Missoula County has signed an agreement with SAROC Energy, LLC that will enable what is believed to be the largest rooftop solar array in Montana to be installed atop the Missoula County jail. The array will generate approximately 20 percent of the power used by the facility, bringing the county closer to its goal of 100 percent carbon neutrality in government buildings by 2030. Parsons Behle & Latimer attorney Ross P. Keough represented the developer of the project. According to the Missoula Current, the jail is the county’s single largest consumer of electricity.

Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick labeled the transaction as groundbreaking, saying, “This type of third-party financing has never been done before. We did it while creating the largest rooftop solar rray in the state.” 

Keogh is a leading tax, business planning and structuring attorney at Parsons who focuses on real estate, natural resources and renewable energy. Under the agreement he structured, SAROC Energy will install and retain ownership of the array for the first five years during which time the county will pay approximately 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour. After five years, the county will have the option to buy the array.

While this type of third-party/government deal has been transacted in other states, this deal represents a first for Montana. The approximately $450,000 array will include 1,152 solar modules which produce 432 kilowatt hours of electricity. The deal allows SAROC Energy to take advantage of some tax benefits, which the county cannot, and allows the county to install a sizable system without investing large amounts of capital up front. At current and projected interest rates, the county estimates savings of $391,000 over the next 25 years. The project has been in the works since early 2020 and included an assessment and design by On Site Energy. The system is non-export, meaning that if it should generate extra power, it will not be exported to NorthWestern Energy.

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