Great Falls Tour Highlights Solar, Wind, and Their Integration in Efficient Homes

On October 8th, 2011 AERO headed to Great Falls to learn about renewable energy in the military, the College of Technology’s Sustainable Energy Program, and home energy efficiency. The tour began at MSU – Great Falls, where a 50 kW wind turbine supplies energy to the campus. First, participants learned from Bonnie Rouse of the Department of Environmental Quality about grants, loans, and tax credits that can aid in financing energy conservation and renewable energy projects.


Ballast solar array at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Great Falls

Following this, John Palm of Bozeman Green Build discussed a 58 kW solar array that he installed at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Great Falls. This renewable energy system helps the base meet mandates in the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC). It is a ballast system, meaning there is zero roof penetration, and one of the largest arrays in the state.


MSU-Great Falls' 50 kW wind turbine

Next, Jason Harding, Director of the Sustainable Energy Technology Program at MSU – Great Falls outlined the 50 kW wind turbine project on campus.  This is a unique wind turbine in the middle of a city, which resulted in extensive input by the surrounding community. In addition to this, its placement on campus allows for a direct learning experience for students in the Sustainable Energy Technician Program. In the future, students will be performing routine maintenance on the machine.


Ken's earth bermed home

Our second and final stop on the tour was Ken Thornton’s earth-bermed homes outside of Great Falls. Ken’s homes take full advantage of the earth’s heating and cooling capabilities, as well as the sun’s heating power. Strategically placed windows allow the sun to heat tons of thermal mass, providing a heat bank during the day, which is released when the home cools down at night. Also designed into the home are efficiency measures such as awnings and curtains for shading, super-insulation for the refrigerator, a living roof, and radiant floor heating. The home has solar hot water for heating, as well as a wind turbine and solar array for electricity. Many of the conservation measures by Ken can be used in any home.


Home solar, wind, and solar hot water

 Read KRTV’s coverage of the tour here.

Extra! AERO‘s Specialty Crops Conference: Diversifying Montana’s Food & Farming Profile will be held on November 17-18 at the Ursuline Centre in Great Falls.  Our keynote presenter is Judith Redmond, co-owner of Full Belly Farm in northern California.  Judith will share experiences and insights from her years on a diversified  crop and livestock operation. There will be breakout sessions sharing lessons-learned by Montanans producing, processing, marketing and navigating policies related to specialty crops. For more information call 443-7272.


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