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River Bend Solar project near Reed Point

The River Bend Solar project near Reed Point is a 2 MW solar farm in operation since 2017. The project is pictured in June 2018.

No one has pulled the plug on a Reed Point solar farm that’s looked worse for the wear for a few months.

River Bend Solar Farm has seen better days since went online in 2017. The 16-acre project with more than 8,000 solar panels fell into disrepair after motors designed to tilt the panels sunward malfunctioned.

Several banks of panels no longer face the sun. One section close to U.S. Interstate 90 has collapsed. The highly visible solar farm is located just south of the interstate and west of the Reed Point cemetery.

The solar farm is still generating power, according to owner Enerparc. The Oakland-based company is working with a local contractor to get the array repaired, said Enerparc Vice President of Business Development Dave Azzam.

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River Bend is one of three small Enerparc facilities in Montana that qualify for a fixed priced and contract with South Dakota-based NorthWestern Energy, the largest monopoly utility in Montana. River Bend was located next to a NorthWestern substation for convenience of connection.

State regulators set the price and contract terms according to the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, which since the 1970s has encouraged alternative energy development. Utilities are obligated to buy power from qualifying facilities under the state’s terms.

Enerparc’s other two Montana solar farms are located near Hardin and Helena. Each of the three solar farms generate less than 3 megawatts of electricity. The solar projects were developed by Cypress Creek Renewables.

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Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.