Articles from Montana
Montana Dakota Utilities Co., says it plans a 20-megawatt wind farm near Baker, Mont., just over the North Dakota border.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation are seeking public comment on a revised proposal by Wind Hunter LLC related to the development of the Valley County Wind Energy Project north of Glasgow. The revision proposes that Wind Hunter LLC scale back the size of the proposed wind farm from 500 megawatts to 170 megawatts and the related transmission line from 230 kilovolts to 69 kilovolts.
Two proposed energy projects that include stringing transmission lines across miles of Teton County grazing and cultivated lands are taking two different regulatory paths.
Jan Falstad said that wind had gone from being "technologically challenged and too expensive - to being a popular and mandated goal." Perhaps more accurately, it should have read, "Wind has gone from being technically challenged and too expensive - to being technically challenged, mandated and taxpayer subsidized."
The open country north of Great Falls stretching to the Canadian border - long known for its wheat - may be about to see an explosion of a new crop. Harvested from towers twice as tall as the old Milwaukee Depot, with blades that reach nearly 400 feet into the sky, that crop is wind. The growth hinges on regulatory approval and construction of the Montana Alberta Tie, a 203-mile-long transmission line that would tie into the U.S. power grid at Great Falls and the Canadian grid in Lethbridge, Alberta.
The wind energy race is on in Madison County. Three companies are vying to put up towers to test the wind near Norris Hill, a first step toward building wind farms. But although the county is strongly supportive of developing wind energy, commissioners this week unanimously denied two requests to waive an ordinance requiring local, state and federal agencies to sign off on towers higher than 100 feet.
The Montana Legislature last week tabled an opportunity for the state's farmers and ranchers to profit from wind. By voting at the last minute to table Senate Bill 337, a bill that would have allowed Green Electricity Buying Cooperative to use $31.7 million in bonding authority to build 40 windmills on 40 farms across Montana, Montana legislators put on hold the wind company's plans to put together a bid for clean energy bonds and incorporate 40 ranches or farms involved in producing wind energy across the state.
A proposed cross-border power transmission line connecting electric systems in Alberta and Montana has cleared a major regulatory hurdle in Canada. The National Energy Board, Canada's equivalent of the U.S. Department of Energy, on Wednesday issued a permit authorizing construction and operation of the line in Alberta.
Officials from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality had allotted three hours to hear public comment on the proposed Montana Alberta Tie, Ltd. (MATL) transmission line project. Although approximately 60 people turned out for the hearing, which was held in Cut Bank on Wednesday, March 28, only about a dozen of those offered testimony on the project-the majority of which was very supportive. As proposed, the 130-mile transmission line would extend from the Montana-Alberta border northeast of Cut Bank to an existing substation just north of Rainbow Dam near Great Falls. DEQ has tentatively selected a preferred route, which contains "small revisions" in five areas to reduce impact on property owners. The proposed action by the DEQ also requires MATL to use single pole structures along 24 miles of the line.
Who will spark the gap? With the standby power necessary to smooth the erratic output of Montana's premier wind power facility becoming difficult to come by at any price, the state's energy technocracy wonders. The Judith Gap wind farm is an impressive operation. According to the company that runs it, Invenergy, its 90 turbines stretch 400 feet into the Big Sky when the blades are fully extended, and each one produces enough electricity to power 300 homes. It's a showcase project in Montana's move toward renewable energy. Yet the cluster of dynamos itself faces a looming power shortage. To integrate the Gap's green electrons into the area's power delivery system, a back-up source of power is required. When the wind isn't blowing, the power that is scheduled to come from the farm has to come from somewhere else.
A pair of wind farm projects in eastern Montana are in jeopardy after a bill that would have allowed an electricity cooperative to own generation equipment was tabled Tuesday by House Republicans. The measure, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dave Wanzenried of Missoula, would have enabled the Billings-based Green Electricity Buying Cooperative to own $31.7 million in wind-farm projects and sell bonds to finance them. Current law limits the co-op and others like it to buying and supplying power.
A scaled-back version of a large wind farm planned in Valley County northwest of Glasgow was released Monday for public comment. The developer wanted a 500-megawatt facility, but the new plan calls for 170 at the Valley County Wind Energy Project project. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management asked for a revision after environmentalists complained about the wind turbines being too close to the Bitter Creek Wilderness Study Area, said Gary Evans, the CEO of GreenHunter Energy Inc.
A Senate panel controlled by Democrats voted Saturday to shelve Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer's proposal offering tax breaks to "clean and green" energy development in Montana. The Senate Taxation Committee voted 7-2 to table Senate Bill 562, advertised by the Schweitzer administration as its signature proposal this session on energy development. It wasn't clear Saturday whether or how the bill might be revived before a procedural deadline early next week. Evan Barrett, the governor's chief economic development officer, said late Saturday that there is broad public support for the idea and that he hopes the bill can be revived and moved through the Legislature. "The bill is on the table; it is not dead," he said. "It's not an easy path right now, but we think everyone will be able to work their way through it.
Because NorthWestern operates the transmission lines, the utility must meet federal reliability standards. That means keeping the power entering the system balanced with the demand, or electricity leaving the system. You might imagine wind power as a child playing with a light switch: On. Off. On. Off. That means NorthWestern must quickly dump or add power to balance its transmission lines. When the turbines at Judith Gap produce too much power, NorthWestern sells it back mainly to Idaho Power, sometimes below cost, according to former Royal Johnson, a Billings businessman, a former state senator and a member of The Gazette editorial board. When there isn't enough wind, NorthWestern may have to pay a premium, Johnson said, of up to $130 per megawatt hour. .........Montana has tons of proposed power projects cued up, Gates said, but one project depends on the other. "They need transmission built, and the question is which gets built first," Gates said. "So it's the chicken-and-the-egg thing." Another note of caution was sounded by Bill Drummond, who heads the Western Montana Generation and Transmission. His customers buy wholesale power from BPA, but those contracts run out in four years. Drought and rising demand is tapping the hydropower resources, so BPA is keeping its supply for its closest customers. Right now there are few sellers of electricity to back up wind power, Drummond said. "Faith-based power marketing is a dangerous thing," he said.
Supporters of a bill designed to let an electricity cooperative pursue two wind farm projects in Eastern Montana like to say it gives "a green light to green energy." But opponents, including NorthWestern Energy and the state Public Service Commission, testified Monday that only Montana power consumers will see "green" - in the form of higher utility bills. The measure, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dave Wanzenried of Missoula, would enable the Billings-based Green Electricity Buying Cooperative to own $31.7 million in wind farm projects and sell bonds to finance them. Current law limits co-ops to buying and supplying power.
VIRGINIA CITY - A California company is moving forward to build a wind farm on Norris Hill in Madison County that could produce enough electricity to power 45,000 homes. Les Brown, a principal with Zebuln Renewable Energy LLC, told county commissioners Tuesday that his company has already leased more than 10,000 acres from area ranchers to build up to a 70-windmill farm, enough to generate up to 150 megawatts of electricity. The project would come with a $150 million price tag and provide an economic boost to the county.
The preferred alternative in a draft environmental impact statement on a proposed transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta, recommends changes to soften its impact on landowners. When constructed, the Montana Alberta Tie Ltd. line would provide the state with 300 megawatts of electricity-transmission capacity. It is expected to spur construction of up to four wind farms in northcentral Montana, which would use the line to ship power to homes and businesses in Montana and Canada. The State Department of Environmental Quality released the study late Friday afternoon.
Wind turbines will be built at the Highwood Generation Station, but they can't serve as SME's primary source of electricity, SME General Manager Tim Gregori said. Wind doesn't blow all the time. But customers expect to be able to flip a switch or have their appliance powered whether or not there is a breeze. That leaves coal, hydropower, natural gas or nuclear power as sources. Coal is the most economical and feasible among those choices, Holzer said. "With 25 percent of this nation's coal supply in Montana, it needs to be a part of our energy picture," he said.
The co-owner of a Montana wind-energy company said the company’s purchase by a Spanish energy business could lead to the development of a wind farm twice as big as the one at Judith Gap. Bill Alexander, who founded Great Plains Wind & Energy with Dave Dumon in 2005, said Friday that the business has been sold to Naturener, a company that has developed wind, solar and hydroelectric projects in Spain. Great Plains had been working to develop a 120-megawatt wind farm near Cut Bank, in Glacier and Toole counties. The acquisition by Naturener will make it possible to expand that to 300 megawatts and accelerate the construction timetable, Alexander said. The footprint of the proposed farm and the number of megawatts would be almost exactly double that of the Judith Gap project, he said.
The Montana Public Service Commission voted 4-1 Jan. 29 to oppose a Montana Senate bill that would allow a renewable energy cooperative to move forward with plans to create two wind power generation sites, the PSC chairman told the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. In a note of explanation, the author of SB337, Russ Doty, wrote, “This legislation is needed to allow the Green Electricity Buying Co-op (GEBCO) to own the windmills that it has received authorization to finance with zero interest Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs). Without this legislation the $31.7 million in CREBs authorizations will be forfeited and likely reassigned to other states.” Mr. Doty is the executive director of the Billings-based co-op. The co-op plans to use the bonds to build two 20-megawatt wind farms in Montana. One site would be south of Fort Peck on the Towe Farm in McCone County. The other facility would sit near Molt Road in Yellowstone County, a press release said.