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Missoula County eyes solar panels for public works, Lolo water facilities

Missoula Solar Panels
Posted at 10:42 AM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 12:42:41-04

MISSOULA - Less than one year after throwing the switch on Montana’s largest rooftop solar array, Missoula County is now turning its focus to another energy hog — this time its public works facility.

Commissioners on Thursday approved a $12,500 contract with Cushing Terrell to explore the feasibility of installing solar on the county’s public works building and another on the Lolo water and sewer facility.

“After our success of the solar panel installation at the detention center, Dianna Manetta said our facility was a good candidate for solar power installation,” said Erik Dickson with public works. “She got us the contact and specs and two bids from consultants.”

Maneta serves as the county’s energy and climate action specialist.

If the project looks to pencil out and is worthy of investment, it would mark another step in the county’s efforts to pursue 100% clean electricity by 2035.

Last June, the county approved a contract with Serock Energy to install a photovoltaic system on the county jail — the county’s largest energy consumer. The panels will produce around 20% of the jail’s electricity and save the county around $400,000 over the long term while cutting its carbon footprint.

“This will be an interesting study to see how much (electricity) we can produce,” said Dickson. “We’ve got a big facility at public works. We’ll see if it will be a cost-effective construction project that would be a benefit of our long-term power bills.”

The city of Missoula also has goals to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035, though it has been slower to implement carbon-cutting policies or to invest in green-energy projects.