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Rural solar access is focus of Columbia Falls meeting

by Daily Inter Lake
| September 14, 2021 12:00 AM

The Montana Renewable Energy Association is hosting a meeting this month about small-scale solar development in Columbia Falls. The event is scheduled for 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at the Columbia Falls City Hall council chambers, 130 Sixth St. W.

The Montana Rural Solar Access Project is intended to engage communities in discussions about solar power. “The goal of the project is to identify ways that MREA and their network of partners can support interested Montanans in accessing the independence, cost savings, and resiliency that solar offers,” a press release stated. “The meetings are a chance for community members to share the opportunities and challenges they run into when considering installing small-scale solar.”

Association Program Coordinator Evora Glenn said most of the solar development in the state has happened in Montana’s bigger communities.

“Rural communities have a lot to gain from solar, but their opportunities and challenges are very different. We want to learn about their experience,” she said

Financial incentives, independence and security are all reasons the association believes Montanans could be interested in going solar.

The press release also highlighted the possibility of bringing new jobs to the state, since Montana is considered an “emerging solar market.” According to the Solar Foundation, Montana ranks 49th (or 43rd per capita) in total solar jobs, lagging behind Idaho, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

By meeting directly with community members, Glenn hopes to gain the on-the-ground perspective that will help guide solutions to address local challenges and create more opportunities for solar development and economic growth in rural Montana.

The meetings kicked off in Fort Benton on July 7 and then continued in Havre, White Sulphur Springs, Red Lodge, Dillon and Hamilton. Recently, the tour stopped in Forsyth and Glasgow as well. Columbia Falls is the penultimate destination, followed by Shelby.

For more information about the Montana Rural Solar Access Project and upcoming meetings, visit www.MontanaRenewables.org/MRSAP/