Library from Montana
In the hills around Rapelje, where jackrabbits far outnumber people, there’s a renewable energy powerhouse in the making. Wind farms, four of them in various stages of development, promise to deliver up to 480 megawatts of capacity just as planned coal power plant retirements in Montana are escalating.
A cutting-edge wind farm paired with battery storage cannot advance under what developers are calling unworkable terms set by Montana’s Public Service Commission. The PSC put the overall avoided cost of the energy at $6 a megawatt hour effectively killing the project, according Caithness.
But Portland-based PacifiCorp said there was one other thing the wind project needed in order to be a winner for ratepayers — it had to be operating by the end of 2020, qualifying it for the full value of a lucrative federal incentive.
PacifiCorp, one of the largest grid owner/operators in the West, purchased the project int May and hired Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis to build its first Montana wind project. Time is of the essence. In order for the project to qualify for federal tax credits, the turbine blades need to be cranking by the end of 2020.
The project, originally called the Mud Springs Wind Ranch Project, has been renamed the Pryor Mountain Wind Project. The project changed hands several times before Pacificorp bought the farm from Sunrise Wind Holdings LLC in May. The 114-turbine farm will connect with an existing Pacificorp 230-kilovolt transmission line in Park County, Wyoming. The turbines will reach about 454 feet tall at the high point of the blades.
Rosebud County commissioners have hit the pause button on deciding whether a $500 million wind farm warrants a 50% tax abatement. Commissioners tabled a proposal Tuesday to lower taxes on the Clearwater Wind farm to be located near Forsyth. In the works since 2012, 120-turbine farm will generate enough power to electrify 300,000 homes.
Oldenburg ruled that both sides could face potential harm, for plaintiffs if the wind farm is built, and for the defendants, if the wind farm isn’t build. “Until the ultimate issues are decided by a trier of fact, the balance of equities does not fall in favor of one side or the other,” Oldenburg wrote in his decision.
Montana District Court Judge Jon A. Oldenburg ruled no construction activity involving the Crazy Mountain wind farm proposed by Pattern Energy can proceed including no alterations to roads until a trial is held to determine if the project will cause irreparable harm to the neighboring property owners. Judge Oldenburg decided that “[u]ntil the ultimate issues are decided by a trier of fact, the balance of equities does not fall in favor of one side or the other." The full order can be accessed at the document link on this page. Below is an excerpt of the court's ruling justifying the injunction and halting construction of the project.
The latest action came Thursday, when the nearby ranches filed a lawsuit against Sweet Grass County, alleging a proposed road use agreement ceded too much control over county roads to Crazy Mountain Wind, LLC, the company behind the project. Hours later, the Sweet Grass County Commission declined to make a decision on the agreement, saying at the advice of their lawyer, they were taking more time to consider the agreement.
The wind turbines are currently on hold due to a lawsuit from neighbors, claiming their property would have decreased value with the turbines obstructing their view. The petition put together by the Crazy Mountain Neighbor Coalition currently has more than 200 signatures from people across the state. Pattern Energy anticipates construction will begin in the spring of 2020.
Neighbors of a planned wind farm in southwestern Montana are suing to block the project. ...They allege the wind project will threaten wetlands, migratory birds, bald eagles, historic trails, businesses and the health of people living in the vicinity.
A Montana utility case pending before federal regulators could set a precedent for how energy storage facilities paired with renewable generation will be treated under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), a 1978 law intended to increase competition in power generation.
Beaver Creek owners claim NorthWestern Energy is not negotiating in good faith over the rates it would pay for that power. The developer is now asking the Montana Public Service Commission to settle the issue.
Caithness wants its projects to receive energy payments of $31.33/MWh for heavy load hours and $29.5/MWh for light load hours, in addition to capacity payments of $81.45/MWh during on-peak hours and a $0.58/MWh payment for ancillary services. Montana regulators must issue a decision on contract terms by February 2019.
“The reality is that it’s a piece of equipment and all equipment has a lifespan, and unfortunately this one’s lifespan has come to an end and we no longer had the resources to continue to fix it and then to continue to maintain it,” said Susan Wolff, the Great Falls College-MSU Dean.
Xcel Energy Inc. announced it was pulling out of the Mountain West Transmission Group, a collection of eight Rocky Mountain utilities that had been pondering a wider partnership with the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). The move underscores the difficulty of uniting the region's disparate utilities under a regional transmission organization ...It also represented a setback for renewable advocates, who believe an integrated grid will facilitate the expansion of wind and solar in the West's coal-centric power sector.
Solar energy advocates are asking a state court to overturn a decision by the Montana Public Service Commission that reduced the price for electricity generated at small renewable energy power plants.
A Calgary-based energy company said Wednesday it won't build a 21-megawatt wind farm in Montana because it won't be paid enough for the power it generates. The Public Service Commission approved a price of $23.30 per megawatt hour.
New rules will require big wind farm owners to post bonds with the state of Montana to ensure decommissioning including the removal of giant towers. Draft decommissioning rules were published Thursday by the state Department of Environmental Quality detailing the process and requirements.
A wind farm developer is suing the Montana Public Service Commission and NorthWestern Energy, alleging discriminatory pricing for small renewable energy developers, a charge they denied.