Published on July 1st, 2020 | by Johnna Crider0
Montana’s Largest Solar Project Secures Local Energy Cooperative
July 1st, 2020 by Johnna Crider
A 1,100-acre solar project in Montana just secured a contract to sell power to Basin Electric Power Cooperative and its members. The project, Cabin Creek Solar Project, will be the largest of its type in the state and will supply power to the co-ops for 15 years.
Jeff Fox, with Renewable NorthWest, which advocates for wind and solar power generates, said that utility-scale solar farms currently contribute about 20 megawatts overall to Montana’s electric grid. The Cabin Creek Solar Project will take that number up to 170 megawatts (MW) by adding an extra 150. “So it’s the largest solar project in Montana, by far,” Fox said, and it will produce enough electricity each year for approximately 30,000 homes.
Ryan Hall of the Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association said, “We’re committed to using renewable and carbon-free power when it makes sense for our members. As non-profit, member-owned cooperatives, our first thought is always our members, and we want to give them the best portfolio we can for the best value.”
400,000 Montana citizens receive power from the state’s customer-owned cooperatives and more than half of the co-ops will benefit from the solar project. The cost is below a $30 MWh range and the prices members will pay depend on each local cooperative’s cost for transmission and services.
Clénera Renewable Energy, the developer of Cabin Creek, described the project as two 75-megawatt solar arrays that spanned 550 acres each. The location is 10 miles northwest of Baker. “This is a project that will be in the ground for 35 years and will be increasing the tax base of the county and also providing employment,” said Jared McKee, Clénera’s director of business development.
The project’s lifetime is expected to be 35 years and its expected to pay $8 million in property taxes to Fallon County as well as $5 million in taxes to the state. Fallon County also granted the development of a property tax abatement over the first 10 years.
Construction is planned for 2022 or 2023 and this will create at least 300 construction jobs. Once it’s complete, it will need five full-time workers to maintain it. Fallon County commissioner, Steve Baldin, said that every new person or job opportunity counted. “So we’re happy to have that,” he said on Montana’s Public Radio.
This isn’t the only solar project for Basin’s ratepayers, not at all. The market is just heating up. Basin, which serves 3 million customers across 9 states, also contracted power from a 128-megawatt solar project near Rapid City, SD back in February.
Another solar project that Clénera is planning is a 1,300-acre, a 160-megawatt solar project in Montana known as the Apex Solar Project. This would be larger than the Cabin Creek Solar Project, but Clénera is still in price negotiations with NorthWestern Energy. However, Clénera hopes to bring it online by the end of 2021, according to The Billings Gazette.
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