Montana is the fourth largest state in the union, situated in the northwestern portion of the United States. Geographically, Montana is one of the largest states, but concerning population, it is one of the smallest with just under a million residents and only 6.2 people per square mile, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
With 145,500 square miles of territory, 60 percent of which consists of open prairie and is part of the Great Plains, except for the western one-third of the state that houses a hefty portion of the Rocky Mountains from which the state gets its name, Montana has an abundance of renewable solar energy resources. For all the open space Montana has, there is much potential for harnessing the energy of the sun with photovoltaic solar cells--the state averages over 300 days of sunshine per year--but the state seems to be mostly focusing its renewable energy efforts on cultivating a wind energy program.
Montana’s primary energy source is coal. Oil drilling and coal mining in the eastern part of the state make up a large part of Montana’s economy. Over one-fourth of the nation’s recoverable coal reserves can be found in Montana’s geologic basin. Oil reserves are also found in the eastern basins of the state. In addition, rivers flowing down the Rocky Mountains in the state offer great opportunities for hydroelectric power. In fact, six of the ten largest electric plants in the state are fueled by power derived from water pressure, and currently 25 percent of the state’s total energy comes from hydroelectric power plants. Montana’s overall energy consumption is relatively low due to a low population, though the per capita use of energy tends to be relatively high because of the cold winters residents experience. As well as personal energy use, the process of coal mining requires the majority of the state’s energy consumption.
Montana’s plans for the future include a renewable energy portfolio that calls for the state to collect 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2015. Considering the above figure for hydroelectric power, Montana has already met that goal. Still, opportunities for solar power using photovoltaics are many, especially in the northwestern area of the state. 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 Jacksonville, Florida and almost as much as Phoenix, Arizona. Installing solar panels on a residential building in Montana makes a lot of sense, both for the environment and for your pocket book.
To help residents out in that respect, Montana offers a number of incentives and rebates for people who install photovoltaic panels on their homes. These include property-tax reductions or exemptions, tax credits, and rebates.
|Program Type||Personal Tax Credit|
|Technologies||Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Geothermal Electric|
|Amount||35 percent; participant investment must be greater than or equal to $5,000|
|Required Documentation||System Inspection|
|Official Web Site||http://www.deq.mt.gov/Energy/renewable/taxincentrenew.mcpx#15-32-401|
Montana offers individuals and businesses the opportunity to invest in solar power and receive up to a 35 percent tax credit on individual or corporate tax 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. (from the website)
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 15-6-224.
|Program Type||Loan Program|
|Technologies||Solar Water Heat, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass and Geothermal Heat Pumps|
|Amount||Varies; maximum $60,000, Up to 15 years; 4.0 percent interest rate for 2010|
|Required Documentation||Loan Application|
|Official Web Site||http://www.deq.mt.gov/Energy/Renewable/altenergyloan.mcpx|
Montana offers The Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program (AERLP) for residents who want to install building insulation, windows, doors, or appliances as part of an alternative energy project on their property.
The loan must be applied for and is available for up to 15 years with a maximum payout of $60,000. Interest rates are set annually and fixed for the term of the loan. The rate for 2010 is four percent.
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) accepts application 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.
|Program Type||Utility Grant Program|
|Technologies||Photovoltaics, Wind and Hydroelectric|
|Amount||Photovoltaics: $3.00 per watt, up to $6,000 maximum|
|Required Documentation||Request for Proposal (RFP) Application|
|Official Web Site||http://en.openei.org/wiki/NorthWestern_Energy_-_USB_Renewable_Energy_Fund_(Montana)|
NorthWestern Energy offers residents a utility grant program in which funds may be allocated to pay residents for excess energy derived from small-scale photovoltaic install projects that feed energy back into the grid.
The program, called the Universal Systems Benefit (USB) will allocate $3/watt of energy to an install project, up to $6,000. Interested parties need to contact a qualified solar installer. USB funds are available from a $1 fee on all residents’ energy bill in order to promote the installation of renewable energy devices.
Funds are allocated for the same year that they are collected. If funds have been used up by the time an application is received, it will be transferred to the following year.
Corporate Tax Credit
Personal Tax Credit
Property Tax Assessment
Property Tax Exemption
State Bond Program
State Loan Program
Utility Grant Program
Utility Rebate Program
Rules, Regulations & Policies
Building Energy Code
Energy Standards for Public Buildings
Mandatory Utility Green Power Option
Public Benefits Fund
Renewables Portfolio Standard
Solar and Wind Access Law
Related Programs & Initiatives
The U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFDC) provides a wide range of information and resources to enable the use of alternative fuels and other petroleum-reduction options, such as advanced vehicles, fuel blends, idle reduction and fuel economy. The AFDC site offers a database of state and federal laws and incentives related to alternative fuels and vehicles, air quality, fuel efficiency, and other transportation-related topics.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Green Power Network provides news and information on green power markets and activities, including opportunities to buy green power. This site provides state-by-state information on green power marketing and utility green power programs. In addition, the site lists marketers of renewable energy credits (RECs), also known as green tags or renewable energy certificates, which represent the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy-efficient. Through this program, weatherization service providers install energy-efficiency measures in the homes of qualifying homeowners free of charge. The WAP program web site offers a state-by-state map of opportunities, projects and activities.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Powering America site provides state-by-state information on wind projects and activities, including wind working groups, validated wind maps, anemometer loan programs, small wind guides, state-specific news, wind for schools, workshops and web casts.