Article

Legislature tables Montana wind energy opportunity

The Montana Legislature last week tabled an opportunity for the state's farmers and ranchers to profit from wind. By voting at the last minute to table Senate Bill 337, a bill that would have allowed Green Electricity Buying Cooperative to use $31.7 million in bonding authority to build 40 windmills on 40 farms across Montana, Montana legislators put on hold the wind company's plans to put together a bid for clean energy bonds and incorporate 40 ranches or farms involved in producing wind energy across the state.

HELENA, Mont. - The Montana Legislature last week tabled an opportunity for the state's farmers and ranchers to profit from wind.

By voting at the last minute to table Senate Bill 337, a bill that would have allowed Green Electricity Buying Cooperative to use $31.7 million in bonding authority to build 40 windmills on 40 farms across Montana, Montana legislators put on hold the wind company's plans to put together a bid for clean energy bonds and incorporate 40 ranches or farms involved in producing wind energy across the state.

"SB 337 will help make America less dependent on imported liquid natural gas and othe energy imports," said Sen. Dave Wanzenried, the bill's chief author, "provide our farmers with an additional cash crop, give customers a choice to buy green energy that they do not now have, create more jobs and $31.7 million in wind development in Montana, crate the legal authority needed to bring tens of millions of dollars of future Federal Clean Renewable Energy Bond funding to Montana, and address global climate change."

Opponents to SB337 claimed the bill would have made it harder for the current electricity companies to find financing in the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

HELENA, Mont. - The Montana Legislature last week tabled an opportunity for the state's farmers and ranchers to profit from wind.

By voting at the last minute to table Senate Bill 337, a bill that would have allowed Green Electricity Buying Cooperative to use $31.7 million in bonding authority to build 40 windmills on 40 farms across Montana, Montana legislators put on hold the wind company's plans to put together a bid for clean energy bonds and incorporate 40 ranches or farms involved in producing wind energy across the state.

"SB 337 will help make America less dependent on imported liquid natural gas and othe energy imports," said Sen. Dave Wanzenried, the bill's chief author, "provide our farmers with an additional cash crop, give customers a choice to buy green energy that they do not now have, create more jobs and $31.7 million in wind development in Montana, crate the legal authority needed to bring tens of millions of dollars of future Federal Clean Renewable Energy Bond funding to Montana, and address global climate change."

Opponents to SB337 claimed the bill would have made it harder for the current electricity companies to find financing in the public market because they would lose customers to the cooperative.

However, Steve Corrick, Green Electricity Buying Cooperative vice president of Missoula, Mont., disagrees. "Utilities are still the safest investments in the country," he argued. "There are other utilities in the country that may be losing customer base but are doing fine in the public market. In fact, in the United States, competition seems to be good for the public market and helps keep companies on their toes."

Opponents to the bill also claimed there was little to no market for the "green" energy the cooperative would provide. Again, Corrick disagrees.

"NorthWestern Energy said it has 383 green product customers," he said. "I think we can really push the green energy product because nobody really knew it was an option."

Green Electricity Buying Cooperative was established in spring 2006 by three leaders working in alternative energy and is based in Billings, Mont. Corrick had been developing alternative energy opportunities for wind energy for many years across the state and attempted to sponsor wind energy legislation in 1982.

The cooperative's president, Pat Dopler, has developed and installed alternative energy in the Red Lodge, Mont., area, while the Russ Doty, the cooperative's technical support, has worked in wind energy in the Billings area.

The cooperative hopes to buy wind energy from 40 farms or ranches across the state. Currently, the cooperative is looking for farmers and ranchers willing to have a 100 kW windmill installed on their property. Applications are due by May 1.

"A 100 kW turbine will serve about 30 families," said Corrick. "Families who want to support our rural Montana economy can join or support the Green Electricity Buying Cooperative at www.greenelectricitycoop.com."

Qualifications for participation include having a good wind site and being located near a three-phase power line or substation. "It would be nice if they would have an anamonitor up to measure the wind," said Corrick. "It is also important that they are close to a three-phase powerline as opposed to a single-phase powerline because single-phase powerlines aren't able to carry wind electricity."

Farmers or ranchers who participate in the Green Electricity Buying Cooperative would not have to pay for the wind turbines installed on their land. Instead, "we would be paying for them through the cooperative," said Doty.

Thus far, the cooperative has received tremendous response from the agriculture sector from those interested in the cooperative's goals and intentions. "We hope to create a financial success for the members and help farmers and ranchers get a step in the door when it comes to wind energy," said Corrick. "Wind is a crop that is not dependent on the commodity market or weather."

Since the Montana Legislature tabled SB 337, the Green Electricity Buying Cooperative will have to step back and devise a Plan B. The first plan was to use the legislative bill to enable them to use the cooperative's Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, worth $31.7 million in bonding authority, and extend it to the 40 windmills on 40 farms or ranches project.

The bill had passed the Senate but was tabled in the House last week. "Montana just lost an opportunity to develop its wind," said Doty, "which would have benefited the state more than the monopoly model of utilities it has. By having 40 windmills on 40 farms, between 2,000 and 5,000 ranchers would have gotten a piece of the federal clean energy bill."

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Source: http://www.theprairiestar.c...

APR 13 2007
http://www.windaction.org/posts/8301-legislature-tables-montana-wind-energy-opportunity
back to top