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Livingston thinks time's right for wind turbines

LIVINGSTON -- Park County and the city of Livingston are moving ahead in efforts to erect wind turbines.

There are both obstacles and advantages right now, local government officials told Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who held a public meeting on the efforts here Tuesday.

On the one hand, federal funding is available to local governments, tribes and non-profit groups hoping to set up wind turbines.

On the other hand, Park County Commissioner Dick Murphy noted, finding enough transmission lines is a major obstacle.

Deciding where to place them can also be problematic, said Mike Costanti, an engineer who is consulting with the county and city.

Some people get enthusiastic about windmills, while others find them disagreeable and "this is an incredibly visible part of the world here," Costanti said, noting that the city is on a major highway intersection in an area famed for its scenery.

No specific location is being proposed at this point.

Another potential problem would be finding a market for the electricity, said Doug Hardy, manager of Park Electric, a rural nonprofit cooperative. Powerline companies are reluctant to build lines until they know they have customers.

Still, this could be the right time to make a move, said Livingston City Commission Chairman Steve Caldwell.

People are interested,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

There are both obstacles and advantages right now, local government officials told Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who held a public meeting on the efforts here Tuesday.
 
On the one hand, federal funding is available to local governments, tribes and non-profit groups hoping to set up wind turbines.
 
On the other hand, Park County Commissioner Dick Murphy noted, finding enough transmission lines is a major obstacle.
 
Deciding where to place them can also be problematic, said Mike Costanti, an engineer who is consulting with the county and city.
 
Some people get enthusiastic about windmills, while others find them disagreeable and "this is an incredibly visible part of the world here," Costanti said, noting that the city is on a major highway intersection in an area famed for its scenery.
 
No specific location is being proposed at this point.
 
Another potential problem would be finding a market for the electricity, said Doug Hardy, manager of Park Electric, a rural nonprofit cooperative. Powerline companies are reluctant to build lines until they know they have customers.
 
Still, this could be the right time to make a move, said Livingston City Commission Chairman Steve Caldwell.
 
People are interested, traditional energy costs are rising and financial help is available now.
 
The city would like to use income or reduced expenses from electricity generation to keep property taxes down, he said.
 
The federal funds -- interest-free loans, which pay buyers in tax credits instead of interest checks -- could put the community at a "tipping point" where a project could come together, Caldwell said.
 
"All of a sudden, it's possible," he said.
 
However, the deadline for proposals is Apr. 26.
 
Gordon Brittan, a philosophy professor at Montana State University who has owned small wind turbines for 22 years, urged people to look beyond simply creating electricity.
 
Livingston also is a natural place for manufacturing turbines and towers, he said.
 
"We need to create a market in new ways to use electricity to add value to it here," he said. "We've got to bring manufacturing here."
 
Supplying clean domestic energy can also help other industries, such as the fertilizer industry, Costanti said.
 
Some 70 to 90 percent of the price of nitrogen fertilizer is based on the price of natural gas. As gas prices soared over the past couple years, many American fertilizer plants closed and now the country is importing fertilizer as well as energy from the Middle East.
 
If the proposed project goes ahead, it probably will be fairly small, at least at first, Murphy and Caldwell said. It would likely be four 80-foot towers generating about 250 kilowatts of electricity apiece, enough to power some local government buildings, possibly with some surplus.
 
The first step will be securing money through a Clean and Renewable Energy Bond. Baucus was a key player in creating that program, Brittan said.
 
Private companies already have a financial incentive to produce wind energy, and the CREB program allows local governments, co-ops and tribes to compete, Baucus explained.
 
He said he is also advocating a program that would extend both the private and public incentives, with the ultimate goal of seeing 25 million American homes powered by wind energy by 2020.
 
His goal, he said, is "more high-paying jobs for more Montanans."
 
Wind power has definitely grown up. Technology has vastly improved, but the industry also has become more sophisticated and profit driven, Costanti said. That means any project has to make sense financially.
 
Twenty years ago, wind-energy conferences drew lots of people wearing tie-dye and sporting dreadlocks, he said.
 
"Now it's people in suits," he said. "And people in suits are about dollars."


Source: http://bozemandailychronicl...

MAR 22 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1799-livingston-thinks-time-s-right-for-wind-turbines
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