BUTTE — The council of commissioner’s chamber was packed as the Butte-Silver Bow zoning board listened to community members’ passionate pleas in favor and against the proposed 1,600-acre solar project.
If approved, the project will be built on private ranch land south of Butte.
John McDermott owns the ranch where the panels will be built.
"Over the years, family ranches are just kinda going away and you know the time to change is coming around. I was kind of faced, you know, with a couple of options of a few things of what to do," McDermott said.
McDermott began working with Madison River Equity LLC, a subsidiary of FX Solutions which is owned by Rick Tabish, in 2018 to put this project together.
Community members in favor of the project cited that it’s being built on private property and green energy is in demand which could pave the way for high-paying jobs in Butte.
"The marketplace is speaking. Fossil fuels are dying. That’s not a public policy issue, that’s a market issue of the economy and as that fossil fuel goes away, it has to be replaced with something. With green energy," said Evan Barrett.
Jack McBroom said that this project could transform Butte’s image on the world stage.
"This plant is gonna be the energy producer and we need to be the leaders of change," McBroom said.
Community members in opposition to the project say they’re worried about their views of the landscape if the project goes through.
"I feel like if we’re so hungry for change and growth that we’re even considering this then I think we should be ashamed," said Kyle Parvinen.
Cindy Perdue-Dolan, who lives near the airport, said that residents near the proposed project did not buy their houses near industrial zoning.
"These residents deserve better. They have worked too hard for their homes, their views, and their residential values when it comes time to sell," said Perdue-Dolan.
The board will have 60 days to decide.
The State of Montana reports the Treasure State's solar resource is 26% greater than the national average.