After the success of its first attempt at a community solar panel garden, Flathead Electric Cooperative has already sold out the second such solar structure.
FEC’s solar-panel garden, called the Sun Utility Network, first emerged next to the co-op’s buzzing Stillwater Substation north of the intersection of Whitefish Stage Road and Reserve Drive.
That solar array included 356 panels, which people and businesses could purchase individually, and earn the benefit from said panel. It’s like a community garden this way, Wendy Ostrom Price of FEC said.
“Putting the electrical equipment in place at your home can be tens of thousands of dollars,” Ostrom Price said.
The SUN program, Montana’s first community solar project, has diversified the co-op’s energy interests, and was driven largely by consumer demand. Ostrom Price said many of the people involved in the project wanted to pursue solar projects on their own but didn’t have the capital to go it alone.
Phase 2 was built on an existing building at the FEC headquarters on U.S. Highway 2 in Evergreen. All 190 panels put on the south-facing building sold within a couple of months.
“We definitely saw enough interest to do a phase 2, and likely in the probably not-too-distant future we’ll do phase 3,” she said.
Ostrom Price said the project continues to be driven by a demand from co-op members who wanted to get more solar power in Montana. Anyone interested in purchasing a panel on a future project is invited to get in touch with FEC’s energy services, because their names will be put on a list.
“We have a lot of people who were just interested in investing in solar power,” Ostrom Price said.