Harnessing the sun’s energy has never been this easy…
Missoula Electric Cooperative’s community solar program, Solarshare, provides our members the opportunity to acquire renewable solar energy from centrally located, cooperatively owned solar gardens. Community solar programs like Solarshare are a smart and simple way to enjoy the benefits of solar power without the installation or maintenance costs of on-site installations.
The Solarshare program reflects MEC’s commitment to maximizing the use of affordable renewable energy. Today, MEC’s portfolio is about 95 percent carbon-free energy. Residential members who purchase the output of just two Solarshare panels can typically offset about 5 percent of their energy usage, giving them bragging rights to being 100 percent carbon-free.
MEC currently operates three Solarshare arrays for its members.
MEC Solarshare K3 Garden
In partnership with KettleHouse Brewing Company, MEC installed 189 solar panels across the roof of the Bonner KettleHouse Brewery. MEC members who purchase a share in the MEC Solarshare K3 Garden array get all of the benefits of solar energy plus they will be enrolled in the KettleHouse’s exclusive Renew-A-Mug Club. Club members can enjoy one free beer each day they visit the brewery’s new Bonner taproom for as long as they participate in the Solarshare K3 Garden program.
Members who wish to purchase electricity from the Solarshare K3 Garden are encouraged to contact the MEC office at (406) 541-4433. Output from these panels is expected to sell quickly!
MEC Solarshare 1 Garden
In December 2015, MEC completed the installation of a 50-kilowatt solar array adjacent to our distribution substation in Lolo, in partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. The array comprises 176 panels, divided between two groups of 88 panels, feeding electricity through two 480-volt inverters. This program is sold out with 53 households and businesses participating.
MEC Solarshare 2 Garden
Installed in August 2016 in partnership with Frenchtown School District, Solarshare ll is a 50-kilowatt, 186-panel array on the roof of the Frenchtown Elementary School. The program is sold out with 38 households and businesses participating.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why go solar?
People who care about the energy they consume are increasingly turning to solar energy for their electrical power. It produces no carbon dioxide emissions; its price is stable and it is abundant.
Who can participate in Solarshare?
Participation in MEC’s Solarshare program is limited to members of Missoula Electric Cooperative. All MEC members — homeowners, renters, and businesses — can participate.
How much solar-generated electricity can I purchase?
Members may purchase the output of multiple solar panels. Members are limited to the purchase of 80 percent of their average energy usage over the last 12 months.
How much credit will I receive on my bill?
Each month the energy produced by the solar array will be measured and the total divided by the total number of panels at the solar garden. Each participating member’s MEC account will be credited for the energy production associated with the number of panels in the member’s contract. Solar production will vary from month to month.
What is the cost?
The cost to purchase the output of one panel in MEC’s Solarshare K3 Garden for 25 years is $650; payable in one lump sum or 6 equal payments. Your Solarshare investment will typically pay for itself after approximately 20 years.
How does the cost compare to installing my own panels at home?
The answer depends on a number of factors; but on average, we estimate that on a watt-per-watt basis, participating in MEC’s Solarshare program costs 30-50 percent less than installing panels at your home.
What does the cost cover?
Everything you need in order to receive carbon-free solar energy right away. MEC will provide necessary maintenance and insurance, and ensure that all applicable codes, standards and regulatory requirements are met at the time of installation and throughout the life of the solar array.
How can I sign up?
MEC members can participate by contacting our office at (406) 541-4433 or (800) 352-5200. We can answer any questions you may have and provide a copy of the contract. Panel availability is limited and we expect the Solarshare K3 Garden to sell out quickly, so we encourage you to act soon if you are interested.
What if I move?
If you move to another meter location within MEC’s service territory, your solar energy credits (or panel purchase) will move with you. If you are moving out of the MEC service area, the panel output can be transferred to another member at no additional cost.
Does the system work if there is an outage?
No. The inverter needs a power supply to convert generated electricity from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Without a power supply the inverter will not work.
How much energy will the Solarshare K3 Garden produce?
Energy production will vary from month to month and year to year based on weather. The installer estimates each panel will produce an average of 338 kWh annually over the 25-year term. With 189 panels, the Solarshare K3 Garden should produce a total of almost 64,000 kWh per year. Solar production varies from month to month and decreases by approximately 0.5% per year as a system ages.
How much solar energy has the entire Solarshare program generated to date?
As of late 2018, MEC has generated approximately 286,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity for members through its Solarshare program. That’s enough electricity to fully power approximately 24 homes in Western Montana, year-round.
By participating, do I own part of the solar array?
No. Participating in the program entitles the subscriber to a share of the energy output of the array equal to their level of participation in the program. There are no rebates or tax benefits for participation.
How long could I receive benefits from the array?
The initial term of the program is 25 years.
How much free beer can I get, and when can I get it?
Membership in the KettleHouse’s Renew-A-Mug Club is limited to one mug per household, regardless of how much solar electricity you purchase from the Solarshare K3 Garden.
Club members can receive one free beer every day they visit the Bonner KettleHouse Taproom for as long as they are members in the club. The Renew-A-Mug Club will begin in early 2019; club membership is nontransferable and noninheritable, is valid only in the Bonner KettleHouse Taproom, and is subject to the rules outlined on the Certificate of Mug Ownership.
MEC members who have purchased electricity through past Solarshare installations must purchase additional electricity from the Solarshare K3 Garden in order to participate in the Renew-A-Mug Club.
To learn more or sign up, please call MEC at (406) 541-4433.