Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf, Rick Hamilton from Solar Plexus, Public Works Director Donny Ramer, NorthWestern Energy District Manager Tim Moody and NorthWestern Energy Management Specialist Shawn Fredrickson were all on hand last week to dedicate the new solar panel array that has been installed atop a shed roof at the City’s wastewater treatment plant.
According to Ramer, the estimated 50 kilowatts of electricity generated by the panels should shave about $7,000 off the annual cost of running the array of 150hp pumps that run 24/7 every day of the year at the plant. The city’s annual power bill at the plant comes to about $8,000 to $10,000 a month.
The solar system was installed by Solar Plexus at a bid price of $89,900. NorthWestern Energy awarded the project a $46,748 grant. According to Management Specialist Shawn Fredrickson, NorthWestern Energy’s grant program for installing solar and wind energy generating projects is helping out on cost-saving projects across the state.
Fredrickson said that due to the declining costs of solar panels combined with the rising costs related to wind generation operation and maintenance, most of the grants are going for solar installations these days. The grants are available for non-profit organizations and government facilities. Several solar projects have been awarded funding in the Bitterroot valley, including the panels installed at Hamilton Middle School. Darby School District has also recently qualified for a $25,000 grant and others are in the pipeline.
Mayor Farrenkopf praised Public Works Director Donny Ramer for his efforts in putting the project together. He said Ramer took the initiative to seek the grant funding.
“That’s the kind of guy he is,” said Farrenkopf. “He’s always looking for ways to improve our operations and at the same time save us some money wherever he can.”