MISSOULA – Missoula County Public Schools, NorthWestern Energy and the City of Missoula met Wednesday to discuss the progress of their two-year partnership in developing a renewable solar project at the four Missoula high schools.
The goal of the project is to help create renewable energy for the school but to also educate the community about the benefits of solar energy.
“We see this as an opportunity to talk about realistically what does solar generate,” said outgoing MCPS Superintendent Mark Thane.
“We will have data dashboards in our schools so that students can see in essentially real time how much energy has been generated by the solar panels versus what’s being consumed by the school site, so that they can come to understand just exactly what that balance is and understand loads and demands, etc.”
NorthWestern Energy has had a similar project in Bozeman and is now looking to see how they can integrate renewable energy into urban areas.
“The details on the Missoula project, this is coming from the stakeholder group, is how to integrate renewable energy into a more urban environments,” said NorthWestern Energy Automation Technology Engineer Jon Schafer. “Hellgate is really urban we want to make it visible so that it creates a conversation piece for the community.”
the utility is footing the bill for the project and hopes to have it completed by the beginning of the school year.
“The overall goal though is to basically do construction over the summer and have projects ready before school starts next fall that’s kind of the main theme with the construction schedule and we are coordinating with the school district very closely with a lot of other construction activities that need to get done in that short period,” Schafer told MTN News.
For MCPS, the move falls in line with their Smart Schools 2020 initiative, but for NorthWestern Energy it’s a part of a $3 million commitment to community-based renewable energy pilot projects.
Utility representatives say the Missoula project tests are being done to ensure that their grid is prepared to accept renewable energy.