USDA Assists In Keeping Business Serene And “Off-Grid”

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Michael Dann
(406) 585-2580

   The smell of diesel fuel and humming of generators is not what someone wants when they visit Polebridge, Montana in the Whitefish Mountain Range . Unfortunately, at the 100 year old Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery, LLC or The Merc, to locals, the generators were needed to ensure this “Off-Grid” business had the power it needed to operate.

   With help from a Rural Energy for America Program grant, that smell and the noise, not to mention the average cost of $15,000 a year for diesel, will be a thing of the past.

   The Merc is adding a new solar array system that will link into and replace some parts of the existing system. The new system should generate more than 38 kWh a year which is enough power to run three and a half households annually.

   “One of the main issues was food safety for the store, bakery and restaurant,” said Will Hammerquist, owner of Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery. “We had issues last summer where if all three compressors on the coolers turned on at once we would lose power.”

   But that should no longer be an issue with the new system which is projected to produce more power than needed. The extra power will be sold to a neighboring business which will allow The Merc to see a much faster rate of return on this investment when combined with the savings in fuel and operating costs.

   “There aren’t a lot of places like this left (no schools, power lines or cell phone towers are allowed in the area) in the lower 48 states. Protecting the authenticity and still providing a quality service are important to me,” said Will. “Even before the idea of this project came up here at The Merc, I believed that renewables was the way of the future and it’s exciting for me to be a part of something like this.”

Fast Facts

Obligation Amount$49,775 - grant
Date of ObligationAugust 2015
Congressional DistrictZinke - AL
Senator's Last NamesTester and Daines