The Beck Hill Microgrid is a pilot project using solar photovoltaic panels and batteries to test the potential of using a small microgrid to improve the reliability of electric service to customers in rural areas. The project provides reliability support for 17 customers. The project is also intended to help the company further gauge the potential of solar generation across its Montana service territory. This pilot project is developed on privately owned land north of Deer Lodge, not far from Interstate 90.
The grid-connected pilot project uses an array of ground-mounted photovoltaic panels and inverters to generate electricity when conditions permit. Additionally, a battery bank allows this energy to be stored for use during outages and provide grid support during normal operations. The pilot project uses a 40-kilowatt (KW) solar system and have battery capacity that could provide electricity 80KW of power to customers for over two hours. The 40KW solar array is divided into two parts: 8KW of AC coupled solar to feed the grid directly, and 32KW of DC coupled to feed the batteries until fully charged, then the excess energy flows back to the grid.