A Montana zoning board voted down a special use permit to build a $250 million, 300 MW solar array in Butte.
The developers said they plan to file an appeal to the decision in district court. They told local news outlets that they would take the project elsewhere if they could not find support for it in Butte.
Zoning board members cited the project’s size and its potential impact on nearby residences. They also cited public opposition as a reason for turning down the permit. They suggested that they might support a smaller project that would be less intrusive.
Madison River Equity LLC sought the special use permit for the 1,600-acre solar array known as the Basin Creek Solar Project. It was to have been built on private ranch land in Butte.
Madison River Equity is a unit of an entity that developed the Atlas Power data center near the proposed solar project. Atlas Power mines cryptocurrency and reportedly plans to expand its Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), adding new buildings and thousands of additional GPUs. Atlas Power’s owners planned buy the Basin Creek Solar Project to power the data center.
Roughly 700,000 solar panels would have been sited on either side of a seasonal drainage channel, with a 1,500-foot wide corridor for wildlife. Developers said the array would be large enough to power around 40,000 homes. Butte has around 15,000 homes.
After the permit was denied, the cryptocurrency producer said its planned expansion hinges on the solar array, and that the operations may relocate if the board decision isn’t overturned.
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This is a news story that is wrought with irony since crypto mining is a huge producer of greenhouse gases. It’s hard to tease out if this would be a project or a company worthy of support.
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