Montana utility seeks proposals for 45 MW of renewable energy generation

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When Montana has made solar news in the past year or so, it’s usually an indication that the solar industry in the state is under siege.

There was last year’s deeply anti-solar legislation (SB 7) that the governor had to veto to save net metering. There have been the ongoing attempts to gut the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which was designed in part to encourage the development of renewable energy.

And who could forget the lawsuits in which the state finds itself embroiled as the solar industry fights back?

Well, finally there is good solar news coming out of the state: Its largest utility, NorthWestern Energy, announced a request for proposals (RFP) to build up to 45 MW of customer-generated renewable energy.

While it can’t be said the utility is doing it out of the goodness of its heart. State law requires NorthWestern to get energy from from Community Renewable Energy Projects (CREP) that meet certain criteria, but the RFP is still a big step forward in renewable energy development in the state. There are no specifics of how much solar would be part of any accepted proposal.

CREP are a key component of the Montana Renewable Portfolio Standard and the requirement was put into place specifically to encourage the development and ownership of smaller renewable energy projects by in-state owners. The requirements limit the size of projects, specify particular ownership structures and impose guidelines on the attributes required of eligible projects, including its overall cost-effectiveness.

Only developers, landowners, energy companies and Montana businesses can apply for CREP proposals.

According to the RFP, successful proposals will include projects that will be commissioned by late 2019 or late 2020. the utility says it will consider power purchase agreements and build-transfer arrangements.

Proposals are due on April 10, 2018, with selection of finalists expected in June.