Montana’s largest solar project has a power contract

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Montana’s second-largest planned solar project, the 150-MW Cabin Creek solar farm, currently being developed by Clenera in Fallon County, is now the largest in the state to move froward with development, after signing a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

The PPA is for 15 years, with a reported cost of power under $30/MWh for Basin Electric. Basin Electric is comprised of 141 smaller electric cooperatives, spread across nine states, for a total electric customer base of around 3 million. More than half of Montana’s 25 in-state electric cooperatives belong to Basin Electric and will receive power from it.

Over the 15-year lifespan of the contract, the Cabin Creek solar farm is expected to generate enough electricity to power 30,000 homes. Outside of the power contract, the project is expected to generate $8 million in property taxes to Fallon County, plus an additional $5 million to the state. The project will create about 300 jobs when construction begins in 2022 or early 2023, after which another five will be created for maintaining the project. The project is expected to come on-line by the end of 2023.

The project is actually set to be comprised of two separate 75-MW solar arrays, each spanning 550 acres and located close to one another. It’s fairly common for larger projects to be divided into multiple arrays, usually on either side of a road.

And while Cabin Creek is set to be Montana’s largest solar installation, this designation is one that it likely will not hold for long. The project’s developer, Clenera, is also looking to develop a 160-MW solar project north of Dillon, Montana. This project would be located on roughly 1,300 acres, but is being held up as Clenera attempts to come to terms on pricing with NorthWestern Energy, the project’s initial interested buyer. The goal was to initially bring this project on-line by the end of 2021, but without a power contract in place, this timetable grows more and more unlikely by the day.