HELENA – On Saturday morning, hundreds of people braved rainy weather at Carroll College for the annual Helena Sun Run.
“We weren’t sure that the Sun Run would work on a rainy day, but we were really happy with the turnout,” said race director Shiloh Hernandez. “It was a great crowd.”
About 250 people took part in either the 5K run or the one-mile walk and bicycle parade. Carroll students Rachel Prevost and Sydney Jones were among the runners.
“I thought it was great; I had fun,” said Prevost.
“I love running in the rain, so it was great,” Jones added.
This was the fourth year of the Helena Sun Run, an annual event organized by the Sleeping Giant Citizens Council and the Helena Vigilante Runners. Each year, it raises money to help support a solar energy project in the Helena area.
For the second year in a row, the Sun Run raised money to pay for a new solar array on the roof of Carroll’s Campus Center. Organizers have already collected about $60,000 for the project, including a $48,000 incentive from NorthWestern Energy. That will be enough to pay for a 38-kilowatt array. Leaders hope to raise enough this year to increase the size to 50 kilowatts.
“A 50-kilowatt system would generate somewhere around $7,000 worth of electricity annually, based on its location here in Helena,” said John Rowley, an assistant professor of chemistry at Carroll.
Regardless of what the Sun Run raises, Carroll will begin installing the solar array in the next few months. Rowley said the design is flexible enough that they will be able to build a 38-kilowatt array, then expand it to 50 kilowatts later if they collect enough.
“Carroll College is called by its mission to provide transformative educational experiences and care for our common home, and we need a community to do those type of things,” he said. “We really appreciate the support of the Helena community in this effort.”
Hernandez said this year’s Sun Run was the largest yet. He said he’s proud of how public, private and community partners have come together to support solar energy projects.
“What we’re hoping to do with this event is to make Helena a real clean energy leader, a leader in climate solutions for Montana,” he said.
The first Helena Sun Run helped raise money for solar panels that have since been installed at the Lewis and Clark Library, including the branches in Lincoln and Augusta. The second supported a solar array for the Holter Museum of Art. Hernandez said fundraising for that project is still ongoing.