Montana gets $72M for wind power projects

Montana gets $72M for wind power projects

Montana will receive $72 million in financing for 34 new wind power projects planned mostly by small cities and counties in northeastern and southeastern parts of the state, Sen. Max Baucus has announced.

“This is very good news,” the Montana Democrat said at a news conference in Billings.

Some of the recipients participated in the conference by video and thanked Baucus for his efforts.

Even Baucus seemed surprised with the level of funding, which came through a federal program he crafted, Clean Renewable Energy Bonds. The bonding program passed Congress as part of the 2005 Energy Bill.

“I am just astounded and so wonderfully surprised. Seventy-two million, that’s a lot for our state,” he said.

Developing renewable and clean energy, such as wind power, will help wean the country from its dependence on foreign oil and will begin to address concerns over carbon emissions, Baucus said.

CREBS will allow governmental and tax-exempt entities, such as cities and rural electric cooperatives, to finance alternative energy projects at zero interest. The program set aside $800 million in tax credit bonds to fund 610 renewable-energy projects across the country.

Montana received $72 million, or 9 percent of the total, for projects that will generate up to 65 megawatts of electricity. (One megawatt will power about 350 homes.)

Matney-Frantz Engineering, of Bozeman, worked with Montana communities to apply for the financing.

Cloud Matney, a principal in the company, said the cities and counties are planning to install refurbished turbines, which are about one-quarter the cost of a new turbine. The company is considering using the Livingston Rebuild Center to refurbish the turbines, which will provide jobs for Montanans, he said. The turbines will generate up to a quarter-megawatt of power.

Two of the larger projects, one from Yellowstone County and another by Great Falls, were not approved. Baucus said he will work in the next Congress to expand the availability of the program.

Thirty-two of the wind-energy projects are for municipalities and counties; two are for projects proposed by electric cooperatives.

The largest recipient is the Billings-based Green Electricity Buying Cooperative, which secured $31.7 million in financing authority for two wind farms. One will be located north of Billings off Popelka Road; the other will be on the Towe Farms in McCone County. Each project will produce up to 10 megawatts.

Russ Doty, acting executive director of Green Electricity, said, “We want everybody to get a piece of the clean energy boom.” The projects call for installing up to ten 2.1-megawatt turbines.

Another large recipient is the Billings-based Southern Montana Electric Cooperative, which received $12 million in bonding authority for a 6-megawatt project near Great Falls.

General Manager Tim Gregori said the wind project is part of the cooperative’s Highwood Generating Station project, a 250-megawatt coal-fired plant planned near Great Falls.

Southern Montana Electric Cooperative is a power wholesaler and provides electricity for five cooperatives in central and south-central Montana: Beartooth, Fergus, Tongue River, Mid Yellowstone and Yellowstone Valley. The power will be transported to those cooperatives, Gregori said.

“Wind generation will serve as a good complement to our proposed facility,” he said.

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