Bright Magazine: Community 2024

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Firefighter Stairclimb From Lineman to Mayor Deer Lodge Historic Theater Apple Kuchen Recipe PoweringDreams
2 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 4 VOL 4 // ISSUE 1 // COMMUNITY BRIGHT MAGAZINE is published by NorthWestern Energy. The publication is free with postage paid by NorthWestern Energy. It is printed and published by the Communications & Creative Services Department, 11 E. Park St., Butte, MT 59701. Although Bright Magazine is copyrighted, permission to reprint articles is available by contacting our office. For address changes or subscription information, call or email: (888) 467-2669 Editor in Chief: Bobbi Schroeppel Managing Editor: Erin Madison Creative Director: Brandy Powers Designer: Cassie Scheidecker Jeanne Bowman Production Support: Mark Lafond Nina Nichols Joanie Powers Gary Robinson Photographers: Jo Dee Black Alissa Byrd Tyler Hacket Chad Hesla Rachel Lloyd Erin Madison Susan Malee Bambi Mattila Brandy Powers Cassie Scheidecker Amie Thompson Eric Thorsrud Jordan Zignego Contributing Writers: Jo Dee Black Alissa Byrd Amy Grisak Kate Hamilton Mitch Hegman John Jones Erin Madison Brandy Powers Amie Thompson Eric Thorsrud Jeanne Vold Printed responsibly POSTMASTER Send address changes to: Bright Magazine, NorthWestern Energy, 11 E. Park St. Butte, MT 59701 Preferred periodicals postage paid.

When the need for a new baseball field arose in Webster, South Dakota, NorthWestern stepped up to the plate.


16 Incredibly Grueling, Completely Rewarding Volunteer firefighter and NorthWestern Energy Corrosion Technician climbed 69 floors for leukemia fundraiser. 38

NorthWestern Energy engineer encourages other women to pursue STEM careers.

Retired Lineman Mike Evans recently finished his term as mayor of Townsend.

NorthWestern Energy’s support of Livingston animal shelter helps pets find forever homes. 40

NorthWestern Energy’s Bambi Mattila volunteers at the Historic Rialto Theatre in Deer Lodge. 34 From Lineman

BRIGHT MAGAZINE Community Edition | 3
12 Powering Dreams
the Table
30 A Seat at
Homeward Bound
the Show
Volunteers Run
to Mayor
VOL 03 COMMUNITY APRIL 2023 COVER ART I captured this photo of local kids on the Webster Legion Post 40 baseball team enjoying a night game under the lights. By Chad Hesla, Webster Baseball Complex Coordinator SECTIONS 4 On a Bright Note 5 The Bright Side 6 Bright Spots 12 Bright Stories 38 NorthWestern Cares 40 We Are NorthWestern Energy 44 Bright Idea 46 NorthWest Corner 49 Bright Flavors 50 By the Numbers 54 Can You Find It?

We appreciate it when our customers take the time to extend a thank you to our employees. Here’s what some of our customers have said recently:

This note is long overdue, but it seems timely as we are in another winter season. It has been on my mind often this fall and winter. Last winter, my husband and I came home from a few days of traveling and the house seemed excessively cold. We always turn the heat way down when we are gone, but the furnace never came on when we turned the heat up. We have a fairly new furnace so we called for furnace repairs. We had to wait for the repairman because he was busy on a day at 30 below zero. We called again to see how long it was going to be because our natural gas stove was also not working. The repairman said if both the stove and the furnace are not working then the problem is with the gas line and not with either the stove or the furnace. We called NorthWestern Energy for help and they sent Jeff Cleveland of Conrad to our rescue. Jeff determined that the problem was with the gas line regulator and he had to leave a couple of times to get parts to get it fixed. He worked outside from 9 p.m. until midnight at that temperature and got things working once again. We are eternally grateful to Jeff for getting us out of a tough situation. Kudos to all of the NorthWestern crew. They have never let us down.

Roy and Diane Inbody Choteau, Montana

A customer from Missoula, Montana, called us recently to let us know how much she appreciated us giving her a call ahead of time to notify her about a planned outage in her area. She said it was super helpful as she is on oxygen 24/7 and the call helped her be able to plan ahead so she had no issues through the night.

A customer called in to express his gratitude for the care, concern and understanding provided by one of our customer service representatives and our serviceman when we responded to a gas odor at his property.

“It sure is nice to know that people like you have kind hearts,” the

customer said.

A customer let us know that the customer service representative he spoke with was

kind, extremely helpful, and very friendly.

A customer from North Platte, Nebraska, called to let us know how much she appreciated a gas worker who came out to fix her meter. Despite the frigid temperatures, he was able to fix her meter problem in less than 15 minutes. He also explained to her all the work he did.

Need volunteers? We’re here to help

Our employees are always looking for opportunities to volunteer their time and strengthen our communities. Do you have a project that needs volunteers? Let us know about it, and maybe we can help. Email us at

How can we help your organization?

Our goal is to be a strong corporate citizen in each of the communities we serve. Our charitable giving fund provides year-round support for qualified 501(c)(3) and 170(c)(2) nonprofit organizations that directly serve our communities. To review qualifications and submit a grant request, visit

love hearing from our readers. We welcome all your comments, questions and letters to the editor. We’ll edit letters as needed for accuracy, style and length, and we will feature letters in future issues. Write us at: Bright Magazine NorthWestern Energy 11 E. Park St. Butte, MT 59701 Or email us at:

NorthWestern Energy is committed to helping our communities thrive, and we know our communities can’t survive without the critical electrical and natural gas offered by NorthWestern. Without power and heat, businesses can’t turn on their lights, residents can’t heat their homes and other critical services like hospitals can’t operate.

In order to thrive, our communities need the latest technologies and innovation. All we need is to look at a 30-year-old computer or a 15-yearold cellphone to see how much technology has changed. However, you may not realize the technology that helps deliver your electricity and natural gas is also constantly advancing.

The energy grid is evolving, driven by the need to support more renewable resources as we transition to an even cleaner energy future. At NorthWestern, we are always looking for the best ways to provide services to our customers and communities.

One recent advancement is how our electric and natural gas meters communicate. These advanced meters will allow two-way communication between NorthWestern Energy and the meters on customer homes and businesses. In most cases, we will be notified when there is an outage, allowing us to restore power more quickly. In addition, we have the ability to detect a problem before it impacts the customer, meaning we can fix the issue before our customers experience an outage.

The advanced meters will also allow us to roll out an enhanced customer experience. Eventually, we’ll have a portal where customers can log in and see their energy usage in near-real time. Advanced meters will also help us move toward a more sustainable energy future. These

meters provide more data on grid operations, which will help balance the energy grid with renewable resources.

We started our advanced meter project in 2018 and have updated all eligible end points in South Dakota and Nebraska. We are now working on the upgrades in Montana and will complete the project by the middle of 2025. While contract crews have been in the field changing and updating end points, we’ve also been working behind the scenes to create a roadmap and vision for how we will implement new services that will be available once our meter upgrade project is complete.

Serving as the Vice President of Technology, I’ve seen many changes during my nearly 25 years in the energy industry. However, one thing that hasn’t changed is NorthWestern’s commitment to our customers, employees and communities.

In 2023, NorthWestern Energy gave nearly $2 million in charitable donations. In this issue of Bright, you’ll read about many of the ways we, as a company, and we, as individual employees, serve the communities where we live and work.

Thanks for reading!

BRIGHT MAGAZINE Community Edition | 5
We‘ve been busy attending events across our service territory (shaded in green). We loved getting to see so many people in person! Here are some highlights of events, sponsorships and more.

Helena – Our employees attended the Helena Home Show Expo and gave away free LED light bulbs, foam outlet insulator gaskets and energy-saving tips.

Helena – NorthWestern Energy joined the Helena Area Chamber of Commerce to celebrate Leap of Kindness Day. For Leap Day, the Chamber challenged local businesses to make donations to area nonprofits. NorthWestern Energy chose to support Shodair Children’s Hospital, which offers psychiatric treatment for children and adolescents and comprehensive genetic services for people of all ages.

Hamilton – NorthWestern Energy attended the Bitterroot Home & Ranch Expo and employees handed out free LED light bulbs and outlet insulating sealers at our booth. Butte – Our employees raised more than $1,100 to support the furry residents at the Chelsea Bailey Animal Shelter in Butte.

Helena – NorthWestern Energy employees in Helena volunteered their time at the Holter Museum of Art to help set up the Annual Youth Electrum Exhibit, which featured more than 300 pieces of art made by area elementary, middle school and high school students.

Bozeman – We are thrilled to have made a meaningful contribution to Reach Inc. this past December. Our donation of $1,000 helped Reach organize a wonderful holiday party for its 85 adult clients with disabilities. Each client received a special Christmas present and enjoyed meeting Santa.

Billings – NorthWestern Energy took pride in contributing $1,000 to YWCA Billings, supporting their innovative services that provide safe shelter, affordable housing and transitional services to help people break out of the cycle of violence.

Bozeman – A team of 10 courageous employees from our Bozeman office, along with their supportive family members, united in a common cause by participating in the Bozeman Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Montana.

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NorthWestern Energy’s Leadership NorthWestern program kicked off with a new class of 35 employees who will spend the next year learning about NorthWestern Energy to gain a better understanding of leadership responsibilities at the company. Their experiences will include interacting with internal and external experts and participating in tours of NorthWestern facilities and other places of significance to the organization.

Rapid City – We had a fantastic time at the South Dakota Mines Career Fair! NorthWestern Energy employees connected with talented students about internship and full-time career opportunities.

Grand Island – We are proud to have donated $1,000 to the GRACE Cancer Foundation in Grand Island, supporting their important work in the community, which assists cancer patients who live within 40 miles of Grand Island, Nebraska.

We celebrated National Gas Utility Workers’ Day on March 18. We honored the hardworking men and women who go above and beyond for the communities we serve every day. Their dedication and commitment ensure safe and reliable natural gas is accessible across the region.


Aberdeen – We’re excited to have sponsored the Women in Business conference in Aberdeen and proud to have had four of our employees in attendance. It was an inspiring opportunity to connect with talented professionals and support women’s leadership development.

Brookings – We donated $500 to Brookings United Way, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) agency that brings people together to help our community reach its full potential. United Way partners with local nonprofits, businesses, government and social service agencies to address the community’s most pressing needs.

Mitchell – We’re excited to announce the installation of an electric vehicle charger in Mitchell.

Sioux Falls – NorthWestern Energy employees attended Women in Science at Southeast Technical College, connecting with more than 1,000 eighth-grade girls. Our team had the opportunity to share our passion for technical careers and encourage these future leaders in STEM.

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The real power behind our company comes from our people. From our environmentally focused biologists to our hydroelectric engineers, we do our best work when we come together as a team.

We are proud to offer competitive wages and benefits, including:

• 401(k) with company match up to 4% and non-elective contribution up to 7%

• Health care and well-being programs

 Including dental and vision for you and dependents, Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Care and Dependent Flexible Spending

Account (FSA)

• Employee Assistance Program

• Life insurance

• Tuition reimbursement

• Competitive pay with a dependable company

 Scheduled performance-based wage increases

 Annual incentive opportunities

• Paid volunteer opportunities

• Paid trainings

• Paid time off, starting day one

• Paid holidays

To see all of our available positions, visit NorthWesternEnergy. com/Careers or scan the QR code with your phone’s camera.


Montana Technological University brought home the top prize at the 2024 Safety Olympics held at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Oklahoma, in March.

The eight-person Safety Olympics team included Zoe Doherty, who will begin working full time as a Safety Professional at NorthWestern Energy after she graduates from Tech in May. Zoe currently works part time at NorthWestern, and interned with the company in 2023.

This was Montana Tech’s first time competing in the annual Safety Olympics.

Intern with NorthWestern Energy

Zoe Doherty started her career at NorthWestern Energy as a summer intern.

Each summer NorthWestern hires numerous interns in areas across the company from business technology to safety and engineering to communications. Look for our summer internship job postings early each calendar year.

Learn more at

“One of my classmates had interned with someone who had competed in the Safety Olympics in a previous year so they brought the idea to our staff who picked the team,” Zoe explained. “Before you graduate, we are enrolled into a senior project class, and the Safety, Health and Industrial Hygiene Department though this would be a new opportunity to prepare for the Safety Olympics and earn some course credits while doing so.”

The Safety Olympics consist of six events: safety Jeopardy, safety culture, hazard identification, safety training, innovative idea and incident investigation. Montana Tech took top marks in three of the six events.

“We came down from Montana, so it's our first time participating in the event and we had a blast,” said Associate Professor of Safety, Health, and Industrial Hygiene and team coach Lorri Birkenbuel. “We did not have a clue what the outcome was going to be, but at the end we ended up winning, which was amazing. All of the participants were great, all the competitions were great, and we had a great time.”

The event was also a great chance to network with safety professionals from different areas and establish connections, Zoe said.

“We received real-life feedback from people who have been in industry for a while,” she said. “This was a totally different classroom experience in the way we had to prepare for the competition.”

BRIGHT MAGAZINE Community Edition | 11


By Alissa Byrd


When the need for a new baseball field arose in Webster, South Dakota, NorthWestern was one of several local businesses that stepped up to the plate.

It all began with a bare field and a dream. When the Webster baseball community needed a new field, Chad Hesla, the Webster Complex Coordinator, took the lead.

“I filled out an application and applied for a community grant through NorthWestern Energy to help fund the project,” Chad said.

Local donations from various organizations, businesses, grants and in-kind labor further supported the project’s vision. Through these collective efforts, approximately $125,000 was raised to bring the project to life.

In 2023, NorthWestern Energy donated $7,500 to the project. Out of this donation, $5,000 directly contributed to the construction of the new baseball field while additionally providing four poles, along with labor for installing them.

“I worked with the head groundskeeper from Target Field, and we came up with a scaled-down model of Target Field,” Chad said.

The dimensions were adjusted, with fences at 50% of the height, bases at 45 feet instead of 90, and an overall layout reminiscent of a professional baseball field.

A company from Minneapolis, led by a former groundskeeper for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was brought in for the dirt work and field preparation.

Mike Baumgarn, Electric Operations Supervisor at NorthWestern, went above and beyond to enhance the field even more.

“I went and put irrigation in for them, dug the trench, just as another way of helping out,” Mike said.

After two months of hard work, the project was completed in July 2023, just in time to enjoy the rest of the summer season.

Looking forward to the upcoming summer season, Chad expressed his eagerness to see children enjoying the field and playing baseball.

“It’s a great problem to have, but I’d go out there on a weekend to work and have to come back home because there were kids out there

playing,” Chad said. “I couldn’t even get the work done. So it’s a great problem to have, and it’s fun to see.”

Reflecting on the project’s impact, Chad emphasized, “Kids would never have this opportunity without great companies and organizations like NorthWestern Energy, and all the donations and everything made the whole project possible.”

New lights, coming soon

NorthWestern Energy is working with Meagher County High School in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, and the Laurel Dodgers’ baseball field in Laurel, Montana, to install new lights on the sports fields.

Work to install the new lights is in progress, and we hope to have them up and running this spring or summer.

 NorthWestern Energy donated funds to construct a new baseball field in Webster, South Dakota. We also installed new light poles at the field. NorthWestern Energy crews work to install new light poles at the Webster Baseball Complex.


The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Firefighter Stairclimb is held at the Columbia Center, Seattle’s tallest building.

The day Tyler Hackett graduated from high school in 2011, he went to the Racetrack Fire Department in Butte, Montana, and signed up to be a volunteer firefighter.

Tyler, who works as a Corrosion Technician for NorthWestern Energy, was in third grade when he watched the Twin Towers fall on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I remember being amazed by what first responders had done and sacrificed that day,” Tyler said. “Out of all those first responders, the firefighters stuck out to me for being the guys going in, when everyone else was getting out.”

Tyler has been a volunteer firefighter ever since, including while he was working overnight shifts and going to school at Montana Tech.

In March, Tyler took part in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Firefighter Stairclimb, a fundraiser that challenges firefighters to climb the stairs of a Seattle skyscraper in full gear.

“It’s probably the most grueling thing I’ve done, but it’s also the most rewarding,” Tyler said of the stair climb event.

2024 was the fourth year Tyler participated in the Firefighter Stairclimb, not including a virtual version of the event in 2020. Before heading to Seattle, firefighters fundraise for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Tyler raised more money in 2024 than he has before, thanks in large part to his colleagues at NorthWestern Energy. To fundraise, Tyler purchased a YETI Cooler from a local sporting goods store, for which he sold raffle tickets. NorthWestern Energy Butte Division Community Relations Manager Paul Babb sent an email to all Butte employees about the fundraiser, and Tyler estimates his NorthWestern co-workers purchased about three-quarters of the raffle tickets.

“Thank you to the NorthWestern Energy family, because they crushed it,” Tyler said. “I’m very grateful to everyone who donated.”

Fundraising is a challenge, but the real challenge came in Seattle where Tyler climbed 69 floors, adding up to 1,356 steps or 788 feet of elevation gain. Tyler completed the challenge in 16 minutes and 26 seconds, an impressive time, even if it wasn’t his fastest, which was about two minutes faster.

The Firefighter Stairclimb is held at the Columbia Center, Seattle’s tallest building. Starting at street-level and looking up at the building, the feat seems nearly impossible, Tyler said. But Tyler works hard ahead of time to prepare.

“I try to stay physically fit and work out,” Tyler said.

Of course there aren’t any 70-story skyscrapers in Butte. Instead Tyler runs the stairs at Tech. He also runs sprints and goes for longer runs, all in his firefighting gear.

“I do stairs wherever I can find them,” he said.

The stair climb is meant to memorialize the struggle of patients going through leukemia or lymphoma treatment. And while the climb isn’t easy, it’s definitely worth it.

“When you walk up to the window on the top floor, it is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world,” Tyler said.

 NorthWestern Energy Corrosion Technician

Tyler Hackett volunteers with the Race Track Volunteer Fire Department in Butte.


In celebration of the Northwestern Public Service centennial from 1923 to 2023, NorthWestern Energy commissioned a captivating painting to honor a century of dedicated and reliable energy service in South Dakota. John C. Green, a renowned South Dakota artist, skillfully depicted a scene that encapsulates the essence of the state’s landscape and NorthWestern Energy’s commitment to its customers.

The decision to feature a rural farm setting with our linemen providing essential services emerged from internal discussions. The goal was to evoke an immediate association with the South Dakota landscape, symbolizing the company’s 100-year legacy. The chosen theme showcases the linemen at work, emphasizing the dedication and reliability that our company has delivered to its customers throughout the decades.

Angie Christiansen, an employee from the Brookings office, recommended John as the artist for the commission. With experience in creating artwork for energy companies, John eagerly accepted the assignment. A three-time state duck stamp competition winner and recipient of the Judge’s Award of Merit at the National Wildlife Art Show, John brought his impressive credentials to the project.

With more than 30 years of professional experience and numerous sold-out limited editions to his name, John is an accomplished wildlife artist. His contributions to fundraisers, raising more than $3 million for Ducks Unlimited, highlight his commitment to giving back to the community.

The commissioned painting captures the spirit of South Dakota. Reference photos of a bucket truck were utilized to ensure accuracy, with NorthWestern linemen generously offering their time to capture accurate photos out in the field. The resulting rural scene features power lines along a country road, incorporating a road sign that emphasizes NorthWestern Energy’s centennial history.

testament to the company’s enduring commitment to providing reliable energy services in South Dakota, beautifully encapsulating a century of achievement and service.

 South Dakota Artist John C. Green works in his studio.


Energy worked with John C. Green to create a commemorative painting for NorthWestern Public Service’s centennial celebration.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE Community Edition | 19
 Left to right: NorthWestern Energy CEO Brian Bird and Dana Dykhouse, Chairman of NorthWestern’s Board of Directors, cut the cake at our Centennial Celebration; Community Relations Manager Tom Glanzer admires NorthWestern’s commemorative centennial painting; NorthWestern Energy’s Executive Team gathers at our Centennial Celebration in Huron, South Dakota.


Bozeman Division Community Relations Manager

Heather Bellamy shares her cancer journey in Bozeman Health Foundation video.

 Heather describes the nurses at Bozeman Health Cancer Center as “angels masquerading as infusion nurses.”

When Heather Bellamy, NorthWestern Energy’s Bozeman Division Community Relations Manager, was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer three years ago, she was overcome with a feeling of gratitude. Gratitude for the incredible life she has lived and for being surrounded by the love of family and friends.

She was also grateful that she would be able to receive world-class cancer treatment five minutes away from her home in Bozeman.

“Our cancer center is so important because we’re able to receive comprehensive cancer treatment so close to home.” Heather said.

Heather serves on the Bozeman Health Foundation Board of Directors, and in April she will share the story of her cancer journey at the Foundation’s Annual Gala, which supported the Bozeman Health Cancer Center.

Heather was featured in a video that will be shown during the gala. The video was produced by Brickhouse Creative, a full-service design and marketing agency in Bozeman.

Heather has been able to keep working during treatment because she is receiving her care locally. As part of Heather’s work at NorthWestern Energy, she organizes employee volunteer events to give back to the community, so it’s fitting that the video opens with Heather and the NorthWestern Energy team of volunteers at the Special Olympics Polar Plunge, which NorthWestern Energy also sponsored.

Heather went into the video project hoping her story would help people understand the importance of having cancer treatment options in Bozeman and inspire them to give to the Bozeman Health Cancer Center.

Heather’s cancer is now terminal, and she’s continuing chemo treatment, fighting for another remission.

“I’m not one to discount the possibility of a miracle,” she said in the video.

To learn more about the Bozeman Health Foundation or to watch Heather’s video, which will be posted April 30, visit

NorthWestern Energy helps purchase new chairs for Bozeman cancer center

In 2021, NorthWestern donated $12,000 to the Bozeman Health Foundation, which allowed the Foundation to purchase two new infusion chairs for the Cancer Center.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE Community Edition | 21
 Top: Heather with her husband, Jordan, before her cancer diagnosis. Middle: Heather outside Bozeman Health Cancer Center before her first chemo treatment. Bottom: Heather’s husband, Jordan, took this photo after he shaved her head in 2021.

When Dan Ness was studying drafting in college, he bought a really nice slide rule because he figured it was going to be a tool he’d use a lot.

But a few months after starting work with Montana Power Company, the company that became NorthWestern Energy, his office purchased a Hewlett Packard calculator that had four functions – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It must have been expensive, Dan recalls, because it was locked up and had to be checked out for use.

His slide rule, which was an advancement to the abacus, was now obsolete. It was 1974.

Dan, Electric Transmission Foreman, is celebrating 50 years with NorthWestern Energy.

He started with the company when he was 20 in the drafting pool, before moving to electric transmission where he still is today. He started designing power lines in 1983 when his supervisor dropped a stack of plans and profile maps on his desk and said, “Design this line.”

As you can imagine, technology has changed his job a lot through the years. In the 1990s, he remembers everyone got a computer.

“We had the computers sitting on our desk with the design program loaded, but we wouldn’t use them,” he recalled.

One day their boss came up to the group, and Dan remembers him saying, “If I see you making calculations on a sheet of paper, there is going to be hell to pay.”

It turns out the computers worked well, and since Dan had been designing long enough, he knew what the designs should look like so using the computer was a double check for him.

In 2005, he joined the Transmission Line Maintenance Department. He would identify areas

of transmission power lines that needed maintenance, then design the fix, coordinate the materials, coordinate with contract crews and schedule the line clearances needed for the work.

Nowadays, Dan still spends a lot of time on the road for the company coordinating large electric transmission projects. As an electric transmission foreman, he talks with landowners, coordinates material and clearances, and creates the schedule. He also solves any design issues that pop up.

“I congratulate Dan on 50 years of dedicated loyal service to NorthWestern. Being on the road the majority of the time is not for everyone, however Dan thrives at it,” said Tom Pankratz, Director of Electric Transmission Engineering.

“I’m waiting for a day that I run into a problem I’ve already dealt with so I can just spit out the answer, but I haven’t ran into one yet,” Dan said. “They’re all new!”

Dan and his wife, Barbara, have been married 51 years and have three kids, four grandkids and two great-grandchildren. They were high school sweethearts in Whitehall, Montana.

He’s currently spending most weeks in Great Falls working on a couple large transmission projects.

“Dan is one of the few employees that can really say that he’s covered nearly every mile of our 7,000 miles of transmission lines in Montana,” Tom said. “Dan has been a great asset to the company, and I really appreciate all he does to contribute to our success.”

“I love being on the road, and I love being at home,” said the easy-to-please Dan. “What I like about this work is that there is always something different to look at.”


Dan Ness, who is celebrating 50 years working for NorthWestern, has seen many changes during his career.
Dan Ness, Electric Transmission Foreman for NorthWestern Energy, is celebrating 50 years of service with the company.

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On Wednesday, March 20, the Wolsey-Wessington FFA Chapter hosted an Animal Judging Competition at the Dakota Event Complex (DEX) in Huron, South Dakota. This is Wolsey-Wessington’s first year hosting an FFA competition, and the chapter was able to host this competition with assistance from NorthWestern Energy. NorthWestern donated funds to the Wolsey-Wessington FFA chapter to cover the rental cost of the DEX.

The Animal Judging Competition included approximately 200 students and 16 different FFA chapters that competed in livestock judging,

horse judging, poultry judging and dairy cattle judging. This competition was a state-qualifying event for dairy cattle. Wolsey-Wessington and Sunshine Bible Academy qualified for the state dairy cattle competition, which will be held in April. Many local farmers and local FFA chapters graciously volunteered their time and efforts to provide the animals used for this competition.

The people who helped with the competition were very excited to be able to host this event as it was Wolsey-Wessington’s School FFA Chapter’s first time organizing this opportunity for local FFA members.

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t i o n
Photos by Rachel Lloyd

The day resulted in great experiences and good participation from surrounding FFA students. The Wolsey-Wessington Ag classes custom made the plaques and trophies for the competition. The trophies were designed in the shape of each class of animals. The Wolsey-Wessington senior class presented the awards to the individuals and teams that placed first and second.

The Wolsey-Wessington FFA Chapter extended a thank you to all of the FFA students and ag advisors for participating and competing at the chapter’s first contest. They were also very grateful for those who helped bring the animals for the competition. In the future, Wolsey-Wessington FFA hopes to continue to grow this event for all FFA students and possibly expand the judging class opportunities.

“I am very proud of our FFA chapter and community for putting together a first-class experience at an incredible facility such as the DEX,” said Andrew Boersma, Wolsey-Wessington FFA Chapter Advisor. “We had several community members and other teachers donate their time to help host this event. I hope this is the first of many events to be used at the DEX in coming years.”

BRIGHT MAGAZINE Community Edition | 25
Scan this QR code with your phone’s camera to watch a video made by students in the Wolsey-Wessington FFA Chapter.

In the United States, the transportation of hazardous liquids and gases through pipelines is crucial for various industries, including energy, manufacturing and utilities. Ensuring the safety of these pipelines is paramount to protect communities and the environment from potential risks. One of the essential tools in this regard is the American Petroleum Institute’s Recommended Practice 1162 (RP1162), which provides guidelines for developing a Public Awareness Program aimed at educating specific stakeholders including communities living near pipelines about their presence, associated risks and emergency response procedures.

What is RP1162?

RP1162, first issued in 2003 and revised periodically, is a comprehensive set of guidelines developed by the American Petroleum Institute (API) to assist pipeline operators, including NorthWestern Energy, in establishing and implementing effective


These guidelines are a framework for public awareness programs in pipeline safety.

Public Awareness Programs. NorthWestern owns and operates natural gas pipelines throughout our service territory. These programs are designed to inform and educate the general public, emergency responders, public officials and excavators about the presence of pipelines in their communities, the safety measures in place to prevent incidents, as well as how to recognize a pipeline leak, and respond to emergencies.

RP1162 serves as a vital framework for promoting pipeline safety and fostering communication and collaboration between pipeline operators, communities and stakeholders. By following the guidelines outlined in RP1162 and investing in robust public awareness programs, NorthWestern Energy can mitigate risks, enhance safety and build stronger relationships with the communities we serve. As the energy landscape evolves, maintaining a proactive approach to pipeline safety and stakeholder engagement remains essential for protecting lives, property and the environment.

Benefits of RP1162

Implementing RP1162 offers several benefits for both NorthWestern Energy and the communities we serve.

Regulatory Compliance: Following RP1162 pipeline program guidelines ensures that pipeline operators meet regulatory requirements related to public awareness and community engagement, reducing the risk of non-compliance penalties.

Enhanced Safety: By increasing public awareness and understanding of pipeline risks and safety measures, RP1162 helps with recognizing pipeline leaks minimizing the likelihood of accidents and improves emergency preparedness and response capabilities.

Stakeholder Trust and Engagement: Effective public awareness programs foster trust and positive relationships between pipeline operators and the communities they operate in, leading to better collaboration, understanding and support for safety initiatives.

Risk Reduction: Through education and outreach efforts, RP1162 helps reduce the likelihood of incidents caused by human error, unauthorized excavation or other preventable factors.


Animal Shelter & Care of Jefferson County

Animal Shelter & Care of Jefferson County hosts numerous fundraisers throughout the year.

To learn more about the organization, attend an event or donate, visit

Jefferson County in Montana needs an animal shelter. Sixteen years ago, Montana State University conducted a study on what was needed in the county, and an animal shelter was high on the list. From that study, the nonprofit organization Animal Shelter & Care of Jefferson County was formed with the mission of promoting “humane treatment of animals through shelter, education and spay/neuter endeavors.”

Since then, the nonprofit, known as AS&C for short, has been hard at work to raise funds to build a shelter. Along the way, it has also offered spay and neuter clinics, vaccination clinics, animal fostering, and pet search and rescue.

For the last eight years, NorthWestern Energy has donated to Animal Shelter & Care of Jefferson County’s spay and neuter program and other efforts.

“We are very grateful that NorthWestern Energy has been so good to us,” said Cheryl Haasakker, AS&C President.

Building an animal shelter is no easy feat. The organization has received some grants, including from NorthWestern Energy, but mainly it relies on donations and volunteers.

“We rely a lot on in-kind services,” Cheryl said.

AS&C constructed a 700-square-foot shelter building in 2023. Work is now underway to finish the interior of the building, with hopes of having it open soon. The building will have four indoor/outdoor dog kennels and four to six cat condos. It will give the organization a

place to house lost or surrendered animals, which are currently all cared for in foster homes.

Down the road, AS&C plans to build a 5,000-square-foot shelter that can accommodate spay and neuter clinics, vaccination clinics, dog training and more.

“We want this to be the first place people come for help instead of surrendering an animal,” Cheryl said.

Once the larger shelter is built, the 700-square-foot building will be used by law enforcement if they find animals during off-hours.

While the organization has been working for 16 years to build a shelter, it has also been busy providing spay and neuter clinics and low-cost vaccines. AS&C used to host one-day spay and neuter clinics, where they would see an average of 83 animals. It has since become difficult to find traveling veterinarians for the one-day clinic, so the organization now offers spay and neuter vouchers. In 2023, the organization gave out 63 vouchers. In the first three months of 2024, that number was 35.

“The number of animals we deal with now has probably doubled in the last two years,” said Darlene Moyer, AS&C Board Member and Fundraising Coordinator.

Vickie Corderio, wife of retired NorthWestern Energy Boulder Town Manager Ray Corderio, also serves on the AS&C board.

“The Helena division has been so supportive of this project over the years,” Vickie said.

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 Vickie Corderio, wife of retired NorthWestern Energy Boulder Town Manager Ray Corderio; Darlene Moyer; & Cheryl Haasakker serve on Animal Shelter and Care of Jefferson County’s Board of Directors.  The nonprofit organization Animal Shelter & Care of Jefferson County is working to build a 700-square-foot shelter building in Boulder, Montana.

ASeat At TheTable

ByAmie Thompson
NorthWestern Energy engineer encourages other women to pursue STEM careers.

Brandi Hellwinkel encourages girls and young women to go into engineering any chance she can. It is her way of paying it forward.

“I have had such wonderful mentors that have helped guide me through my education and career. Not only do I seek to pay it forward to the next generation of bright STEM students, I feel that this type of work is a meaningful way to give back to the communities that we serve,” said Brandi, System Asset Manager at NorthWestern Energy.

In February, Brandi was joined by Molly Hirschi, Asset Management Analyst, and Reanna Lange, Human Resources Generalist, at Montana State University’s Women in Engineering Dinner. The night began with a chance for MSU students to meet with companies that value diversity.

“Reanna, Molly and I were able to connect with 350 upcoming women in engineering,” Brandi said. “These events are always very engaging but hearing multiple students say, `I remember you from last year, `I remember the advice you gave me,’ or `Nice seeing NorthWestern Energy here again,’ shows the value of NorthWestern’s continued commitment to this event.”

Brandi has attended the event most years, starting in 2011, and started bring her daughter as a “helper” about five years ago.

“I remember feeling different and out of place in college as I was surrounded by a classroom of males. I want to encourage young women and minorities that they have just as much of a right to have a seat at the table,” Brandi said. “This is one reason why it is important for me to bring my daughter along to these events as not only a role model to her but also for those doubting if they can have a successful career while having a strong commitment to family.”

Brandi often helps with the MSU career fair as well, and she will see students there who first talked to NorthWestern at the Women in Engineering event.

“I personally have interviewed women from this event,” Brandi said.

 Top: From left, System Asset Manager Brandi Hellwinkel, Asset Management Analyst Molly Hirschi and HR Generalist Reanna Lange connected with 350 future female engineers at Montana State University. Brandi’s daughter, Laken, helped them.

Middle: Brandi volunteers with SciGirls, a girls’ after-school science class at ExplorationWorks in Helena, Montana.

Bottom: Brandi helps students make a solar oven at a Montana Outdoor Science School summer camp.

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When the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, NorthWestern Energy must have energy generation options to provide power to our customers. We all know how brutal cold snaps can be during our winters and how quickly temperatures soar during the summer. NorthWestern Energy’s balanced energy mix keeps our customers connected in all weather conditions.

Approximately 55% of NorthWestern’s owned and contracted energy supply is carbon-free, markedly better than the national average of 40% in 2022.

NorthWestern Energy is committed to providing our customers reliable energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s why we manage a balanced energy mix of resources that keeps the lights on, no matter the weather.


We are committed to achieving Net Zero Emissions by 2050, and we are working to increase carbonfree generation options. At this point, long-duration storage technologies are not cost-effective. As the industry works to find solutions, NorthWestern is investing in resources to provide customers with reliable energy.

We are committed to balancing affordability, reliability and sustainability with the resources available. We will continue to work to support cleaner energy generation, while remaining uncompromising on reliability and affordability for our customers.

You can read more about NorthWestern Energy’s energy generation and net zero plan by scanning this QR code.


In the heart of Montana, where small-town values run deep and community spirit thrives, Mike Evans spent 33 years as an employee of the Montana Power Co. and later NorthWestern Energy. He left an indelible mark on the town of Townsend, first as the NorthWestern Energy town manager and lineman and then as a city council member and mayor.

Mike completed his two terms as mayor in January.

Mike’s journey began as an apprentice with Duty Construction in Havre, Montana. After honing his skills and passing the lineman test, he became a linemen foreman, leading crews through the challenges of the job. A brief stint in California couldn’t keep him away from his home state, and when the opportunity arose to return to a job at Montana Power Co., he packed up his family and headed back.

Upon his return, Mike began working in Helena as a lineman for about two years and then landed a job in Townsend as a town manager.

Mike faced the unpredictability of the new town manager job head-on. “The work is busy!” he recalls, his words resonating with the bustling energy of fixing broken lines and checking for gas leaks. One memorable incident involved a contractor accidentally rupturing a 4-inch propane gas pipe in town. People had to be evacuated from their homes because gas was shooting into the town. He recalls climbing under houses with the gas crew for about five hours, encountering spiders and bugs galore to inspect every nook and cranny to ensure the safety of the community.

Yet amid the chaos, there were moments of camaraderie and levity. Mike fondly recalls the pranks and jokes shared among linemen and gasmen, forging bonds that transcended the challenges of the job.

“We were like a platoon of Marines,” Mike said, reflecting on the unity and teamwork that defined his years in service.

Beyond his duties as a town manager, Mike became deeply involved in the community.

Mike dedicated 24 years of his life to the betterment of Townsend, first as a member of the city council for 16 years, and then as mayor for eight years, concluding his tenure on Jan. 1, 2024. Throughout his time at City Hall, Mike rolled up his sleeves and worked tirelessly to address the needs and concerns of his fellow townsfolk.

Mike also coached football and basketball for junior high kids, and later served as the assistant coach for the high school girls’ basketball team. His proudest moment came when his daughter’s team won back-to-back state titles — an achievement that brought immense pride to the town of Townsend. His coaching career, spanning nearly three decades, left a lasting impact on the town’s young athletes.

In addition to his coaching duties, Mike was dedicated to the safety and well-being of the community in his role as town manager, overseeing day-to-day NorthWestern Energy operations in Townsend. It was a tough job, but one that he approached with dedication and a sense of responsibility.

As Mike reminisces about his years of service, he emphasizes the importance of teamwork and community.

“We always wanted to please our customers,” he said. “And to this day, they’re still friends of mine.”

“I hear folks complaining about their jobs all the time. But I feel grateful to have worked with such a great bunch of people — smart, kind and genuinely happy. I really miss those days sometimes!”

And though he may no longer be climbing under houses or fixing broken lines, his impact on Townsend will be felt for years to come.

Mike Evans, who served 33 years at NorthWestern Energy, clears baling twine from an osprey nest near Townsend, Montana. After retiring from NorthWestern, Mike became mayor of Townsend.



NorthWestern Energy’s Kirt Mayson will soon finish his term as Chair of the Utilities Technology Council’s Board of Directors.

As a Senior Engineer in NorthWestern Energy’s Network Engineering and Operations Department, Kirt Mayson works behind the scenes to make sure all of NorthWestern’s infrastructure works correctly and communicates as needed.

Kirt handles many critical systems for NorthWestern, including radio frequency networks, microwave networks, fiber optic networks, mobile radio networks, and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA, networks.

“Historically, our area is one that is a little-known part of the organization,” Kirt said. “It’s key and integral to everything we do. We’re a key stakeholder in most projects and company initiatives, as each has some level of technology requirements to make them successful.”

Kirt has worked in the field for nearly four decades, including 27 years with NorthWestern Energy, and has found a unique niche in the world of utility communications and networking. Like most people working in his field, Kirt doesn’t have a degree in telecom engineering. He has a petroleum engineering degree from Montana Tech and has learned a lot on the job.

“There’s some amount of trial by fire,” Kirt said. “There aren’t text books to fall back on.”

With the digital revolution and most all telecommunications circuits being packet (Ethernet)-based there are standards to reference. However, critical applications and circuits still have the same performance criteria and requirements from when he started in this area 27 years ago.

Kirt has also gained knowledge from his involvement in the Utilities Technology Council, a trade association dealing with emerging utility technologies and the communications and networks that support them.

“The big benefit of UTC is you’re forming professional relationships with folks from across the industry,” Kirt said. “It’s the ongoing education. We’re in truly a niche world.”

Kirt has been involved with UTC for about 20 years and recently climbed to the high-

est leadership position in the organization. For the last year, he has served as the chair of UTC’s Board of Directors. On May 22, he will complete his term as chair.

Networks and communications are hugely important for energy companies. Our Business Technology Network Engineering and Operations group provides network services (connections and paths) from servers to field devices to collect that data and transport it to where it needs to go.

Our new advanced meters need these networks in order to let us know when there’s an outage. Networks allow Grid Operations to know which power lines are energized and when a line becomes de-energized. It also allows us to monitor equipment in the far corners of our service territory from a centralized location.

“Everything we do has some sort of communication and networking aspect to it,” Kirt said.

Technology and the massive amounts of data being collected and stored are a “new normal” for our company. That data provides opportunities for analytics and solutions using AI and other tools to make our operations more efficient and support the customer experience. Safeguarding that data is of utmost priority as well.

During his time as chair of UTC, Kirt led the hiring process for a new CEO, which was the biggest challenge of his tenure. Although he’s nearly done with his term as board chair, Kirt plans to stay involved with the organization. He’ll continue to serve on the Leadership Advisory Committee and help mentor future UTC leaders.

Kirt has also mentored many other engineers at NorthWestern Energy.

“Our area is so specialized,” he said.

Telecomm and networking requirements for utility applications require high availability, high performance and high security all of the time. That is why our foundational design criteria starts with 99.999% availability.

During his 27 years with NorthWestern, Kirt has seen many changes. When he started with the company, the analog-to-digital revolution was just beginning. Now Kirt is engineering the replacements for some of the digital systems he designed because they have reached the end of useful life.

Kirt still has a few years to go before retirement, but looking back, he’s proud of all he’s accomplished.

“It’s been a very rewarding career,” he said.

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A cat at the Stafford Animal Shelter in Livingston waits to find a forever home.

 NorthWestern Energy sponsored the adoption fee for Lightning and Dozer, who ended up in the shelter after their owners were killed in car accidents.

BOUND Homeward

NorthWestern Energy’s support of Livingston animal shelter helps pets find forever homes.


Lightning and Dozer have experienced a lot of upheaval in their short lives.

Lightning is a 3-year-old female mixed-breed dog, and Dozer is a 2-year-old very large male mixed-breed. The two ended up at the Stafford Animal Shelter in Livingston, Montana, in early March after their owner, a 34-year-old Montana woman, died in a car accident. A year before, they lost their other owner to a car accident.

“They’ve had a traumatic past couple years,” said Lauren Smith, Executive Director of the Stafford Animal Shelter.

To help minimize the amount of time Lightning and Dozer would have to spend at the shelter, NorthWestern Energy sponsored their adoption fees. Donations from businesses like NorthWestern allow Stafford to waive adoption fees on animals that might be harder to adopt out, Lauren explained.

“When we get those tough cases like that, it’s nice to sponsor their fees,” she said.

NorthWestern has sponsored several fundraising events that benefit Stafford as well.

“Stafford Animal Shelter provides an invaluable service to our community,” said Heather Bellamy, NorthWestern Energy Community Relations Manager for the Bozeman Division. “I love being a part of helping animals find their forever homes.”

In late 2023, 12 hound dogs were surrendered to Stafford – 10 pup-

pies and two juveniles.

“They were very under-socialized, and hounds are hard to adopt out,” Lauren said.

NorthWestern Energy was able to sponsor the adoption fees of the two young hounds – Beverly and Lwaxana – who have both been adopted.

Sabin Pasch and her husband saw Beverly’s photo online and knew they needed to meet her.

“I know ‘love at first sight’ is a bit cheesy, but before we interacted with her she seemed so special,” Sabin said of Beverly. “We had no idea her adoption fee was even sponsored until we signed all of the paperwork. It meant an incredible amount knowing that NorthWestern sponsored her.”

Beverly has settled in and adjusted well to her new home.

“It took her a few weeks to get used to people walking around,” Sabin said. “She was terrified of a lot but so super curious.”

Today, Beverly loves snuggles and butt scratches. She loves walks with her brother Buddy and meeting new friends.

Beverly, Lightning and Dozer are just a few of the roughly 1,100 animals helped every year by the Stafford Animal Shelter.

In 2022, the shelter was flooded, and all the animals had to be evacuated. Stafford reopened in early 2023 and is back to normal operations.

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 Early this spring, the Stafford Animal Shelter cared for a litter of Golden Retriever/English Springer Spaniel puppies.



The Rialto Community Theatre in Deer Lodge, Montana, offers a 485-seat venue for cinema, community concert series, comedian performances, student holiday programs and more.

Entertainment that can be enjoyed with a $7 jumbo-sized buttered popcorn.

It’s only possible thanks to about 60 volunteers who do everything from operating the sound and lights to taking tickets and running the concession stand.

NorthWestern Energy’s Bambi Mattila, an energy scheduler, has served popcorn and candy to movie-goers at the Rialto for about 10 years.

“The theater is a big thing for our community, it’s important because of its historical value and also provides activities,” said Bambi, who lives in Deer Lodge and works for NorthWestern Energy in Butte.

“Concession proceeds are what pay the bills, the utilities, the insurance,” said Rialto Community Theatre President Steve Owens. “Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t exist.”

Built in the Beaux-Arts “Movie Palace” architectural style in 1921 and listed on the National Register of Historical Places, the Rialto was owned and operated by one family until 1995. The nonprofit Rialto Community Theatre organization acquired the building, transforming it into a regional performing arts venue while maintaining it as a safe venue for children to gather, learn and be entertained.

A massive fire of undetermined origin severely damaged the Rialto on Nov. 4, 2006. The ornate terra cotta façade, projection booth and stage area with six original 1921 backdrops were saved by three fire departments. It took about five years and $3.5 million from more than 4,000 donors to restore the Rialto, which reopened in May 2012.

 Top: The Rialto Theatre in Deer Lodge is a community nonprofit and relies on volunteers to keep the theater in operation.

Middle: NorthWestern Energy Scheduler Bambi Mattila, right, volunteers at the Rialto concessions stand, along with NorthWestern Energy Enterprise Risk Management Consultant Jason Jones, second from left.

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Bottom: The Rialto Theatre was built in 1921 in the Beaux-Arts “Movie Palace” architectural style.

NorthWestern Energy contributed $2.1 million to the 404 communities we serve in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska in 2023. Learn more about NorthWestern Energy’s Charitable Giving programs at



Today most students in Powell County, where Deer Lodge is located, perform on the Rialto’s stage in school music concerts and programs. The Rialto hosts the annual Rotary talent show, community fundraisers and workshops, as well as weekend movie showings.

“We are a bright spot on Main Street,” Steve said.

Concessions are a bargain by any measure, offering soda, candy, flavored water and, of course, popcorn. “We use real butter,” Steve emphasizes.

NorthWestern Energy’s Employee Volunteer Program makes donations to organizations in recognition of our employees’ volunteerism.

The Rialto has received donations due to Bambi Mattila’s volunteer work for several years.

“I try to work concessions at least once a month. It’s a chance to see people from town,” Bambi said. “When kids’ movies are showing, we are the busiest and that’s probably my favorite time to be there.”

NorthWestern Energy is also contributing $1,000 to the Rialto’s effort to raise about $150,000 to convert the theater’s stage lights to LEDs.

“LEDs are energy-efficient and versatile,” Steve said. “Today crews have to put lenses on the hot stage lights to change the color and be careful so that we don’t have burned fingers. The LED lights are multi-colored and change automatically. We’ve raised about $60,000 so far.”

Learn more about the Rialto Community Theatre’s performance schedule, as well as information on renting the venue and how to make a donation at

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Kilowatts & Kilowatt-Hours

Understanding a Solar Price Estimate

Before signing a sales agreement, you should understand the electrical power units integral to buying and operating a solar array. We recommend getting several bids on a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, unless you are familiar with or trust a recommendation about a specific contractor.

Kilowatts (kW), the industry standard for sizing and valuing a PV system, form the basis of a straightforward estimate (components and labor) – commonly called the “installed price per kilowatt.” For example, a 5-kilowatt system priced at $17,500 would cost $3,500 per installed kilowatt. Kilowatt hours (kWh), on the other hand, represent the electrical production of the solar PV system. As you’ll learn later in this article, kilowatt-hour production is not static and varies based on conditions, including available sunlight and panel shading.

Quality contractors always provide the installed kW price at the front of their estimate, ensuring customers have accurate information to make an educated purchase. The estimate also includes the projected kWh production of the PV system, but that number is approximate and not the metric used to determine the installed price.

Be cautious of solar sales predicated primarily on kilowatt-hour production rather than an upfront and well-defined installed price per kilowatt. This subjective sales tactic can be associated with a guarantee to “eliminate” or “zero out” your utility bill. To help you understand, let’s look at kilowatts (kW) and kilowatt-hours (kWh) and their role and meaning in solar pricing and production.

A kilowatt (kW) is 1,000 watts of electrical power — a standard measurement used across the utility and solar industries. The kilowatt size of the solar array represents the system’s power output (capacity) when operating at full production. It is calculated by totaling the output of the individual solar panels within the array. For example, if your system estimate includes 10 400-watt panels, the kilowatt size

is 4,000 watts or 4 kW (10 x 400).

A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is 1,000 watts of electrical power generated or used over one hour. Specific to solar PV electrical production, the kilowatt-hours a system yields are a combination of the solar array size (in kW) and as important, variables, including available sunlight, solar panel orientation, ambient temperature, and shading or blockage on the solar panel surface.

The kWh production of a solar PV system can only be estimated, and because it relies on the variables listed above, the array output fluctuates daily and seasonally. For most of Montana, the standard formula used by reputable contractors is that 1 kW of solar produces about 1,300 kWh of electricity annually. This calculation accounts for production variables. You can also access an online tool called PVWatts to estimate solar production at your specific location within the state.

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) developed and maintains PVWatts to assist homeowners interested in solar. It is user-friendly and allows you to input specifics for your home, such as your location, roof orientation, and angle (pitch).

If the contractor providing the bid presents the estimate primarily based on projected kilowatt-hour production, use caution and ask for the system size ( in kilowatts) and price per installed kilowatt. You need to know these numbers to understand the materials and labor you are paying for and as a sound reference to compare with other bids.

PV Watts link:

John Jones and Mitch Hegman have developed renewable energy curriculum and trained Montana solar installers, electricians, regulators and others since 2005. In line with the solar industry’s growth and technology changes, their portfolio includes more than 20 solar and energy storage courses and seven industry publications. Together with the Montana Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Center (MEJATC), they provide renewable energy education for Montana contractors, electricians and apprentices.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE Community Edition | 43
About 85% of textile waste ends up in the landfill, but there are better options for clothes you no longer need or want.


It feels good to purge the dresser and closet on occasion, making space by removing clothes we don’t wear. Yet, despite our best intentions, many of these items end up in the county dumps or incineration stations, inspiring many of us to look for ways to give clothing another life.

According to Rolland Elendu, Founder and CEO of Malvadon LLC, a nonprofit organization focused on textile recycling, 34 million pounds of post-consumer textile waste is produced in the United States every year. Even though most of this is potentially recyclable, he says, “Eighty-five percent of it goes into the landfill.”

The “why” behind these trends

For many of us, clothes are an almost-disposable item. Sidney Stapp of Great Falls, Montana, spent her life in retail merchandising, and recognized a shift in the nature of clothes-buying.

“It is the change in fabric that is influenced a lot of this,” she said. “If you had a silk blouse or wool coat, you took care of it. There’s not as much high-caliber clothing.”

According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association, by the 1990s, “fast fashion,” the rise of cheap and trendy clothing that was practically disposable, became the norm. As a result, 97% of the clothes and shoes we wear is now made outside of the U.S., and our textile waste amounts skyrocketed. The question remains on the best ways to find new homes for the clothing we no longer want or need.

Thrift stores

The easiest course of action for many is to create a donation pile for the local thrift store, drop off a bag of clothes, and receive a receipt

for a tax deduction. But the clothes we deliver don’t always end up in the hands of someone looking for a bargain.

Rolland says that the typical thrift or charitable store keeps a piece on the rack for approximately 21 days. If it’s not sold within this time, it’s pulled to make room for the enormous amount of merchandise waiting to be displayed.

While it varies between thrift stores and locations, only an estimated 48% of donated items are actually sold.

“Unless they’re working with the textile recycler, it’s going straight to the garbage can,” Rolland said.

The key to donating to charitable organizations or thrift stores is the condition of the clothing. Who wants to buy a T-shirt with a stain on the front or torn out jeans? They’re more likely to be able to resell items when they are in good condition. Plus, it’s possible for them to have a second life overseas if they are not sold locally.

A new life in a new area

When clothing does not sell, large textile recyclers, such as Malvadon,


step in to take the clothes to a completely different clientele.

Rolland was born and raised in Africa, and his father has owned a used-clothing recycling business for 45 years.

“I grew up wearing used clothing,” Rolland said. “In the U.S., we are the only ones who think of brand new clothes as a necessity.”

In Africa, more than 80% of people, of all socio-economic statuses, buy used clothing.

From his firsthand experience, Rolland believed the textile recycling model could use an upgrade. That inspired him to pull together his wealth of experience and education to form relationships with secondhand stores in the U.S. to purchase their textile recycling and send the bales of clothing to Africa where it boosts the economy and helps families.

He’s also developing an app where people can connect with a recycler to ensure their clothes are being sent overseas and not to a landfill.

“The importance of textile recycling can never be overstated,” Rolland said.

The greatest importance is educating the public, as well as those who handle secondhand clothing on a large level, to implement this type of recycling.

Take back programs

For more specialized clothing, there are a number of large businesses, such as Patagonia and The North Face, that offer programs to take back used clothing, but they aren’t the only ones. Check with your favorite retailers to discover if they have similar offerings.


Another option, particularly for nearly new clothes, are consignment stores, either locally or online. Sidney uses a program called “ThredUp” as one of several online examples.

“They send you a large vinyl bag,” Sidney said.

She simply fills the bag and sends it back to ThredUp with the pre-paid shipping label, and the company posts the clothes online. As it sells, she receives a 10% commission, which can be paid as a check or as credit to her online shopping.

“Having been a retailer,

it is interesting on how there are different avenues for buying your wardrobe,” she said.

While the money amount isn’t much, it adds up, plus the entire site allows people to shop for “like-new used” clothing.

Natural mulch

There are just some situations where the certain pieces don’t have enough life left in it to go a second round, and besides tearing a T-shirt into rags, the question remains on what is the best that can be done with it.

We often overlook that much of our clothes are made of natural materials such as wool, cotton, hemp, bamboo and linen, all of which can be composted. They’re fine to use in sheet composting (also called lasagna gardening), as well as in a traditional compost pile. Or, they can serve as a weed-barrier that will eventually break down.

To incorporate clothing into a traditional composting system, tear the materials into small strips to allow them to decompose faster and use them as the “brown” (carbon) layer in the pile. This is best included with cardboard or newspaper that breaks down more rapidly to kick the process into gear.

For anyone who has ever used landscape fabric, we all know that it eventually fails and is a nightmare to remove. Weeds tend to find their way through the tiniest holes, ultimately overwhelming the area, yet seem to hold on firm enough to make pulling up the fabric very difficult. By using cotton T-shirts or even sheets, it’s possible to create a weed barrier that will last just as long, yet will eventually break down into the soil.

More can be done

The bottom line is if we purchase fewer new pieces and hold onto them when we do, we can reduce waste from its source point. Instead of impulse buying online or while out shopping, consider checking out secondhand stores if there’s something you need. Not only can you find exceptional items, but the lower price tag makes it feel extra special.

And whenever the purging desire hits us, by being careful as to how we discard our items — whether finding a friend who can wear them or donating to a place we know ships overseas to a brand new market — we can be sure our waste isn’t being buried as a burden for future generations.

Amy Grisak is an avid gardener and writer. Her writing appears in everything from the Farmers’ Almanac to Popular Mechanics, along with her books, “Nature Guide to Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks” and “Found Photos of Yellowstone.” Amy lives in Great Falls, Montana, with her two sons and her husband, Grant, who is a biologist with NorthWestern Energy.

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ABERDEEN, South Dakota

Like many towns in the Midwest, Aberdeen, South Dakota, was founded as a railroad town. However, long before European settlers came to what is now Aberdeen, the area was inhabited by Sioux Indians and other Plains Indian tribes.

The first train arrived in Aberdeen via the Milwaukee Railroad in 1881. Aberdeen is named for Aberdeen, Scotland, the home city of Milwaukee Railroad President Alexander Mitchell. By 1886, nine different railroads converged in Aberdeen, earning the city its nickname, “The Hub City.”

Aberdeen has grown substantially since its early days as a railroad

town. The city, population 28,300, is home to Northern State University. Super 8 Motels was founded in Aberdeen in the ’70s. Today, you’ll find a vibrant downtown and plenty of activities for the whole family.

Catch a live show – Aberdeen Community Theatre, housed in the Historic Capitol Theatre, offers locally produced plays and hosts touring productions. They also have theater classes and workshops for adults and children. Upcoming shows include “Bright Star,” a musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” The Historic Capitol Theatre was built in 1926 as a vaudeville/movie house in French art deco style.


Grab a coffee, a bite or a beer – The Market in downtown Aberdeen is a coffee bar, restaurant, taphouse and gift shop all in one. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, with menu items such as the Rise and Shine Bowl with eggs, quinoa, feta and bell peppers, or grilled cheese with bacon. You’ll find a variety of sandwiches, wraps, power bowls and salads. The taphouse serves a variety of beers, ciders and seltzers from South Dakota, the Midwest and across the country. 506 S. Main. St.

Play, eat, repeat – Allevity Entertainment promises fun for all ages. Play a game of laser tag, and then try your hand at mini bowling. There’s also a climbing wall, bumper cars, arcade games and an indoor playground. You’re sure to work up an appetite, so grab a pizza, sliders or wings. 130 Centennial St. S.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! – Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, be sure to check out Aberdeen’s Storybook Land and the Land of Oz in Wylie Park. Experience the “Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” written by L. Frank Baum, who lived in Aberdeen for several years. You can follow the yellow brick road, starting at Dorothy’s home in Kansas, where you’ll experience a tornado. Then you’ll meet the Lion, Scarecrow and Tinman; escape from flying monkeys and the evil witch, and end with a ride in the Wizard’s hot air balloon.

Other books and nursery rhymes come to life at Storybook Land, including “Little Miss Muffet,” “Rapunzel” and “Humpty Dumpty.”

You can also visit a petting zoo with goats and llamas and observe large animals including elk and bison. The park is free to visit, although a few rides require tickets. 2300 24th Ave. N.W.

Go bird watching – Located northeast of Aberdeen, Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge is an important stopping point for migratory birds. Each spring and fall, thousands of waterfowl stop at the 11,450acre lake. During peak spring migration, there can be more than 1 million snow geese at the refuge. Check the website for the most up-to-date bird migration information.

Take a walk down memory lane – Retrocade was created with the goal of feeling like you’re stepping back in time to the ’80s or ’90s. The classic arcade includes lots of pinball machines and classic video games, like Miss Pac Man, Frogger and Space Invaders. All the games can be played for their original prices to add to the nostalgia. Go for a high score,

Learn the history of Brown County – The Dacotah Prairie Museum features exhibits on early life in Brown County and Native Americans. You can walk through history, starting with a prairie diorama showing how South Dakota looked before settlers arrived, then moving into the history of agriculture and the railroad. Another exhibit examines the different types of housing used by tribes in the Plains region. Kids will enjoy Frontier Town, where they can play clerk of a general store, hang laundry to dry and climb inside a covered wagon. 21 S. Main St.

Set your aim on shopping – Stop in the Arrow Boutique to find a stylish selection of clothes for women, children and babies, along with home décor. Browse the shoes, jewelry and other accessories. Or find the perfect gift, such as throw blankets, candles, mugs and more. 322 S. Main St.

Watch the best South Dakota films –Aberdeen hosts the annual South Dakota Film Festival, scheduled this year for Sept. 12-15. The festival highlights films from across the Great Plains region, not just South Dakota, but also Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska. In addition to watching some great movies, you’ll also meet some of the film makers and take part in engaging discussions.

Groove to the music – Catch a free, family-friendly outdoor concert this summer in downtown Aberdeen. The Main Street Summer Concert Series features local and regional artists who perform a wide range of genres. You’ll also find food and beer vendors. This year’s concerts will be held June 20, July 25 and Aug. 24.

Hit the bull’s-eye – Hub City Ax Throwing is a great place to meet up with your friends for some friendly competition. If you’ve never thrown an ax before, coaches are available to teach you the ropes. 210 S. Main St.

Enjoy the sweet taste of nostalgia – The



Kuchen was designated as South Dakota’s official state dessert in 2000. Literally translated, kuchen means cake in German. However, South Dakota kuchen is more like a tart, with a pastry dough crust filled with custard. Kuchen can be made in a variety of flavors, such as apple, plum, peach or rhubarb. The dessert came to South Dakota with German immigrants. This recipe for apple kuchen comes from the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website.


For the crust:

2 cups flour

½ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

For the filling:

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg, at room temperature

For the topping:

2 tablespoons sugar

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, if desired, cored, and thinly sliced


1 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.

2 Place the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl or food processor (fitted with a steel blade) and mix to combine. Add the vanilla and butter, a little at a time.

3 Press into the baking pan and bake in an oven until slightly golden but not brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool. Then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.


To make the filling, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in mixer (preferably with a paddle) and beat until creamy. Add the egg. Mix to combine and pour over the cooled crust.

5 Place the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix to combine.

6 Place the fruit on top of the filling in two or three columns. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar and transfer to the oven.

7 Bake about 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown and firm. Cut into 20 to 24 pieces.


Giving Back to Our Communities

NorthWestern Energy wants to make the communities we serve better places to live, work and prosper. That’s why we’re proud to donate to a wide range of worthy causes. In 2023, we gave almost $2 million across our service territory.

Scholarships $102,250

Volunteer $94,900

United Way Company Match $58,377

Total $1,964,556

Our economic impact

Each year, we ask Bozeman, Montana-based Circle Analytics to complete an economic impact analysis related to NorthWestern Energy. In 2023, NorthWestern Energy generated more than $3 billion in total economic impact across our service territory, as determined by Circle Analytics. Circle Analytics uses a database model to calculate NorthWestern’s economic impact. The model uses our revenue and standard data for the impact of electric and natural gas energy companies.


Gross Economic Output: The aggregated market value of goods and services produced by enterprises in the economy. It is essentially equal to the revenue collected by a businesses.

Gross County Product: The total of value added created by the production of goods and services in the economy. It represents the sum of labor compensation, capital type income and indirect business taxes. Gross County Product is best described as new money added to the County.

Jobs: The number of jobs generated within the impact area including full-time and part-time positions, salaried workers and sole proprietors.

50 | BRIGHT MAGAZINE Vol. 4 \ BY THE NUMBERS NORTHWESTERN ENERGY IMPACT ANALYSIS OF MT, SD AND NE BASED ON 2023 DATA Gross Economic Output Gross County Output Jobs MONTANA Butte $1,094,505,549 $475,993,071 6,635 Great Falls $256,156,123 $111,400,568 1,553 Billings $374,969,997 $163,071,919 2,273 Bozeman $391,416,414 $170,224,355 2,373 Helena $202,741,555 $88,170,933 1,229 Missoula $320,666,112 $139,455,526 1,944 Kalispell $54,595,609 $23,743,261 331 MONTANA 2023 $2,695,051,359 $1,172,059,634 16,338 SOUTH DAKOTA $268,810,724 $133,437,719 1,135 NEBRASKA $53,316,322 $26,466,237 225 TOTAL MT, SD AND NE $3,017,178,405 $1,331,963,590 17,698
Donations $397,576 Sponsorships $704,558 Economic Development $450,626 Chamber Dues $156,269
BRIGHT MAGAZINE Community Edition | 51 Montana
South Dakota
Total employees over time: 2023 - 1,573 2022 - 1,530 2021 - 1,483 2020 - 1,530 2019 - 1,533 (As of Dec. 31 for each year) Average tenure: 10.6 years Montana gross payroll: $137.7 million South Dakota gross payroll: $30.8 milion
gross payroll: $2.7 million
36% of Montana employees are represented by a labor union Retired workforce: South Dakota/Nebraska
217 total retirees Annual pension plan benefit payments
total retirees Annual retiree payroll in Montana $20.2 million Montana 56% of South Dakota/ Nebraska employees are represented by a labor union Workforce diversity: 26% women Total employees 26% women Management 3% of total employees Minority group 50% women Executive roles (VP+)
employees: 1,269
Total employees: 1,573
Employee gross payroll: $171.2 million Represented employees:
$2.74 million

Property taxes

Just like other business, NorthWestern Energy pays its share of taxes and fees. These funds help support schools and local government agencies.

NorthWestern Energy invests significantly in critical electric and natural gas infrastructure, and this impacts property taxes. Therefore, we work hard to manage our tax burden for the benefit of our customers.

Total: $142,686,943
2023 Montana Property Tax
in learning more about property taxes? Visit 2023 Nebraska Property Tax Total: $759,928 2023 South Dakota Property Tax Total: $4,758,820
Less than $500K $500K - $999K  $1M - $1.99M $2M - $9.99M  $10M - $17.99M Interested

Customer growth

Our data on customer growth offers a glimpse into the population changes taking place in communities across our service territory

BRIGHT MAGAZINE Community Edition | 53
MONTANA ELECTRIC NEW CONNECTS MONTANA NATURAL GAS NEW CONNECTS SOUTH DAKOTA/NEBRASKA NATURAL GAS NEW CONNECTS SOUTH DAKOTA ELECTRIC NEW CONNECTS 2021 2022 2023 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 1400 1500 1600 Missoula Helena Bozeman Billings Great Falls Butte 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 Yankton Mitchell Huron Aberdeen 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000 1100 1200 1300 Missoula Helena Bozeman Billings Great Falls Butte 0 25 50 75 100 125 150 175 200 225 250 275 North Platte Kearney Grand Island Brookings Yankton Mitchell Huron Aberdeen


Do you recognize the location of any of these photos? Send us your guesses to be placed in the drawing for a prize. Guesses should be specific, such as naming a feature in the photo or giving the exact location.

Send your guesses to Be sure to include your name, mailing address and phone number so we can contact you if you’re a winner.



Answers from the Environment issue

Montana: No one recognized the Christmas tree on Thompson Falls Dam. Our hydro crews put up this tree each holiday season. Better luck next time!

South Dakota: Two readers recognized this pheasant mural in downtown Aberdeen. Of those, we drew Debra A. of Aberdeen as the winner.

Nebraska: Joe P. of Kearney, Nebraska, recognized this photo as the Rowe Sanctuary in Gibbon, Nebraska. The sanctuary is a popular place to see sandhill cranes as they migrate through the Cornhusker State.

BRIGHT MAGAZINE Community Edition | 55
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