USA – Montana dotted with wind energy projects

Legislative changes promoting wind result in several counties and developers to surge forward with new projects

On the heels of Montana's first major wind-power project and legislative changes that promote wind, several counties and developers are surging forward with new projects. For about six months, the Judith Gap Wind Energy Center, about 12 miles north of Harlowton just off U.S. Highway 191, has produced power. The site includes about 90 turbines. In January six wind turbines near the Great Falls International Airport started spinning. The wind turbines at the Horseshoe Bend Wind Park on Gore Hill are part of a private wind development project owned by United Materials of Great Falls. Exergy Development Group in Helena is the project developer.

A variety of other projects are being eyed in Montana. Teton, Pondera, Valley, Meagher and Chouteau counties have wind-power projects on the drawing board. Other projects are being pursued by developers in Whitehall, Reedpoint and at a handful of spots in eastern Montana. Last year legislators approved a bill requiring public utilities by 2008 to buy at least 5 percent of their electricity from "renewable resources," such as wind, solar, geothermal or new, small hydroelectric projects. The minimum increases to 10 percent by 2010 and 15 percent by 2015. Uncertainty about environmental regulations concerning mercury and carbon limits, for example, are part of the equation that has developers looking into wind. Volatile fuel prices also add to the drive. Montana, however, still has to deal with its insufficient and aging transmission system, he said. The largest wind-power project on the radar in Montana is proposed for about 30 miles northwest of Glasgow. Wind Hunter LLC intends to build and operate a wind-energy development in north-central Valley County. The project potentially could be the largest wind-power site in Montana. When complete, it would be twice as large as the Judith Gap wind farm.

The Valley County Wind Energy Project, proposed on a patchwork of private land and public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Montana School Trust Lands, will be built in phases and could reach 500 megawatts. The first phase includes 33 turbines, intended to churn out 50 megawatts. Future capacity could increase with the addition of 300 turbines. In Teton County, wind developers from Windpark Solutions America, LLC in Big Sandy are working on a wind-power operation that would produce less than 20 megawatts of power. A number of potential wind developers are eyeing Pondera and Glacier counties because of the proposed Montana Alberta Tie, a 186-mile power line developers want to build between Lethbridge and Great Falls, said Rep. Llew Jones, R-Conrad.
Online editorial www.windfair.net
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
wind energy, wind farm, renewable energy, wind power, wind turbine, rotorblade, offshore, onshore, Windpark

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