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 forward with development, after signing a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Basin Electric Power Cooperative.
The PPA is for 15 years, at 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 people. 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. It 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 installation is expected to come online by the end of 2023.
The project will actually feature two separate 75-MW solar arrays, each spanning 550 acres. 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. The project would be located on roughly 1,300 acres, but is being held up as Clenera tries to finalize pricing with NorthWestern Energy, the project’s initial interested buyer. The goal was to initially bring the project online by the end of 2021, but without a power contract in place, this timetable is growing more and more unlikely by the day.