LIVINGSTON – The Park County Senior Center will soon be twenty-five percent powered by newly installed solar panels, and Thursday, Nov. 1, Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney will be there to dedicate the project.
The solar panels, recently installed on the roof of the Senior Center, were the product of collaboration and community goodwill.
“So many different entities came together to make this project a reality,” said Senior Center Board Chairman Joe Parriott.
Parriott credits the Yellowstone Bend Citizens Council with playing a pivotal role in getting the project off the ground more than a year ago. It was members of the local clean energy advocacy organization who coordinated with former Senior Center Executive Director Nicole Divine to drum up individual donations, grants, and a low-interest loan to make the project possible.
“The Senior Center is such a vital part of our community,” said Joan Kresich, co-chair of the YBCC. “We're proud that the solar panels will provide savings for the Center for decades, and contribute to its ability to provide quality housing for low income seniors."
Over the course of an average year the solar array will generate 61,500 kilowatt hours, more than eight times the usage of a typical household. The projected electricity output will cover about a quarter of the facility’s electric bill, saving the Senior Center $140,000 to $180,000 on utility bills over the 25 to 30-year life of the array.
The solar array is composed of 145 individual panels with the combined potential to generate a maximum of 50 kilowatts of power. Each solar panel is about three feet wide by six and a half feet high, and is fixed to a steel racking system that’s bolted to the roof of the Senior Center.
The solar installation was funded, in part, with a $40,000 loan from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. DEQ’s Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program makes low-interest loans to individuals, small businesses, government entities, and non-profit organizations for solar power and other renewable technologies.
“This project is an investment in the energy security of an important community institution,” said DEQ’s Energy Bureau Chief, Laura Rennick Andersen. The solar installation is among the largest projects DEQ has funded. Out of the more than 500 solar, geothermal, biomass and energy conservation projects funded by the program since its inception in 2001, the loan is one of only a handful that have gone to non-profit organizations.
Grants from NorthWestern Energy’s Universal System Benefits Fund, the Kendeda Fund, First Interstate Bank, Livingston Community Trust, the Park County Community Foundation, and individual donations filled out the approximately $113,000 price tag of the array. A Bozeman-based solar contractor, OnSite Energy, led the installation.
“Seeing so many different people come together to help this community realize cost savings through renewable energy is truly inspiring,” said Lieutenant Governor Cooney. “This is not only a critical investment for Livingston and Park County, it also represents a step towards diversifying our state’s energy supply.”
A celebration of the solar project and ceremonial flipping of the switch will be held at the Senior Center, 206 South Main Street, on Thursday, Nov. 1. The event will run from 2:30-3:30 p.m. and is open to the public.