(HELENA) State leaders say Montana has more than doubled its solar energy production capacity, far sooner than expected.

Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney made the announcement Friday afternoon during an event at the Lewis and Clark Library. The Montana Renewable Energy Association presented him with an award to recognize the administration’s efforts to support clean energy in Montana.

As of the end of 2015, Cooney said the state had about 6.6 megawatts of installed solar capacity. Last June, Gov. Steve Bullock released a “blueprint” for the state’s energy future, which called for Montana to double that by 2025. Instead, it happened in less than two years.

Cooney, who installed solar panels on his own home years ago, said he only expects that growth to increase.

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“Just drive around the neighborhoods in Helena and look at the homes that have solar on them or are putting solar on,” he said. “That will build upon itself and get people interested, and as they learn a little bit more about what it means to have solar panels and how it works and how net metering works, I think we’ll see a lot more excitement grow.”

Cooney said highly visible solar projects, like the array the Lewis and Clark Library installed on its roof earlier this year, also help bring attention to the industry.

Library director John Finn said the library has already saved $3,000 in energy costs since installing the array. He said they are now planning to use the leftover money from that project to add solar panels to their branches in Lincoln and Augusta as well.

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