Zoning/Planning and Montana
A state agency charged with protecting the environment holds the key to whether northcentral Montana will become a power mecca with as many as 400 wind turbines erected between Great Falls and Cut Bank along a proposed transmission corridor.
The trade-off for losing the undeveloped view, generally paralleling the west side of Interstate 15, would be a steady source of supplemental revenue for landowners and tax revenue for local government. The electricity from the wind farms, however, would be sold to out-of-state power plants, most likely in California, under power-purchase agreements with the wind companies.
The owner of the state’s largest wind farm might build an even larger complex north of Great Falls if a 218-mile merchant transmission line is constructed between the city and Lethbridge, Alberta.
The developer of that line says construction could be done by this time next year, assuming government regulators in both countries sign off. The project still is being reviewed by government agencies.
A proposed cross-border power transmission line connecting electric systems in Alberta and Montana has cleared a major regulatory hurdle in Canada.
The National Energy Board, Canada's equivalent of the U.S. Department of Energy, on Wednesday issued a permit authorizing construction and operation of the line in Alberta.
LIVINGSTON - Some local governments in Montana are having second thoughts about entering the wind energy business despite the incentive of interest-free financing from the federal government.
While some cities and counties remain enthusiastic about the idea, others are bailing out. Almost half remain uncommitted and the clock is ticking.
The Park County Commission dropped out of the program this month, saying it involved too many unknowns.
"It doesn't look like something we ought to hang our hat on right now," Commissioner Jim Durgan said.
Similar sentiments reign in Carbon County.
Choteau City Council stepped up to the roulette wheel on July 3, betting on a new future for Choteau in the realm of renewable energy.
The council listened to a presentation by Sean Micken, a representative of Matney-Frantz Engineering, LLC. The Bozeman-based engineering company hopes to streamline Choteau's path toward building a wind energy system, as it has for other Montana communities, by helping the city secure a Clean Renewable Energy Bond.
Members of the council acknowledged the financial risks of the gamble, but agreed to immediately send the contract to the city attorney for legal counsel and sign on the dotted line when given the green light in order to meet a July 13 deadline.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation are seeking public comment on a revised proposal by Wind Hunter LLC related to the development of the Valley County Wind Energy Project north of Glasgow.
The revision proposes that Wind Hunter LLC scale back the size of the proposed wind farm from 500 megawatts to 170 megawatts and the related transmission line from 230 kilovolts to 69 kilovolts.
As a safety precaution, residential wind towers would be banned within 1,000 feet of schools under new zoning rules proposed in Cascade County. ...Different setback rules - the height of a wind tower in addition to the blade length plus 20 feet - are proposed when wind towers are proposed in the vicinity of private property.
Cascade County is considering creating setbacks to protect properties from wind development, including schools.
But should schools be exempt from the rules?
That's the question Cascade County commissioners must decide, Planning Director Brian Clifton said.
The new year may bring economic development to Teton County if WindPark Solutions America succeeds in developing a 40-megawatt wind farm east of Choteau.
In December, WindPark Solutions representatives Dave Ryan and Wendy Kleinsasser detailed the for-profit power venture to Teton County residents during public meetings in Choteau and Dutton. Altogether, about 38 landowners, county and city officials and interested residents attended the meetings at the Dutton American Legion Hall and the Stage Stop Inn in Choteau.
During the presentations in Choteau and Dutton, Ryan, a project manager, said WindPark Solutions has been working on the Teton Ridge wind farm project for about a year and is now unveiling its plans.
Two proposed energy projects that include stringing transmission lines across miles of Teton County grazing and cultivated lands are taking two different regulatory paths.
Some grain growers in northcentral Montana and Alberta, used to government bureaucracy and bad weather eroding their bottom line, are determined to get a fair shake from another adversary - big business - in the form of a Canadian company proposing to build a private or "merchant" transmission line across their cropland.
The federal and state/provincial governments on both sides of the border are set to approve or deny the permits for Montana Alberta Tie Ltd.'s three-year-old proposal by summer's end for the American portion and in October for the Canadian portion.
A bill that would roll back some of the eminent domain powers granted by the 2011 Montana Legislature was debated Tuesday in Helena before a packed house at the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee.
A Canadian company that proposes to construct a power line from Alberta to Great Falls through eastern Teton and Pondera counties is putting the cart before the horse, say farmers along the right of way.
Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. of Calgary, Alta., sent letters on Sept. 21 to property owners along the proposed route stating that its agent, SNC Consulting, has the right under the state’s eminent-domain law to enter their lands to survey for a 230-kilovolt power line. Helena attorney Harley Harris signed the letters.
According to state law, the right of eminent domain may be exercised for electrical energy lines, but it is silent on whether a private company that would benefit four wind farms has the same rights as a public utility.
POPLAR — The Fort Peck Tribes are taking advantage of the ever-present prairie winds to reduce their electric bill.
Electricity from two, 50-kilowatt wind turbines began flowing into the Tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs complex in Poplar this week, and tribal officials expect to cut their power bills by two-thirds, at a savings of $30,000 annually.
The planning for the two towers started 10 years ago when a study showed the average wind speed on some spots on the reservation averaged 15 mph, said Tribal Councilman Stoney Anketell, who pushed for the project since 1996.
Environmental and transmission concerns have prompted the Texas-based developer of a major commercial wind farm in northeast Montana to propose a much smaller project.
Even with the downsizing, however, the Valley County Wind Energy Project still would be the state’s largest.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer, joined by industry executives, announced plans Monday to build one of the longest electricity transmission lines seen in the West in 40 years - a line that would carry “green” energy to big energy markets thousands of miles away.
The governor, who has placed coal-to-liquid fuel facilities as one of his top priorities, said he is promising to help TransCanada get environmental permits for the project that the company said could cost $2 billion.
If successful, the line would run from the coal fields of Montana to the Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix energy markets. It would carry electricity created by either wind power or synthetic gas derived from coal to meet clean energy requirements in the Southwest.
The wind energy race is on in Madison County.
Three companies are vying to put up towers to test the wind near Norris Hill, a first step toward building wind farms.
But although the county is strongly supportive of developing wind energy, commissioners this week unanimously denied two requests to waive an ordinance requiring local, state and federal agencies to sign off on towers higher than 100 feet.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 Federal Clean Renewable Energy bonds totaling $31.7 million were awarded to the Green Electricity Buying Cooperative.
The Montana co-op announced it will use the funds to build two wind farm projects in McCone and Yellowstone Counties that will produce approximately 20 megawatts of clean power.
Democrats last week announced legislation to help establish an energy co-op powered by two windfarms near Fort Peck and Molt.
The wind farms would each cost about $16 million and generate 10 megawatts. The farms would have four or five windmills each, depending on how many people buy into the co-op and could be up and running within two years.
CASPER - The Natrona County Commission has reversed its denial of permits for three, 180-foot wind monitoring towers east of Evansville.