Solar energy is taking off in Montana as homeowners, businesses, and utilities look to the technology as a tool to control energy costs, offer their customers a clean energy option, and diversify Montana’s energy supply. As interest in solar energy options goes up and costs come down, the opportunities for community-scale solar projects increase across Montana. Community-scale solar projects provide an opportunity for communities to reduce their energy use and take control of their energy production for the benefit of the broader community.
The Montana Solar Community Project is a partnership between the Montana Energy Office at the Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative to expand community-scale solar developments throughout Montana. As part of the project, the Energy Office hosted community meetings, facilitated by MREA, across the state to both inform and listen to communities about the potential for community-scale solar in Montana. These community meetings informed a summary report that brings together themes heard during these meetings relating to the vision Montanans have for solar in their communities.
The Montana Solar Community Project now hosts a number of resources that community members and local governments can use to support the development of community-scale solar projects in their community. These include:
- A Montana Solar Market Assessment Report
- A Community Outreach Meeting Summary
- A Menu of Options Report
- Solar Resource Maps for various communities across the state
All of these resources are available on the Montana Solar Community Project Website.
What's next for the Montana Solar Community Project?
While MREA's direct involvement with the project and the community meetings has concluded, we are still actively supporting the program. The Montana Energy Office will be sending out funding requests to support the development of community-scale solar developments in Montana communities. The Energy Office also be working on policy recommendations to encourage solar development in 2019 after the legislative session has passed.
If you are interested in the program or would like to learn more, you can contact program staff through the Montana Solar Community Project website.
More about the Montana Solar Community Project
Community solar projects take many forms, such as community-shared solar, solar installations on community buildings like libraries, and group purchasing programs. The falling cost of solar power and rising demand is opening up new opportunities for “community-scale” projects that look and work a little differently than the rooftop or backyard solar panels that have popped up across the state in the last decade.
The meetings are a chance for Montanans to learn from state energy experts about innovative solar projects around Montana and the nation and to discuss potential options for building community-scale solar projects in their town.
This project is funded by a partnership between the Montana Energy Office and the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot