By Molly Taft
A Montana crypto empire wants to build out one of the nation’s largest solar projects, promising it will power a technological revolution in the state. But some residents are worried about the impact the project could have on their community–and it brings up a question of whether installing huge renewable energy projects is worth it when they come in tandem with energy-sucking industries rather than decarbonizing what’s already there.
Madison River Equity LLC, a company associated with a cryptocurrency mine, is looking to install a 1,600-acre, 12-foot (3.7-meter) tall solar array outside the city of Butte, the Montana Standard reported this week. In June, the project’s developers will take the proposal before the county’s zoning board to get approval for the $250 million array.
This is a really, really big project. The Montana Standard reported that the installation would generate 300 megawatts a year—enough to power more than 40,000 homes in a county with only around 14,000. The entire state, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, only had 116.8 megawatts of solar installed at the end of 2020. If built, the project would rank among some of the largest in the entire country.