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NorthWestern Begins Work on Solar Micro-Grid Project Near Deer Lodge

Jul 27, 2015

Butte, Mont. – July 28, 2015 – NorthWestern Energy has begun work on a pilot project using solar photovoltaic panels and batteries to test the potential of a using a small micro-grid to improve the reliability of service to customers in rural areas. The project is also intended to help NorthWestern gauge the potential of solar generation across its Montana service territory.

The pilot project is located on leased private property along Interstate 90 near the Beck Hill Road exit, about 6 miles north of Deer Lodge and 3.5 miles south of Garrison Junction.

The pilot project will use an array of ground-mounted photovoltaic panels, inverters and a battery bank to generate electricity when conditions permit and store it for use during outages. The 40-kilowatt solar system and batteries could provide electricity for up to two hours. About 17 NorthWestern customers in the area will be involved in the project.

This is the first project of this kind in Montana and gives us the opportunity to test solar integration tied directly to the distribution system serving multiple purposes,” said Curt Pohl, NorthWestern’s vice president, Distribution. “While the primary purpose of this system is to serve as back-up for the 17 customers on this circuit tap, it will also produce renewable energy and give us the opportunity to test voltage support.”

Planning and development work on the pilot project has been under way for a number of months. Completion of the project, which will cost about $600,000, is expected in October 2015.
The Deer Lodge-area project is expected to have a lifespan of five to 10 years, during which NorthWestern will evaluate its effectiveness in improving reliability of electric service in the area.

The pilot project represents a small part of NorthWestern’s efforts to develop additional renewable energy in Montana. The company recently announced a statewide $3 million commitment for community-based renewable energy projects. With the recent addition of the 11 hydroelectric facilities to NorthWestern’s generation portfolio, about 58 percent of the electricity we supply to our Montana customers comes from water or wind.

Customers with questions about their electric or natural gas service can contact NorthWestern Energy at (888) 467-2669. To keep abreast of outages and other NorthWestern Energy events, follow us on Facebook and on Twitter (@NorthWestern__MT).

About NorthWestern Energy
NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 692,600 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.  More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's website at www.northwesternenergy.com.


Media Contact:
Butch Larcombe
(866) 622-8081
butch.larcombe@northwestern.com

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