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Is Solar on your Radar?

Solar has come a long way in the past few years…

Americans have always believed that they are leaders in the world in just about everything.  However with renewable energies this is far from the truth.  Germany is the world leader now in the use of solar renewable energy and the U.S. could be argued for being in the top ten at best.  But in the log home community, that is a different story. Moving to Montana 2 years ago and starting my company in the solar industry, I learned real quick that the architectural style that I liked the best was also associated with the industry I was moving into and had a passion for.  A large portion of the “Log Cabin” community is the REMOTE cabin lifestyle. And therein lies the necessity for sustainability, it is a requirement.  Folks that have a natural desire to be self sufficient tend to create their entire personal “system” to revolve around that way of thinking. They just “get it”!

Solar costs significantly reduced

Now with the significant changes in the economy and in our environment, Americans are waking up to the foot prints we are leaving behind.  Fortunately the costs of using solar energy has come down significantly at the same time and with knowledge of its availability becoming more prominent via the incorporation into more and more of our daily products, people are seeing it as the viable source of energy that it is.

When I decided to follow my passion and find ways to expand the use of solar energy, I took on a philosophy of “Any way I could help you unplug ANY device; I would” so it became my motto “Bringing green energy to the average household”.  At the time I didn’t even realize how broad that statement would be reflected in what I do. I have had the opportunity to work on small little projects like lighting up a business sign to keep from having to wire it, to putting a system on a local school.  Many of my other projects can be viewed on my project page. (

log home solar panels installed

So, the knowledge of renewable energy is growing and many people are becoming more interested, but a lot of my time is spent educating people on the specific options that are available to them in their “Home System”.  Every home or cabin is an entirely different situation and requires much evaluation of all the parameters.  Then I end up spending a good bit of time explaining the in’s and out’s of the financial end of things.

To begin with I usually recommend that everyone take a look at this government site ( it is a national reservoir of incentive information on all kinds of tax breaks and rebate programs.  Just click on your state to see all the details.

However, here in Montana there are 4 main programs when it comes to the use of solar renewable energy; first, the Federal tax incentive is 30% of the total cost is refunded to you directly. This is huge and it boils down to this, if you spend $20,000, you get $6,000 back when you file your taxes.   Second, the state of Montana offers a rebate of $500 for an individual and $1,000 for a married couple towards that system.  Everyone get these, but the next one is reserved for those on the Northwestern grid. Up till just recently it was $3 a watt up to $6,000 for a 2 KW system max. That was huge. Now with the costs coming down and many more installers in the state, they are revising the program to spread it out a bit more.

Full details may not be available for a few months. Those that are a part of co-op’s or are off grid cannot make use of this incentive.  For Montanans, there is another major program that is really an awesome financial vehicle. The Department of Environmental Quality offers a revolving loan program for assistance in financing the cost of renewable energy projects.  Currently it offers up to $40,000 at a 3.75% for a 10 year term. A lien is placed on the property as collateral.  With this program, virtually everyone could put a system on their home.

Solar ROI is 8-11 years

Simply stated, if you are going to be paying an electric bill anyway, why not apply it to a system that you will own. With the average ROI on a system being 8-11 years in this area, by the time you pay the loan of, you will have made the “power” to “pay” the system off. Montana has pretty low rates compared to the rest of the country. This would leave you another 15-20 years of system life and FREE power.

Another way to look at it is; what is the cost per kilowatt hour over the life of the system? For most of the systems I have done the math on it runs about 4-5 cents a kilowatt hour on average. Those here on Northwestern’s grid are paying 11 cents (half the cost), other places in the country are paying 30-40 cents a kilowatt hour, so there is your math. This is an investment into our future.

Off-Grid Solar Panels

With there being so many good options for home systems now and the costs being so low it would seem like it’s almost a no-brainer, but there is still a hesitation for many as the economy still is weighing on people’s minds. I have had so many people tell me that “we really want to do this but we are going to wait till next year”.  The logic behind this kind of baffles me. If you wait to see if the economy crashes to make your move then how are you going to make your move? Hmmm? Whereas, if you install the system and the economy does get crazy? At least you have power.  The remote cabiner’s get it. They call it being prepared.  Or just being sustainable.

For me it isn’t about the economy or the math or the ROI, it is about cleaning our energy up in every way we can. Even if you live in an apartment I can build a system that would allow you to power several if not many of your devices. Systems can be built for as low as $4-600 and all the way up to large commercial systems in the hundreds of thousands. So in the end the real question is “How can I help you clean up your energy?”


Erin Scott, owner of Scott Solar LLC

Editor’s comments: Erin is a network friend from LinkedIn. We had a discussion about solar solutions for log homes and she was kind enough to write this great article to help educate us about using solar to save money, save fuel and leverage that big resource in the sky.

1 comment to Is Solar on Your Radar?

  • Great article. The solar panel set up in the pictures looks nice too. When you get a chance check out some of the solar work we’ve done. Its posted in the solar section of our site.

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