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Montana's First "Green" LEED Platinum Building Turns 10


Friday, June 24, 2016   

BILLINGS, Mont. -- The state's first trailblazing uber-green building -- the first to achieve LEED Platinum status -- is turning 10 and getting a new 24-kilowatt solar array to celebrate.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and Platinum is the highest certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. The so-called "Home on the Range" building in Billings now will generate all of its own electricity, making it 100 percent energy efficient.

Architect Ed Gulick said it started out as an old neighborhood grocery store.

"They remodeled that old building to a standard that used significantly less energy and water than new construction," he said, "and it became kind of a model for a lot of other projects."

The building houses the Western Organization of Resource Councils, Western Native Voice and the Northern Plains Resource Council, which Gulick formerly chaired. They are inviting the public to take a tour and watch them flip the switch on the new solar array at 10 a.m. Saturday at the site on South 27th Street in Billings.

Gulick said he thinks the Legislature should encourage distributed generation of power and smooth the path for more community solar projects.

"At a larger scale, making this possible for everyone would require some changes in our regulations," he said, "and that in turn would require a different business model for our utilities."

Northwestern Energy, the state's biggest utility, has resisted the move toward solar. In a blow to the solar industry last week, the Public Service Commission granted a request from Northwestern Energy to be allowed to cut the rate it pays mid-size solar generators for their power.

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