Biomass, Solar, and Hydropower Displayed on Philipsburg Energy Tour

Three different renewable energy systems were on display in the Flint Creek Valley on September 21st, 2011. AERO organized an energy tour of municipal, commercial and residential projects in the communities of Philipsburg and Hall.

Participants see the school's wood chip storage

To begin the day, participants learned about financing renewable energy and conservation projects from Kathi Montgomery of the Department of Environmental Quality. Following the discussion we toured Philipsburg Public Schools’ biomass boiler. Installed in 2005, the wood-chip fired heating system significantly decreases the amount of propane used to heat the school, saving well over $200,000 to date.

This conveyor belt brings chips into the boiler from the storage

Next up, we toured the City of Philipsburg’s hydroplant and learned about the history of hydropower in the area. Lee Tavenner of SolarPlexus was on hand to explain the mechanics of the plant. The municipality has  several accounts in the city, providing inexpensive power while creating revenue that is reinvested into the community.

Dick Hoene of the City explains the hydro-turbine

From there, the tour headed north to Hall, MT where we visited Sugar Loaf Wool Mill. With the aid of Northwestern Energy grants, Sue and Ed James were able to install a solar hot water system to wash their wool. This system reduces their propane use by two-thirds.

Ed James describes his solar hot water heating system


At the final stop on the tour we were able to see a 2.5 kW solar shingle array on an outbuilding. The system is grid-tied, spinning the owners’ electric meter back when they are not using the electricity.

Solar shingles on a shop building

Thank you to our tour hosts and presenters! Read the Missoula Independent’s article on the tour stops here.

Ed & Sue James explain the wool carding machine

Extra! Our final Energy Tour is in Great Falls on Saturday October 8th. The tour begins at 10:00am, the cost is $10. The tour starts at MSU- Great Falls to see their 50kW wind turbine. From there we will tour the Armed Forces Reserve Center which has a 58 kW solar array. Afterwards we will visit two earth-bermed homes which use passive and active solar power as well as a small wind turbine. To register or for more information on the Energy Tours call AERO, 443-7272. To register online click here.


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