Montana’s First Large Scale Wind Power Project

A long-term power purchase agreement has helped kick a Montana wind power project into gear. NorthWestern Energy signed an agreement to purchase 135 to 150 MW of electricity from an affiliate of Invenergy Wind, which will construct a USD $150 million, large-scale wind farm near Judith Gap in Wheatland County, Montana.

According to the companies, the project will be the first large-scale wind power facility in Montana. “We started working on this project four-and-a-half years ago, and it’s very satisfying to see it finally come together,” said Bob Quinn, a partner with Wind Park Solutions – Arcadia (WPSA), the firm that originally developed the project. “This project will not only benefit the local economy, but will generate money for Montana’s schools since a portion of the wind farm will be built on State Lands.” The 8,000-acre wind farm will feature approximately 75 to 100 turbines each with a capacity of about 1.5 – 1.8 MW each. According to Quinn, WPSA has completed all of the necessary environmental permitting steps clearing the way for construction in the first half of 2005. “The Environmental Assessment, including a detailed avian analysis of the region, has been completed, and the project was determined to have no significant environmental impact,” Quinn said. WPSA recently sold its 100 percent interest in the project to Invenergy Wind LLC, who will construct, own and operate the facility. Not only did NorthWestern Energy’s long-term purchase help push the wind project forward, but their customers will soon know that 8 percent of their electricity is coming from wind power, not typically dirtier fossil fuel generation. “The purchase of 135 to 150 MW of wind-generated electricity is consistent with the amount of wind energy identified in our electric default supply procurement plan,” said Mike Hanson, NorthWestern Energy’s Chief Operating Officer. “We have worked very hard to obtain a cost-competitive renewable resource for our customers, while providing an important incentive for the development of a large-scale renewable energy project in Montana.” The contract price is approximately $31/MWh, but the price paid by the consumer will be somewhat higher depending on the cost to purchase a firming resource to back up the renewable generation source. The contract is subject to approval by the Montana Public Service Commission. And like all other wind power projects underway in 2005, the Invenergy project will have to be in production by Dec. 31, 2005, in order to qualify for the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) which is currently set to expire beyond that date.
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