Missoula County has invested in a program called Community Solar through Missoula Electric Co-op.

Commissioner Jean Curtiss said the county purchased 10 of the solar panels being offered by the co-op at $700 each.

"It's an interesting program, in that you acquire  the output of one or more of the panels by purchasing shares in the array," Curtiss said. "The goal is to allow members to participate in a solar project without the costs or hassle of installing a solar system on a house or a building. We wanted to buy more, but it's such a popular program, that they didn't have any more to sell us. When they get another array, we hope to purchase up to 49 more."

Curtiss said the co-op maintains the solar panels and the customers receive the benefits of a lower energy bill.

According to Missoula Electric Co-op, each month, the energy produced by the solar array will be measured, and the total divided by 176, the total number of panels. Each participating member will be credited for the energy production associated with the number of panels in the member's contract. Solar production will vary from month to month.

"All we do is get the benefit of the 'net metering' from electricity going back into the grid, and we reduce our power bill over time," Curtiss said. "The sewer plant in Lolo is probably the biggest county facility that's on Missoula Electric Co-op's system, but we have wells at different places around the county, water systems, and we're going to build a sewer system in Seeley Lake and we have the repeaters up on the hill that the 9-1-1 systems run off of, so we can reduce our power bill on all those things."

Curtiss said, " it just made sense financially and philosophically."