Photovoltaic (Solar Electric) (PV)

3kW PV As Installed

System Components

  • Rated Output =3,050 watts
  • Solar Module = Canadian Solar 305 (10)
  • Inverter = Fronius Primo 3.8 (1)
  • Monitoring = Fronius Smart Meter
  • Racking = Ironridge
  • Installed cost per home - $ 8,700
The following incentives will apply to your total system cost:
Federal Tax Credit 30% of Total System Cost
MT State Tax Credit $500 per filer
The genius of the Fronius Smart Meter lies in solving problems you never even knew you had. Here I explain the problems Solar has faced in recent years and the attempts that have been made to solve them. Then, we’ll look at the solution: the Fronius Smart meter. MARK'S Solar Power Blog
Fronius Configuration Diagram

This Fronius Configuration Diagram shows the elements that make up these solar systems.

Fronius Configuration Diagram

Grey line: solar production, Blue: solar consumption, Red: grid consumption

Fronius have developed the “Smart Meter”. Its primary purpose is to measure export power, but it allows so much more. Again, the device fundamentally is not new – it’s just a digital kWh meter. But it’s the integration with Solar.web that results in a user-friendly and super informative graphs and diagrams on a desktop or smartphone app. Now you not only know your solar production, but how much power is being sent back to the grid.

The basic idea is to maximize your use of electricity when the solar system is producing more than your home would normally use at that time of day. Of course, this is only possible when you know what the system is producing hour by hour through the day. With a Fronius Smart Meter that information can be at your fingertips no matter where you are.

As expectations from a self generated power supplies increase, so to does the dilemma of whether to include a Fronius Smart Meter or not. Fact is, this one device could help save you thousands more than without it.

As the owner of a Blacktop Solar Home you will not be faced with the question of whether or not to install a Fronius Smart Meter, it is already installed; but you can find a more complete explanation of why and how it is useful in the article 6 Reasons Why You Need a Fronius Smart Meter

PV Planning

Photovoltaic (PV) devices generate electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process that occurs naturally in certain types of material, called semiconductors. Electrons in these materials are freed by solar energy and can be induced to travel through an electrical circuit, powering electrical devices or sending electricity to the grid.
Credit and additional information can be found at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) website.

PV installation is usually sub-contracted out to a local electrical contractor who specializes in such installations. Blacktail Solar Homes has selected Harvest Solar MT for the installation on the first three homes. The solar installation is scheduled for the second week in January, 2019.


Harvest Solar is committed to providing customers with the highest quality solar electric systems while creating an experience that educates and empowers them to take ownership of their energy needs.

How much PV?

The most appropriate amount of PV to install on any given home is the amount that will exactly offset the cost of the utility electricity used. Typically the utility will pay for electricity in excess of their bill, but the rate of such payments is well below what would provide a reasonable return on the investment of the additional PV. Blacktail Solar Homes are modestly sized ranging from 1000 to 1150 square feet each and we have estimated a reasonable approximation of that exact offset for these homes to be 3kW each.

Tax Credits

Tax Credits for PV installations are available under certain conditions. The IRS published 2017 Instructions for Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits with the various rules set forth. Apparently the 2018 instructions have not yet been published. IRS rules are complex and can be confusing, if you are considering purchasing a Blacktail Solar Home please consult with your tax advisor to determine if you will be eligible for any available tax benefits.

Grid-tied PV (or Net Metering)

Harvest solar has a short discussion of NET METERING IN MONTANA

Additional Montana Solar Information

Not directly related to Blacktail Solar Homes, but useful information for those interested in renewal energy are the following links from Montana Solar Community Project:

Montana Solar Community Project

Montana Solar Community Project Menu of Options

Montana Solar Community Project Report