DILLON — In a field just outside of Dillon are nearly 200,000 solar panels which right now are collecting energy from the sun. Founders of this project say this is the seed to Montana’s clean, renewable energy future.
“That is what we’re hearing celebrating: energy independence, low-cost energy, clean energy,” said Clenera CEO Jason Ellsworth.
Gov. Greg Gianforte helped cut the ribbon on Clenera’s Apex Solar Project off 10 Mile Road near Dillon. The 80-megawatt solar farm is a 600-acre facility that could generate enough energy to power about 13,500 homes.
The governor said renewable energy fits in with his all-of-the-above energy strategy.
“I’ve been clear when it comes to energy. We need American innovation, not regulation. And when we pursue innovation, the results are clear, we have a healthier environment, we have a stronger economy and we have more jobs,” said Gianforte.
The project cost just over $100,000 million and is estimated to bring $15 million in tax revenue to Beaverhead County over the next 10 years.
Critics of solar farms often object to the large amount of land they require and see them as an eyesore. Mark Harrington owns land adjacent to the solar farm but says he still supports this project.
“There’s mostly rattlesnakes out here and a few antelope, so it’s not like it was prime grazing ground. It’s not that big an eyesore. I mean, if we’re going to become energy smart, maybe it’s one of the things we need to do,” said Harrington.
Clenera officials say they may double the size of the facility in the future.
“Everyone who has any part of this should be proud. Proud to be part of shaping a new era of clean energy,” said Clenera COO Adam Pishl.
This is the Idaho-based company’s first solar farm in Montana. It has more than 30 solar farms around the country.