MISSOULA — The state's largest solar panel array is now online at the Missoula County Detention Facility.
“It started out with a few of us up on the roof, one of us who forgot his sunglasses on a bright sunny day, and we really realized the potential of the space," Missoula County Sheriff T. J. McDermott told MTN News.
McDermott said that the facility consumes the most energy of all county buildings — costing around $300,000 annually in utility bills.
“This space up here just seemed ideal for solar, for renewable energy, and some type of a project that in the years to come would help offset those costs," McDermott said.
The installment is the result of a public-private partnership and a private investor.
“It's the first one done with our very unique and special sort of financing, where local government partnered with the private sector and took advantage of some tax credits," Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick said during a Wednesday afternoon facility tour.
The system on average will produce about 20% of the electricity used at the detention facility annually, but there won’t be a surplus of energy despite the size of the array.
“The panels don’t make more energy than we need. So it’s all on our side of the meter," Slotnick said.
Over 1,500 panels now comprise the network at the detention center, keeping the lights on with the power of the sun.