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NorthWestern Energy Solar Pilot Program

Cushing Terrell provided architectural and engineering services to create unique solar arrays for NorthWestern Energy (NWE) in partnership with Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS). The goal of this project was to provide an opportunity for students to learn about renewable energy and give NWE the ability to see how different system designs can tie into the overall electric grid. The team created four solar arrays, one installed at each of the local high schools and featuring a unique design.

Big Sky High School: 25.6 kW array; annual production of 29,900 kWh

The design for this array consisted of creating a solar array that covers a patio area as a source of shading and protection from the elements. This site also has a planned battery energy storage system, which will make it possible to store excess energy generated from the array.

Hellgate High School: 31.2 kW array; annual production of 35,000 kWh

The design for this array centered on the challenge of  integrating solar arrays into a densely populated urban setting. This array featured photovoltaic (PV) panels integrated into an 18-foot-high carport canopy, which kept the array out of the shadow of the adjacent buildings.

Sentinel High School: 13.6 kW array; annual production of 17,100 kWh

The plan for this array was to study the different orientations and times of day that would create a peak output. The various array orientations will allow NWE to evaluate the feasibility of offering incentives to their customers to place their arrays in a direction other than the traditional southern orientation. This direction
will let the solar generation peak on the grid and spread out throughout the day. The final orientation for the three separate arrays in this configuration was southeast, south, and southwest. (Second image shown above.)

Willard Alternative Learning High School: 15.6 kW array; annual production of 16,400 kWh

The design for this array centered on integrating PV panels vertically into a fence. This particular design can help increase solar production in high latitude climates that experience large amounts of snowfall during the winter. (First image shown above.)

NorthWestern Energy (NWE)
Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS)

Missoula, MT

Electrical Engineering