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Companies unveil power line proposal

Canadian and Irish companies announced plans Friday to build a 100-mile-long power line in Montana that could prompt construction of wind farms in the Great Falls area by giving developers access to large out-of-state markets hungry for renewable energy. ...Construction of the transmission line would spur the construction of wind projects near it, Jamison said. Gaelectric is studying wind farm construction at several sites across the state, including near Fort Benton and Havre.

Canadian and Irish companies announced plans Friday to build a 100-mile-long power line in Montana that could prompt construction of wind farms in the Great Falls area by giving developers access to large out-of-state markets hungry for renewable energy.

"It's a way for us to get transmission we need in order to access the power markets we'd like to serve with our wind power," said Van Jamison, vice president of strategic operations for Gaelectric, the Ireland-based wind power developer that has an office in Great Falls.

Toronto-based Tonbridge Power Inc. already is building the Montana-Alberta Tie Line between Great Falls and Lethbridge. Now it's signed an agreement with Gaelectric to jointly study construction of what it's calling the "Green Line."

The agreement calls for both companies to initially invest $500,000 in an eight- to 10-month feasibility study, with completion of the project possible by 2013 if all goes as planned.

Construction of the transmission line would spur the construction of wind projects near it, Jamison said. Gaelectric is studying wind farm construction at several sites across the state, including near Fort Benton and Havre.

"It certainly portends to... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Canadian and Irish companies announced plans Friday to build a 100-mile-long power line in Montana that could prompt construction of wind farms in the Great Falls area by giving developers access to large out-of-state markets hungry for renewable energy.

"It's a way for us to get transmission we need in order to access the power markets we'd like to serve with our wind power," said Van Jamison, vice president of strategic operations for Gaelectric, the Ireland-based wind power developer that has an office in Great Falls.

Toronto-based Tonbridge Power Inc. already is building the Montana-Alberta Tie Line between Great Falls and Lethbridge. Now it's signed an agreement with Gaelectric to jointly study construction of what it's calling the "Green Line."

The agreement calls for both companies to initially invest $500,000 in an eight- to 10-month feasibility study, with completion of the project possible by 2013 if all goes as planned.

Construction of the transmission line would spur the construction of wind projects near it, Jamison said. Gaelectric is studying wind farm construction at several sites across the state, including near Fort Benton and Havre.

"It certainly portends to create a lot of jobs in that 11-county area that is considered to be kind of the trade area surrounding Great Falls," Jamison said. "That's where the wind is and that's where the line will be."

Tonbridge officials previously said that the MATL and the spinoff wind farms would lead to $1 billion of investment in the state. Wind developer NaturEner, which recently completed a $500 million, 210-megawatt wind farm in Toole and Glacier counties, is now planning a second facility along the MATL that will cost $800 million and produce 309 megawatts.

Tonbridge and Gaelectric officials say the Green Line would basically be a southern extension of the MATL, which is under construction. The Green Line would begin at Great Falls and connect to the Bonneville Power Administration's 500-kilovolt Colstrip line west of Townsend or at Garrison — or possibly both — Jamison said.

Colstrip is considered an east to west running electricity highway out of Montana. Connecting the MATL line to the Colstrip line via the Green Line would enable renewable energy projects in Montana to reach load centers in the Pacific Northwest, Tonbridge officials said.

"This next line is our top choice," said Tonbridge CEO Johan van't Hof, adding that the company considered other transmission projects as well.

The biggest challenge to building wind farms in Montana is finding transmission to move the power, Jamison said. He compared it to being a wheat farmer with 21st Century equipment but roads suitable only for an ox-drawn cart.

Tonbridge and Gaelectric aren't the only developers working on the problem.

Northwestern Energy, one of the largest providers of electricity and natural gas in the northwest, has a renewable energy collector project on the drawing board, in which up to five new transmission lines in wind-producing areas would be constructed, Northwestern spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said.

One of the five lines would run from Cut Bank, past Great Falls, to Townsend, she said.

"There's a significant amount of interest in large-scale renewable energy projects in Montana," Rapkoch said. "But the customers for the energy are outside of the state of Montana."

Northwestern also is planning to build the Mountain State Transmission Intertie between southwestern Montana and Idaho.

If the Green Line is built, Gaelectric, would be the anchor shipper, occupying 500 megawatts of its capacity. Tonbridge has made interconnection requests to the Bonneville Power Administration for 1,000 megawatts each at Garrison and west of Townsend.

Cascade County Commissioner Peggy Beltrone, a strong supporter of wind power development, said the Green Line would be an economic blessing for the county and region. She noted that the line and spinoff wind farms would create construction and permanent jobs, in addition to tax revenue for local governments and lease payments for landowners.

On a broader scale, she added, Tonbridge's model of getting badly needed transmission lines approved — a model tested for the first time in Montana — could serve as an example for developers nationwide.

"Lack of transmission holds wind energy hostage all over our nation," Beltrone said.


Source: http://www.greatfallstribun...

NOV 7 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/23004-companies-unveil-power-line-proposal
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