Articles filed under General from Montana

South-central Montana a hot spot for wind

Montanans have long dealt in water, mineral and oil rights. But for the past few years, landowners like the Phippses have been leasing their "rights" to the wind. ..."Only about one third of the projects ever make it to market." Hamlen and others cite two key bottlenecks facing wind development in Montana. First, transmission capacity is nearly maxed out. And second, a shortage of turbines continues to plague the industry. In light of the state's current situation, Hamlen cautions landowners against empty promises.
11 Jul 2008

Cost of backing up wind key to NWE dispute

But no matter what legislators might wish, wind energy is not the same as traditional fuel. And while the relative cost of wind can be debated to no end, its biggest inconvenience is well-known: integration. Also known as wind firming or wind-stabilization, integration requires that fuel-based energy kicks in when the wind dies down, allowing for the uninterrupted flow of power to consumers. Integrating the wind thus requires a second power source, officially referred to as the regulating reserve capacity. The primary argument between the TDW and NWE is simple: Who should pay to integrate the wind?
9 Jul 2008

Canada OKs farmers' power line appeal

Alberta farmers who hope to halt construction of a major power transmission line proposed between Great Falls and Lethbridge were granted permission Thursday to appeal the $150 million project to the Alberta Court of Appeals. "The only way we're ever going to stop this line is to win an appeal and get the decision overturned," said Scott Stenbeck, an attorney representing 16 farmers who live in the Lethbridge and Warner areas. Marc Clark, president of the line's developer, Montana Alberta Tie Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Toronto-based Tonbridge Power Inc., said the ruling may delay the project, but it won't stop the proposed line.
4 Jul 2008

Study results delayed for proposed Butte wind turbine plant

Butte Local Development Corporation's Jim Smitham says consultants need until mid-July to gather more information. He says the extension is not a sign that the project has stalled. So far preliminary results show growth in the wind energy market by 20%, and Fuhrlander is building more plants in Europe to meet those demands. Smitham adds that's a good sign for the $25-million investors are investing for the Butte plant.
13 Jun 2008

Hi-Line wind farm eyes fall finish

The state's largest wind farm, under construction immediately south of this Hi-Line town, will be finished in five months, officials with the San Francisco-based company said at the site Wednesday. Glacier Wind Project, which will produce 210 megawatts of electricity, is being constructed under the direction of general contractor Mortenson Construction out of Minneapolis. Spain-based NaturEner, whose U.S. headquarters are in San Francisco, is the owner/operator.
22 May 2008

The new gold rush

A new breed of prospector is scouring Montana's hills, but wind is the resource it seeks. Before these prospectors harvest that gold in the sky, however, they've got to secure the real key to the mother lode - permission from landowners to build towering wind turbines the size of a Boeing 747. Across the state, from Circle in the east to Ennis in the west, the race is on to lock up the best sites by courting landowners and sealing deals for exclusive rights to explore and develop wind power. Hundreds of thousands of acres already are under lease to foreign and U.S. wind developers.
20 Apr 2008

Lease agreements confidential, except with school trust land

For competitive reasons, wind companies don't disclose what they're paying landowners to lease property for wind farms. Oftentimes, landowners sign confidentiality agreements when leasing their property for such ventures. However, leasing information is public when school trust land is involved. ...Michael Sullivan, property management section supervisor for the Real Estate Management Bureau of the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, said the state is considering leasing an additional 6,820 acres of school trust land to four wind projects.
20 Apr 2008

No easy way to settle debate about cost of wind energy

Wind power, unlike electricity generated by a coal-burning plant or a hydroelectric dam, is intermittent. It comes and goes with the blowing wind. It's not entirely unpredictable, but it cannot be controlled by a switch. Therefore, when wind is added to the mix of electricity on our local grid or power system, the system operator - in much of Montana, NorthWestern Energy - has to be able to call on additional power from a ready, reliable source to keep the system in balance when the wind power abates. Montana utility managers and regulators must determine the true cost of acquiring and managing this additional power if we're going to have more wind on our system and more wind power projects in the state. ...The project developers say they're willing to pay, but only if NorthWestern or someone produces credible data that determine those costs accurately for a given project. Data from Judith Gap, a large wind farm in one location, are not applicable to projects of varying size around the state, they say.
20 Apr 2008

NorthWestern rejects adding wind power

NorthWestern Energy has declined an offer to buy additional power from the Judith Gap wind farm, whose operators have proposed expanding the 135-megawatt project. "We don't think it's in the best interests of our electricity supply portfolio to acquire that (expanded) project at this point in time," said John Hines, director of supply for NorthWestern. NorthWestern sent a letter this week to the project owner, Invenergy, declining its offer, Hines said.
19 Apr 2008

PSC likely to OK power integration charges

State utility regulators indicated Tuesday they'll support charging small wind-power projects in Montana for the cost of adding their power to NorthWestern Energy's electric system that serves 320,000 Montanans. ...NorthWestern had proposed charging small projects anywhere from 16 percent to 44 percent of their entire income from power production. Developers have argued that the cost of adding their power to the system is minimal or nothing at all, and that the charges proposed by NorthWestern aren't supported by credible data and would kill development of small projects. The charge is for "integration costs," which are what the utility pays for additional power it says it needs to keep its electrical system in balance when accepting intermittent wind power.
16 Apr 2008

PSC ponders NWE power portfolio

Small Montana wind energy producers are challenging NWE's proposal to charge them more for "integrating" their product into the portfolio. The wind producers contend that the costs NWE wants them to pay are more than what "integrating" their electricity actually costs. Further, the wind energy producers say NWE's proposed pricing could put them out of business. NWE has said that its customers will have to pay these costs if the wind energy producers don't. In its portfolio proposals, NWE assumes a carbon tax will be implemented in the future, making coal a less appealing source than in the past. The proposed portfolio also assumes the customer will increase energy conservation.
16 Apr 2008

MATL says it's trying to resolve farmers' issues

Dutton resident Katrina Martin says an international power line proposed, in part, through Pondera and Teton counties in northcentral Montana is being built on the backs of the farmers. Martin has voiced her concern about the diagonal portion of the Montana Alberta Tie Ltd.'s proposed private transmission line since the company announced the project in December 2005. The 215-mile, 230-kilovolt power line project to be built between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alta., is in the final stages of regulatory approval on both sides of the border. An environmental impact statement was published this spring that outlines three possible routes for the line in Montana. MATL is a Calgary, Alta.-based energy transmission company whose ...The existing economic development, namely farmers on the ground, has to pay a "terrible price for the speculative proposal that wind farms would be developed," Martin said. ...The line's routing options have been known to MATL for months, Martin said. "If Alternative 2 is the only one that can be considered, what's the point?" She said MATL had an "irresponsible attitude" when it comes to route selection.
16 Apr 2008

Owner looks to expand Judith Gap wind farm

The owner of Montana's largest operating wind farm, near Judith Gap, has proposed adding 35 turbines, which would increase its power-production capacity nearly 40 percent, officials at NorthWestern Energy confirmed. Invenergy, based in Chicago, has pitched the expansion to NorthWestern, the utility buying the electricity currently produced by the wind farm north of Harlowton in central Montana. NorthWestern should decide soon whether it wants to buy power that would be produced by the additional turbines, said John Hines, chief supply officer for NorthWestern. "We're evaluating their offer and looking at it (versus) other electricity portfolio alternatives," he said Thursday.
11 Apr 2008

DEQ approves upgrade of power line between Great Falls, Havre

Major improvements are planned along a deteriorating 74-year-old electricity transmission line between Great Falls and Havre, state and federal officials said Monday. "It'll keep the lights on," Tom Ring of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said of the upgrades. A secondary benefit of the upgrade is it could increase capacity for future wind development, said Sam Miller of the Western Area Power Administration, which owns the line. ...The larger line could serve as an interconnect for wind developers seeking access to the federal high-voltage transmission system, he said. Wind farm developers say their plans are constrained because there's not enough room on existing power lines.
1 Apr 2008

Molnar pledges to continue work for consumers

Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar kicked off his re-election campaign Tuesday in typically feisty fashion, saying he will be battling well-funded opponents who want to "silence" his voice against special interests. Molnar, a Laurel Republican representing the PSC's southeastern Montana district, said he has spent four years fighting - and sometimes losing - battles on behalf of consumers, voting against actions he says have raised electric and gas rates. ...When asked which "high-ranking politicians" he has exposed as raising utility rates and taxes, Molnar pointed to the federal tax credit for wind power producers. The credit could go to wind power developers in northern Montana that plan to sell power to Canada, thereby using federal tax credits to subsidize power consumed by Canadians, he said.
12 Mar 2008

PSC to decide on wind charge; Project developers object to NWE's integration costs

Small wind power producers in Montana said Thursday that NorthWestern Energy wants to overcharge them for adding their power to the system that serves NorthWestern electricity customers. Small power project developers said that if the state Public Service Commission doesn't force NorthWestern to come up with a more realistic charge, wind power producers likely will take their business to other states. "I'm not going to be around, because the free market is going to tell me to go to Idaho," said Russ Doty of Billings, chief executive officer of New World WindPower. Doty spoke at a PSC hearing Thursday in Helena, where Two Dot Wind of Billings is asking the commission to reject NorthWestern's proposed cost of "integrating" power from Two Dot's wind turbines near Martinsdale and Livingston.
7 Mar 2008

Chamber and CBDC recruiting riders for bus to MATL hearing

The Cut Bank Development Corporation, Cut Bank Area Chamber of Commerce, Shelby Chamber of Commerce and Pondera County Port Authority have one goal in mind this week. They are all working to recruit enough concerned community members to travel to Great Falls to show their support for the Montana Alberta Tie transmission line. Together they are organizing buses that will leave from their communities on Tuesday afternoon, March 11, and arrive in Great Falls for the public hearing at 6 p.m. Public hearings on the proposed line are also scheduled in Cut Bank and Conrad on March 12 and March 13.
5 Mar 2008

Proposed Glasgow-area project goes down in size once again

A wind farm proposed in Valley County in northeastern Montana keeps getting smaller, but the developer insists the project isn't dead. Stephen Wiley of Texas-based GreenHunter Wind Energy LLC, said the company now hopes to construct a 10-megawatt wind farm entirely on private land. The initial proposal was for a 500-megawatt facility covering 20,000 acres of publicly and privately owned property. Conservation interests raised concerns because the project was located so close the Bitter Creek Wilderness study area, which is known for its views and wildlife. GreenHunter scaled its plans back to 170 megawatts and then to 50. This week, Wiley said the opposition made the larger plans too risky, prompting the third reduction in size to 10 megawatts.
24 Feb 2008

Wind power has more problems than promise

These towers will forever change the scenic value of the Musselshell River Valley. They will have a devastating effect on land values, adversely affect wildlife, create high noise levels and block the beauty of the night sky with red strobe lights. Wind power is being "sold" as green power. It is not green power. The United States Department of Energy study completed in 2007 indicates wind farms operate at 21 percent of capacity. That simply means other sources of conventional power, such as coal-fired, nuclear or natural gas, must back up the power generated by these turbines. ...Will we change from the Big Sky Country to The Big Tower Country just so a foreign utility and a couple landowners can line their pockets?
24 Feb 2008

MATL hearings scheduled, Rep. Jones urges supporters to be seen & heard

Last week, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced they will conduct public hearings on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed MATL transmission line in Great Falls on March 11, Cut Bank on March 12 and Conrad on March 13. Jones is hoping to pack the public hearings with people who are supportive of the transmission line and wind energy industry, which he believes, has the potential to infuse millions, if not billions, of dollars into the sagging Hi-Line economy. The DEQ and DOE are currently taking written comments on the document, which was released to the public Feb. 11, and will continue to do so until March 31.
20 Feb 2008
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