Library filed under General from Montana
Jim Hicks summed up the sentiment of everyone in a crowd of nearly 200 people who packed a meeting Thursday evening in Butte to hear about a proposed power line that might come close to their homes. "It would basically make half of my ranch worthless," Hicks said, with his comments drawing loud applause. "What benefits would this provide to southwestern Montana?"
Developer Tonbridge Power Inc. announced Tuesday that it has successfully negotiated settlements with four Montana landowners who had objected to its Montana Alberta Tie Line transmission project. "What it means is there are no further holdups for construction of this line in the state of Montana," said Richard Opper, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality. The settlement clears up opposition in Montana, but a group of Alberta landowners continues to fight plans for the $140 million transmission line.
Construction of a $140 million transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta, has been delayed at least five months because of appeals in the United States and Canada ...The anticipated start of construction, which was slated for March, is now sometime this fall.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Florida-based FPL Energy, the nation's largest wind farm owner, is prospecting along Montana's wind-swept Rocky Mountain Front as it pursues an aggressive goal nationally of adding 10,000 megawatts of additional wind power to its portfolio. "The short answer is, 'Yes, we are interested,' but it's going to be a long time before we would be in a position to be able to put anything on the ground, if ever," said FPL Energy spokesman Steven Stengel, of Juno Beach, Fla. James Carney, an FPL Energy land specialist based in Bend, Ore., visited the area a month ago, when he met with landowners and elected officials in Teton and Pondera counties to gauge interest and look for available land.
If they are going to "talk the talk," it is time to "walk the walk." The foreign windmill promoters that are covering Montana like a swarm of locusts will be more than happy to sign you up for a giant industrial wind plant (subsidized by taxpayers) that you expect the rest of us to live with.
The groundbreaking for a multi-million dollar wind turbine manufacturing facility in Butte planned for this fall is now set for spring 2009. [The] Governor's Office of Economic Development said the project is definitely moving forward, however an overwhelming demand for turbines elsewhere has delayed the project temporarily. "Right now they are opening a brand new plant in Germany. Of course they are not a huge company, as a result of that, their focus is on that,getting that done successfully and being able to take care of three or four things going on.
Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. was granted a permit from the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board on Tuesday to construct the Canadian stretch of a 215-mile electrical transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge. The line is expected to spur wind farm construction in northcentral Montana. The EUB permit was the final OK needed for the Alberta portion, which makes up about 40 percent of the entire project, said Bob Curran, an EUB spokesman. Canada's National Energy Board previously approved the plan. "It means they can construct and operate the line now," Curran said.
Wind power's intermittency as an energy resource but minimal contributions toward peak-capacity needs are further evidenced in operational data from three Washington and Montana wind farms. Monthly and even daily energy production vary substantially. Officials from NorthWestern Energy and Puget Sound Energy recently shared these and other wind-power experiences, including reserve requirements (challenging) and wind forecasting (improving). These tales come from the 135 MW-capacity Judith Gap wind farm in central Montana, whose entire output NorthWestern buys from developer Invenergy Wind, and PSE's 150 MW-capacity Hopkins Ridge and 229 MW-capacity Wild Horse wind projects in southeastern and central Washington, respectively. ..."The relationship between load and wind output is almost zero," the former council member told the current council. "That's a real issue for us. We continue to learn almost every day some things about wind operations on our system."
A single wind farm located in a scenic setting outside this rural Canadian town was featured on a postage stamp three years ago. Today, the cumulative stamp of hundreds of turbines on the views of wide-open farmland and majestic mountains here is an increasingly sticky issue. "How many is too many?" asked Rod Zielinski, a municipal district councilman in Pincher Creek, 250 miles north of Great Falls. Last year, the district unsuccessfully tried to create a wind development-free zone in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Now it's proposing changes to its bylaws to address "cumulative effect." ...Some residents value tax revenue and jobs more than vistas, and vice versa, Zielinski said. Weighing these equally important but sometimes competing values is the contentious issue in regulating the siting of wind plants, he said. "Be prepared for these things [turbines] to be there forever, like the bank downtown," he said.