As solar and other technologies become more widely adopted, it’s important that we understand how they will affect our system, our members and the industry as a whole.
In 2016, Flathead Electric launched an innovative new research project to evaluate the impacts of residential solar systems. The project supports the Co-op’s mission to serve as a resource for members by proactively analyzing advancements in the energy industry. As solar and other technologies become more widely adopted, it’s important that we understand how they will affect our system, our members and the industry as a whole.
A team of Flathead Electric employees developed a research strategy which included the installation and data collection of a 7.2 kilowatt (kW) net-metered solar array and battery backup system that will be analyzed over several years. Rather than installing the system on a family residence, the Co-op conducted an application process to select a local non-profit organization to receive the system (and its associated benefits). The objective was to find a facility with electrical usage similar to a family residence, and the Flathead Youth Home was selected.
Flathead Electric will be able to utilize a well-known facility for research, and we will benefit from savings on electrical expenses and demands, which will help offset the costs of caring for our community’s youth in crisis. The solar installation includes a Tesla Power Wall battery for backup energy storage. Tesla’s leading-edge product has double the storage capacity of earlier devices, and, to Flathead Electric’s knowledge, it was the first one installed in Montana.