Library from Montana
Montana's Department of Natural Resources and Conservation recommends wind turbines be allowed on state land as part of what would be the state's largest privately owned wind farm. The Martinsdale Wind Farm is proposed by Houston-based Horizon Wind Energy. It would be built on 18,000 acres of private and state land in Wheatland and Meagher counties, five miles northeast of Martinsdale. The DNRC has released a draft environmental impact statement on the project for public comment, which will be accepted until March 13.
The recession may have taken the wind out of the sails of some wind energy projects around the nation, but that's not the case in Wyoming and Montana. Officials in both states say they have not heard of any wind projects being delayed. If there are projects being delayed, they say there are plenty of others still going forward. "The developers are all still exercising their best efforts to move their projects forward," Steve Ellenbecker, energy adviser to Gov. Dave Freudenthal, said.
In the minds of the public, Montana is awash in wind power projects - but a group of small power producers say it's not so and are pushing legislation they say will help make perception become reality. ...The utility, however, is opposing the measure, saying power from the small projects is too costly. "What they're trying to do is tilt the balance, so we have to take more of (their) power, which is ultimately harmful to consumers," said John Fitzpatrick, NorthWestern's executive director of government affairs in Helena.
Thanks largely to the booming energy industry, Montana drivers - particularly those who frequent two-lane highways - have been encountering more and more supersize truck traffic. ...John Hanson, co-owner of Whitewood Transportation in Billings, said the superloads are "kind of becoming an industry standard." Especially when shipping industrial components to places like Canada, where wages are high and conditions harsh, it makes economic sense to assemble ever-larger pieces in foreign factories and put them together on site.
Electricity distributor NorthWestern Energy is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct "open-season" bidding from developers to gain access to two proposed electric transmission lines costing at least $1 billion. The power lines, if approved, could kick start wind farm development in Montana and deliver the renewable electricity produced by wind farms to markets across the West, according to NorthWestern officials. "We want to be the highway," NorthWestern spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said.
Wind-powered electricity has great potential in Montana, but its future is clouded by an outdated transmission system that makes it tough to get the power to market. That was a key message experts delivered Friday at Carroll College during a conference on the state's energy future. Some in attendance urged lawmakers not to forget about the state's coal resources - or to get too excited about creating an energy economy.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer envisions a day when New Yorkers will be driving cars powered by the wind that howls across the Montana prairie. The Democrat recently called on the federal government to spend $15 billion to build a next-generation transmission grid to link such far-flung regions. ...But it's not going to be just wind and sun on those wires. "[S]ome proponents of expanding coal-fired electricity production are using windfarms as a rationalization for greatly expanding transmission lines through the region. They talk a lot about wind power, but their real interest is vastly expanded use of coal in generating electricity."
Four Dutton-area residents are appealing the current 130-mile path through four Montana counties to the state Board of Environmental Review. Several landowners also are challenging the route through Alberta before the Alberta Court of Appeal. That case is scheduled to be heard in January.
Jerry McRae didn't mince words when talking about a high-voltage transmission line that will cross his land near here. "You're going to have a hell of a time building a power line in this community," McRae said. ...Construction on the line is scheduled to begin in March. "It can't be built without eminent domain in this community right now," McRae warned right off the bat.
The U.S. Department of Energy has approved a $180 million high-voltage electrical line that's expected to spur more wind farm development between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta. The decision to issue a presidential permit for the project is published today in the Federal Register, said Tony Como, the DOE's director of permitting and siting. ...Montana's transmission capacity is about all used up and three wind farm developers that have purchased the primary capacity on the line have snatched up all of the available space on the MATL line.
An Irish wind power company with offices in Great Falls has outlined a new technology that could make wind energy more marketable: "compressed air" power plants. Keith McGrane, head of offshore energy and electricity storage for Gaelectric, said the compressed-air plant offers a way to use cheap wind power at night and then reproduce additional power in the day, to fill in the inevitable gaps when the wind isn't blowing.
Potential wind-farm development was the overriding reason why the state Department of Environmental Quality approved the proposed high-voltage power line that would tread its way across eastern Teton County between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alta. Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., or MATL, with offices in Calgary, Alta., submitted an application under DEQ's Major Facility Siting Act program on Dec. 1, 2005, providing a variety of reasons why its proposed privately-owned, 230-kilovolt transmission line would benefit the region. ... Aggrieved parties who believe they are adversely affected by DEQ's decision have 30 days to appeal.
The state of Montana has given the green light to a high-voltage transmission line that could trigger millions in green energy production in northcentral Montana. The 600 megawatts of north-south capacity on the Montana Alberta Tie Line has been sold to NaturEner, Invenergy and Wind Hunter. ...Construction won't begin for six months because it will take that long to manufacture the steel poles, which are 90 feet tall and 3 feet in diameter, van't Hof said. Part of the line will also have wooden H-frame poles.
In March, Fuhrländer AG proposed locating a $25 million wind turbine assembly plant in Silver Bow County's business development district. The company has now finished its initial proposal and continues to move ahead with groundbreaking plans for next spring. ...the company had been waiting for the Renewable Energy Bill to pass Congress, which it did this summer. The bill included more than $17 billion in tax credits for renewable energy companies and helped make the Butte plant "economically feasible," said Smitham.
Financing prospects for large-scale energy projects in Montana have dimmed with the crisis on Wall Street, but some that already are under way should proceed as planned, state officials and developers said. ...Gov. Brian Schweitzer told The Associated Press in a recent interview that several companies assured him their projects will not be derailed by the downturn. Still, he cautioned that the recent heady pace of development could end if the economic outlook remains grim and banks stay reluctant — or unable — to make large loans.
Montana has plenty of wind to make energy: It's everything else that we're missing. ...Mother Nature has done her job, but others have work to do, he said. Landowners need better data on how much wind blows for how long. The region needs more and better power lines to distribute the electricity produced. Power buyers need to be lined up, and the power sellers need to be ready to supply expensive spot-market electricity to their buyers on days the wind doesn't blow.
The first phase of a $500 million wind farm south of Ethridge and 85 miles north of Great Falls is finished and on the electrical grid, with the power bound for California. ...The wind farm connected to the transmission system Wednesday, said Claudia Rapkoch of NorthWestern Energy, which owns the transmission line that will ship the power to market. "Why not produce it in the state of Montana?" Rapkoch said. San Diego Gas and Electric, an investor-owned utility in California serving 1.2 million customers, is buying the electricity.
No matter where NorthWestern Energy Corp. proposes building a high power line through southwest Montana, it's an unpopular sell to people whose homes and land it would pass by. "Everybody else said no so you came through us," John Pullman, a landowner in the Boulder Valley, said during a meeting at the Cardwell School Monday that drew more than 45 people. That pretty much summed up the sentiment of landowners who are miffed that NorthWestern would propose a major power line through an agricultural valley. NorthWestern is planning to build a 500-kilovolt power line from Townsend to Twin Falls, Idaho, and has proposed three potential routes.
In the works for three years, a high-voltage transmission line connecting Montana's electric grid to Alberta's through eastern Teton County is on the last leg of a footrace slowed by intense scrutiny from landowners in the proposed right of way and from the regulatory agencies required to vet the project. The final environmental impact statement for the Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. 230-kilovolt power line was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 3. ... The power line would make possible wind energy development totaling 600 megawatts, 300 mw in each direction, from Great Falls to Lethbridge, Alta.
The state Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Department of Energy on Monday released a summary of a long-awaited final environmental impact statement for the 203-mile Montana Alberta Tie Line, which outlines the preferred alternative and several others. Final decisions on the project by both agencies could follow in a month, regulators said. ..."We basically sat down with the director and went through this segment by segment, trying to pick which would best serve MATL's needs as well as the landowners," Hallsten said. "It's turned out to be a balancing act." The agency says it selected the preferred alternative because it provides the best balance between avoiding impacts to farmers while not making the project too expensive for the developer.