System Design

A properly designed solar system is one that satisfies the loads of the client and utilizes every watt-hr of green power produced.There is something inherently beautiful about the efficiency of a well designed renewable energy system.

To begin with we need a copy of your power bill if you are on-grid or a carefully thought out load chart if you are off-grid. This, coupled with a pre-scheduled consultation with us here in the office, gets things off to a good start by letting us know what you have in mind and letting you get a feel for our process.

The next step may be a visit to the site or good photos of the south aspect of the house and the southern horizon looking away from the house. If there are shaded areas from trees, or power poles, or mountains, etc. then it is best to do a pathfinder analysis. If a site visit is out of the question, we can often see a lot of what the prospects are by looking at Google Earth.
Using NREL solar insolation charts, the results of the pathfinder analysis, and the input resulting from load calculations, we are able to size the system very closely to what is optimum.

If the system is off-grid, we do a graph showing the load pattern for the year, the solar output (throughout the year) of a variety of options including different quantities of solar modules and how they meet those loads.

We work up a budget estimate that includes all the parts and labor blocked out, with options (like bigger battery banks, auto-start generators, more panels, etc.). All of this so far is without charge except for the site review which is free in the Missoula area and for those out of town,we try to tag site reviews on to work trips to the area to keep the charge to a minimum.

Our budget estimates are for turnkey systems that include everything except power houses and trenching.This budget estimate includes permits, paper work for grants we acquire for you, paper work for interconnection agreement with the utility and final interconnection costs. Power houses and trenching are usually more suited to local contractors but we will bid them on request.

There are some things to keep in mind if you are proceeding with your project preparation before consultation.
It is best to get the wires sized and laid before you pour a concrete driveway.

Water pumps should be selected with solar in mind. The soft start pumps work very well on these systems without a cistern.

Make sure your electrician doesn't do any multiphase wiring.

There may be some delays in ordering custom equipment of up to three or four weeks so keep that in mind when setting your goals for completion.

Pipe size is crucial to the amount of power produced in hydro systems. All of your power may be lost due to friction if the pipe is sized incorrectly.

Now it is your decision. We usually ask for 50% down so we can get the equipment coming and know that the client is committed to seeing the project through to completion. Final payment is due when the system is operational unless we are set up on progress payments.