It’s been hot this July in Bozeman, MT, and today nearly cloudless skies are giving way to views of the Bridger Mountains basking in strong, energetic rays of sunlight. “It’s beautiful, and this weather isn’t uncommon,” says CFO and co-owner of Spark R&D, Becca Ritter. “Here in Big Sky country we get tons of sun. We’ve got this big roof over our company’s warehouse, and we’ve always felt that we should have solar panels on it.” Atop that very roof employees from OnSite Energy are currently working away, installing a 50kW solar photovoltaic system that will help offset Spark R&D’s overall energy usage by 25 percent. “It just feels like the right thing to do,” Becca says.
Becca spearheaded Spark R&D’s Solar Project and after two years of extensive planning she’s ecstatic to see 166 solar panels covering two-thirds of their building’s 12,000 square foot roof. “We’re maxing out the size of the solar array that we’re allowed to put up,” Becca explains. “Certain states have net metering statutes that limit how much energy your solar array can produce, and in Montana it can’t produce more than 50kW of electricity. We’re hoping in the future that law will change so that we can expand the array to cover the entirety of our roof and offset even more energy usage.”
As co-owners of a splitboard binding company it comes with little surprise that Becca and her husband, Will Ritter, spend a great deal their free time enjoying the outdoors. They promote foot-powered snowboarding and advocate for a cleaner Earth, and in turn feel a sense of obligation to practice the most sustainable business practices available. “We have this company that we love, making products for splitboarding, which is self-travel,” Becca says. “Everything we produce is made right inside this building—screws, plastic pieces—so, why not make the power too? It’s self-sustaining, and we’re making the most of what’s available to us.”
Despite the overall power usage that Spark R&D’s Solar Project will offset, Becca understands that it’s nearly impossible for their factory to go 100 percent green. “There’s always tradeoffs,” Becca says. “Someone had to make the panels, they had to be shipped here on a truck, etc. But one of the things Will always says is, ‘Less bad is more good.’ We can’t be perfect because we’re humans and we’re consumers of natural resources. But I think, let’s all do the best we can. For us, this is another step forward in that direction.”