar Montana:

Sells, designs and installs residential grid-tied and off-grid solar and other renewable energy products and systems. NABCEP certified

Where it operatesHelena

Year of opening2005

Sundance Solar:

Locally owned and operated provider of residential solar and small-scale wind power systems, NABCEP-certified and Northwestern Energy USB Qualified PV installer whose owner serves on the Board of the Montana Renewable Energy Association. Awarded governor’s award for ¨A Commitment fo Clean, Green Energy and Conservation.¨

Where it operatesRed Lodge

Year of opening1994

Montana Solar Resources

Missoula Electric Cooperative:

Explore Missoula Electric Coop’s website for solar news and information. MEC recently completed its first community solar installation, which affords solar energy access to customers who for one reason or another cannot have a residential PV system installed.

Montana State Energy Office:

Find information from the state authority for solar, renewable energy and energy efficiency in Montana. The state energy department also operates an Alternative Energy Loan Program that helps home and property owners finance solar PV installations.

Montana State Legislature:

Track solar legislation, policies and programs for Montana.

Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA):

A non-profit, 501c3 organization, MREA was founded in 2000 by businesses, families and individuals with a mind to conserve natural resources, create jobs and increase individual and community independence and self-sufficiency by working to increase renewable energy use. MREA’s website offers a wealth of valuable information, as well as links to solar and renewable energy stakeholders within and beyond state borders.

Montana Green Power:

Find news and information on solar energy in Montana. Includes general scientific and technical information, and a list of state renewable energy businesses, as well as news and opinion to do with the solar politics, economics, finance and technology.

DSIRE:

Explore this online database maintained by the North Carolina Clean Energy Center. DSIRE is probably the most comprehensive and widely used reference for solar energy policies and incentive programs across the 50 states, the District of Columbia and territories.

Clean Energy in My State:

Discover details of renewable and energy efficiency projects, activities, statistics, maps, news and policies in Montana and the nation.

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA):

As the U.S.’ leading solar energy industry trade association, SEIA’s website serves as a continually updated source of news, information, research and statistics regarding solar energy in the U.S. Fact sheets provide highlights and summaries state by state.