Utility-scale solar power is coming to Montana’s Big Sky Country, and the energy produced will help meet the needs of electric cooperative consumer-members.
Basin Electric Power Cooperative and Clēnera Renewable Energy have signed a power purchase agreement for the Cabin Creek Solar Project, which will consist of two 75-MW projects in southeastern Montana. According to Clēnera, the project will eliminate 265,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year and power 30,000 homes.
“Adding solar further promotes our all-of-the-above energy solution as we generate energy using a diverse resource portfolio including coal, natural gas, and other renewable resources,” said Paul Sukut, Basin Electric’s CEO and general manager.
The Cabin Creek Solar Project will be Basin Electric’s second contracted utility-scale solar project.
“Cost-competitive energy like the Cabin Creek Solar Project will be part of the energy mix we purchase from Basin Electric for our member systems,” said Claire Vigesaa, general manager of Upper Missouri Power Cooperative. The Sidney, Montana-based generation and transmission cooperative is one of 10 G&T members of Basin Electric.
The two new solar arrays will be built on 1,100 acres five miles west of Baker, Montana, in the service territory of Ekalaka-based Southeast Electric Cooperative.
Under the terms of the 15-year contract, both arrays are expected to be completed by 2023. Developers worked with Basin Electric and the local co-op to coordinate siting and transmission needs.
“This project is one more example of cooperatives working together to use economies of scale to add affordable generation for all their members—similar to what was done 70 years ago when cooperatives were first built,” said Jack Hamblin, Southeast EC’s general manager.
According to the Department of Energy, Montana is home to about 30% of the United States’ recoverable coal reserves. Bakken Range oil and gas reserves also extend into the state. Wind generation currently meets about 7% of the state’s energy demand.
“This project underscores the efforts by Montana’s electric cooperatives to continue to embrace more carbon-free technology,” said Gary Wiens, CEO of Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association. “It also demonstrates Basin Electric’s commitment to seek development of renewable energy projects in our state.”
Derrill Holly is a staff writer at NRECA.