Montana Public Radio

Eastern Montana Will House Solar Project

Jun 26, 2020
Originally published on June 26, 2020 11:43 am

 

A Montana electric cooperative and a large solar panel developer recently struck an agreement to establish two 550-acre solar installments in one southeast Montana county.

Energy company Clēnera will develop the solar project for electric cooperative Basin Electric. Clēnera is headquartered out of Boise, Idaho and has built solar operations across the United States, many concentrated in the southwest.

Basin Electric says construction will bring 300 temporary jobs and 2 or 3 permanent positions to the county. Almost 3,000 people currently live in Fallon County, and county commissioner Steve Baldwin says every new person or job opportunity counts.

“So, we’re happy to have that,” Baldwin says.

Fallon County granted the development a property tax abatement over the first 10 years.

Basin Electric forecasts the solar project will contribute around $8 million in property taxes to the county and $5 million to the state over its expected 35-year life. Baldwin says that’s small compared to the tax base the oil and gas industry provides, but he’s excited about the state’s added renewable energy resource.

“We’ve got a ways to go, but you’ve definitely got to start somewhere,” Baldwin says.

Federal data shows that solar power makes up less than one percent of Montana’s energy generation.

Jeff Fox with Renewable NorthWest, a group that advocates for wind and solar power generators, says utility-scale solar farms currently contribute about 20 megawatts overall to Montana’s electric grid.

Federal data shows that solar power makes up less than one percent of Montana’s energy generation.

Jeff Fox with Renewable NorthWest, a group that advocates for wind and solar power generators, says utility-scale solar farms currently contribute about 20 megawatts overall to Montana’s electric grid. The Cabin Creek Solar Project will add an extra 150.

“So, it’s the largest solar project in Montana by far,” Fox says.

Cabin Creek Solar is expected to come online in late 2023. Clēnera says that it’s also involved in a potential solar farm in Dillon along with others in their early stages of development.

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