HELENA — A swath of solar panels recently installed near the city’s Transportation Systems building will help save on energy costs while reducing the city’s carbon footprint.
On Monday the city held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the money-saving addition.
A $50,000 Universal System Benefits grant from Northwestern Energy helped fund the 130 or so solar panels next to the Transportation Systems building. The total cost of the project was $140,000. Additionally, the project also qualifies for rebates through the Inflation Reduction Act.
In total, since the panels have gone in, they’ve created about $2,800 worth of electricity or about 17,000 kWh.
The energy from these panels is being used by the Transportation Systems building and creates about 1/3 of the energy that the building needs.
“It just makes sense. You know, it gives our grid a lot more stability. It gives our facilities more stability. And, you know, it reduces our carbon footprint and puts us closer to our clean energy goals,” says Environmental Regulation Pretreatment Manager for the City of Helena, Leea Anderson.
Overall, these panels will save money and support the city’s resolution to transition the community to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030. The payback period, which takes the money invested versus how long the project will take to offset those costs and includes maintenance and rebates for this project, is about 12 years.
Since Transportation Systems operations are funded by other departments of the city, the energy savings will directly impact the city’s other departments’ bottom dollar.
“And we were happy that it ended up at our facility and we can help cut down some of the costs here as our operation is actually funded by the other departments in the city. So, all the money that we save just really helps all the other departments save a little money, as well,” says Deputy Director of Transportation Systems for the City of Helena, Chris Couey.
The city is already looking at other locations for additional solar panels.