The Skywriter

Clean energy biz: South Dakota's Black Hills Solar


Clean energy biz: South Dakota's Black Hills Solar


By Jesse Hart, owner of Hart Homes LLC/Black Hills Solar in South Dakota. -- Luis

My wife and I started Black Hills Solar about four years ago with the idea that we would build energy efficient and low maintenance homes for the people in the Black Hills area. To save the homeowners money every month on their energy bills, we used structural insulated panels for the exterior walls and blown fiberglass insulation in other areas. On the outside of the homes, we used products that don't need annual maintenance and have long warranties so people don't have to repaint and maintain their house every year.

As the housing market changed, so did our business. We went from building new homes to remodeling and fixing existing homes, but we still try to help customers lower their energy usage and make their home require less maintenance. We look for many ways to help customers reduce their energy demand, such as adding more insulation or installing new windows.

I always tell my customers that first you conserve energy and then you start making your own power. There are a lot of choices out there for solar and wind products, and I try to use products that are manufactured here in the U.S. For solar products I use a company that is starting to make solar thermal systems and solar electric (PV) panels in the U.S. They will also make evacuated tubes, which were once only made in China. The wind company that I deal with is a U.S. company but makes products overseas. I am also trying to work with a wind energy company that will be manufacturing in my hometown.

Solar and wind products bring lots of well paying jobs to the area. For example, when I install solar electric (PV), I get panels that are made in the U.S. and I also hire a licensed electrician to run the electrical and wire to the house. When I put up a wind turbine, I need to hire an electrician, and buy concrete and the turbine, which comes from a local manufacturer. Right now my business is small but in addition to the employees who work for me, we create jobs in other areas, such as manufacturing, shipping, and trained professional jobs.

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