Montana Wind Energy Projects

WINData LLC – Wind energy engineering since 1991

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Governor visits wind farm near Fairfield

Gov. Steve Bullock visited a wind farm near Fairfield on Thursday as part of a series of energy roundtables he’s conducting around the state.

Previously, Bullock conducted a solar energy roundtable in Bozeman at Simms Fishing Products and toured the building’s new solar panel array. He also toured a weatherization project at a home in Missoula and held a roundtable about energy efficiency efforts.

Bullock said he’ll use input from the roundtables to develop an energy plan he is expected to release late this month.

The state has an opportunity to expand the state’s energy portfolio, he said.

“We can help design what that energy future will look like,” Bullock said.

Bullock was scheduled to conduct another roundtable in Colstrip, home to a coal-fired power plant and a coal mine, on Tuesday.

The state’s future energy options will include coal but also wind, solar and hydro, Bullock said.

Recently, Pennsylvania-based Talen Energy, which owns a share of the Colstrip plant and operates the facility, said its role as operator is not economically viable and the plant’s five owners will need a new manager by May 2018.

“The wind is shifting under our feet when it comes to energy,” said Bullock, who conducted an energy roundtable on wind at the Montana Farmers Union in Great Falls following his visit to the wind farm near Fairfield.

The 13-turbine, 25-megawatt Greenfield project is located next to the six-turbine, 10-megawatt Fairfield Wind farm, which was completed in 2014.

Developer Martin Wilde of WINData LLC, said both wind farms are examples of smaller, community scale wind projects that involve local contractors and land owners.

“There’s great expertise in Montana for Montanans to build them,” he said.

Dick Anderson Construction of Great Falls is the general contractor. The power is being sold to NorthWestern Energy.

Allan Frankl of Dick Anderson Construction said 60 to 70 people will be working on the Greenfield project during the height of construction. Turbine components are expected to arrive later this month and be up by mid-September. The wind farm is expected to be producing power after Sept. 30.

Land owner Marvin Klinker said he’ll receive a percentage of revenue from the electricity produced at the wind farm.

Follow Karl Puckett on Twitter @GFTrib_KPuckett.

Wind energy engineering since 1991

Source: WINData LLC – Wind energy engineering since 1991

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Choteau Acantha Article – Industrial wind farm has broken ground in county-pub 3-30-16- WINData LLC

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Choteau Acantha Article – Industrial wind farm has broken ground in county–pub 3-30-16–

Choteau, Montana March, 30, 2016

By Nancy Thornton, Choteau Acantha reporter

A second industrial wind farm has broken ground southeast of Choteau, even as a wind farm half the size located on the new project’s western boundary was sold to a New York-based renewable energy investment company.

Teton County Commissioner Jim Hodgskiss said a Greenfield Wind LLC official, Matt Wilson, notified him that contractors would break ground during the week of March 20 for a 15-turbine wind farm next to the six-turbine Fairfield Wind project that was completed in May 2014.

The Teton County commissioners last summer approved a 10-year tax abatement for the proposed $47 million Greenfield Wind project while denying an abatement for the $19 million Fairfield Wind project.

Subsequently, Fairfield Wind appealed the state Department of Revenue’s determination that Fairfield Wind had a $19,118,781 market value. The matter is now before the Montana Board of Tax Appeals with all “discovery” documents due by April 25 and the hearing set for July 19.

Fairfield Wind’s 2015 tax bill was $323,569.83, an amount, with some later adjustments, that was paid under protest.

The Fairfield Wind farm is located in the Choteau elementary and high school districts and the proposed Greenfield Wind farm is in the Power High School and the Greenfield Elementary School districts.

Revenue officials estimated that Greenfield Wind would generate an estimated annual tax bill in the neighborhood of $863,000 under the cost approach, although with the tax abatement set for 50 percent during the first five years, local governments would receive only half of that.

Wilson works for Foundation Windpower LLC that owns a majority-member equity interest in Greenfield Wind LLC. The minority member of Greenfield Wind is Fairfield resident Martin Wilde who developed both wind farm projects under his company, WINData LLC.

Wilson and Wilde did not respond to invitations for telephone interviews.WINData has filed two lawsuits against Foundation Windpower in Teton County District Court that Judge Robert Olson recently dismissed. However, WINData has appealed the two cases to the Montana Supreme Court.

In December 2015 Foundation Windpower sold its interest in the Fairfield Wind project (the legal entity at that point was called Fairfield Wind Master Tenant LLC) to Greenbacker Wind LLC, which is a business created by Greenbacker Renewable Energy Corp. and Greenbacker Renewable Energy Co. LLC of New York, New York.

Greenbacker, in a December press release, said it acquired the Fairfield Wind project for $6,615,000 in cash and the assumption of $12,412,000 in debt for a total of $19,027,000 on Dec. 8, 2015. It is a “publicly registered, non-traded limited liability company that expects to acquire a diversified portfolio of income-producing renewable energy power plants, energy efficient projects and other sustainable investments,” according to its website.

The wind farm has two 1.6-megawatt and four 1.7-megawatt turbines. The generated electricity is sold to NorthWestern Energy under a long-term power purchase agreement that has 18.5 years remaining on the contract.

Greenbacker, citing the project as a “fund portfolio” for its investors, forecasts a 10.7 percent initial yield on the investment, but cautioned in its literature that that yield is not a measure of the fund’s performance and it is not necessarily indicative of distributions that the fund may provide to investors.

Wilde has had disputes with Foundation Windpower since mid-2015 and in court documents said he filed a notice of dissociation with the Fairfield Wind entity over Foundation Windpower’s refusal to supply him with accounting information, among other things. He refused to sign off on Foundation Windpower’s proposed monetary value of WINData’s 10- percent equity interest in Fairfield Wind and he declined to agree to the sale.

However, Foundation Windpower’s attorney Stephen Brown of Missoula successfully argued in Olson’s court in February that the operating agreement the pair of companies signed required that the dispute be brought in a California forum, not one in Montana.

Brown successfully argued a similar point when in July 2014, the Montana Supreme Court found in favor of San Diego Gas & Electric Co., (against Naturener USA that owns wind farms in Glacier and Toole counties) determining that the “consent to conduct all” provision of the first contract between the two parties required the parties to litigate all disputes Industrial wind farm has broken ground in county–pub 3-30-16– 2 pertaining to that contract in California. Brown represented San Diego Gas.

In a similar way, Olson dismissed Wilde’s lawsuit against Foundation Windpower, first in the dispute over Fairfield Wind, and second, over the Greenfield Wind

Source: Choteau Acantha Article – Industrial wind farm has broken ground in county-pub 3-30-16- WINData LLC

Great Falls Tribune – Construction back on track at Greenfield wind farm after delay over taxes

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Construction of a 25-megawatt, 13-turbine wind farm seven miles north of Fairfield is back on track, according to the developer.

Martin Wilde, principal engineer at WINData LLC, said Wednesday that foundations are being poured at Greenfield wind farm.

“We’re moving ahead,” Wilde said.

Wilde is partnering with Foundation Wind Power of San Francisco in developing the project.

Dick Anderson Construction of Great Falls is the general contractor.

Towers and turbines will be erected this summer, Wilde said. The goal is to have construction completed by September.

“Our goal has been to keep money in Montana to help Montana communities leverage the wind power opportunities to the full extent,” Wilde said.

Greenfield wind farm is located next to the six-turbine, 10-megawatt Fairfield wind farm, which was completed in 2014.

Construction was halted at Greenfield last summer over property taxes.

At the time, Foundation Windpower said the first property tax bill for the existing Fairfield wind farm came in higher than expected.

Foundation Windpower then applied for tax abatements seeking tax breaks for both the operating Fairfield wind farm and the proposed Glacier wind farm.

An abatement means that the developer will receive a 50 percent tax cut over the first five years with taxes gradually increasing to 100 percent at the end of the 10th year.

Jim Hodgskiss, Teton County commissioner, said commissioners granted a tax abatement for the Glacier project because it still hadn’t been constructed, but denied the abatement for the Fairfield project because it already was completed.

About half of the total tax reduction for the Fairfield wind farm, or about $2 million, would have been shifted onto the rest of the tax rolls if commissioners would have approved the abatement after the wind farm already had been constructed, Hodgskiss said.

“We didn’t feel it was right to shift it back to the rest of the taxpayers after it was built,” Hodgskiss said.

Follow Karl Puckett on Twitter @GFTrib_KPuckett.

Wind farm is planned near existing wind farm north of Fairfield.

Source: Construction back on track at Greenfield wind farm after delay over taxes

Construction back on track at Greenfield wind farm after delay over taxes

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Construction back on track at Greenfield wind farm after delay over taxes Karl Puckett, kpuckett@greatfallstribune.com 3:15 p.m. MDT March 30, 2016

(Photo: Tribune file photo/Karl Puckett)

Construction of a 25-megawatt, 13-turbine wind farm seven miles north of Fairfield is back on track, according to the developer.Martin Wilde, principal engineer at WINData LLC, said Wednesday that foundations are being poured at Greenfield wind farm.“We’re moving ahead,” Wilde said.Wilde is partnering with Foundation Wind Power of San Francisco in developing the project.

Dick Anderson Construction of Great Falls is the general contractor.Towers and turbines will be erected this summer, Wilde said. The goal is to have construction completed by September.“Our goal has been to keep money in Montana to help Montana communities leverage the wind power opportunities to the full extent,” Wilde said.

Greenfield wind farm is located next to the six-turbine, 10-megawatt Fairfield wind farm, which was completed in 2014.Construction was halted at Greenfield last summer over property taxes.At the time, Foundation Windpower said the first property tax bill for the existing Fairfield wind farm came in higher than expected.Foundation Windpower then applied for tax abatements seeking tax breaks for both the operating Fairfield wind farm and the proposed Glacier wind farm.

An abatement means that the developer will receive a 50 percent tax cut over the first five years with taxes gradually increasing to 100 percent at the end of the 10th year.Jim Hodgskiss, Teton County commissioner, said commissioners granted a tax abatement for the Glacier project because it still hadn’t been constructed, but denied the abatement for the Fairfield project because it already was completed.

About half of the total tax reduction for the Fairfield wind farm, or about $2 million, would have been shifted onto the rest of the tax rolls if commissioners would have approved the abatement after the wind farm already had been constructed, Hodgskiss said.“We didn’t feel it was right to shift it back to the rest of the taxpayers after it was built,” Hodgskiss said.

Follow Karl Puckett on Twitter @GFTrib_KPuckett.

Source: Construction back on track at Greenfield wind farm after delay over taxes

North American Windpower: A Technical Overview Of The EPA’s Sweeping New CO2 Rules

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On Monday, President Barack Obama and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy announced the roll-out of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) imposing carbon dioxide (CO2) standards on existing power plants. Given the intent of reducing CO2 emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2022 and 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025, these rules will have a significant impact on industrial consumers of electricity, as well as on developers of fossil-fuel-fired and renewable (e.g., solar, biomass and wind) generation.

Obama has repeatedly stated his determination to regulate the roughly 40% of the nation’s greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions that come from the energy sector. The EPA proposed rules on June 18, 2014, that would impose a complex program for regulating existing power plants. Monday’s rule brings the first stage of this rulemaking closer to a conclusion. Although the most attention is on the rules applicable to existing power plants, rules for regulation of CO2 from new and modified facilities is traveling in lockstep with the existing source rules.

Section 111(d) differs from the EPA’s conventional rulemaking authority. For new and modified power plants, the EPA simply issues standards (under CAA Section 111(b)) that are directly applicable to all new and modified affected facilities. The EPA proposed CO2 standards under CAA Section 111(b) for new power plants in January 2014 and for modified power plants in June 2014. The EPA’s 111(d) authority is more circumspect.  Rarely employed, Section 111(d) grants the agency the authority to issue emission guidelines that then must be used by the states to craft programs that are consistent with the EPA’s stated objectives. These state programs must then be approved by the EPA.  However, the guidelines are just that – options for how to create a program and not outright mandates as to what the state rules must entail. The EPA issued 111(d) standards for existing, unchanged power plants Monday that seek to establish a unique program unlike any other existing regulatory program.

The CPP establishes state-specific CO2 emission limits and requires that the states demonstrate how they will achieve those limits by the deadlines in 2022 and 2030. The concept of two-stage limits matches what was proposed in 2014. However, the EPA has extended the deadline for compliance with the initial standards from 2020 to 2022; the second-stage deadline remains unchanged at 2030. The CO2 limits are applicable to existing coal- and oil-fired power plants, as well as existing natural-gas-fired combined-cycle generating facilities – a change from the 2014 proposal.

In establishing its plan to comply with the 111(d) mandate, a state can choose to comply with one of three types of limits. First, and consistent with the 2014 proposal, a state can adopt a pound per megawatt-hour (lb/MWh) limit. Second, a state can adopt a total ton per year (tpy) CO2 cap that would apply within the state. This option was also discussed in the 2014 proposal, but no values were suggested for individual states. Third, a state can adopt a tpy CO2 cap that includes an allowance for new sources. Once the limit is established, a state must develop and implement a plan to achieve the limit. This plan can consist of either a conventional limit applicable to the electrical generating units covered by the CPP (i.e., coal- and oil-fired power plants and natural-gas-fired combined-cycle units), or it can reach “beyond the fence,” incorporating other CO2 reductions and taking credit for those when calculating compliance. It is the utilization of these “beyond the fence” measures, such as renewable energy standards and residential energy efficiency programs, to demonstrate compliance with standards applicable to power plants that fostered a lot of questions in 2014 as to the legality of the program. The EPA is also requiring a hard “backstop” limit that will automatically kick in and apply to individual regulated electrical generating units if the state program fails to achieve its intended “beyond the fence” reductions.

The EPA is clearly trying to promote nationwide or regional cap-and-trade programs.  The final rules promote emissions trading mechanisms and discuss the CPP enabling states to generate “trading ready” allowances that avoid the need for interstate agreements. Expanding on language in the 2014 proposal, the EPA speaks of individual power plants being able to meet their obligations through emission rate credits (if a rate-based standard is adopted) or allowances (if a mass-based standard is adopted). Cap-and-trade was a clear element underlying the 2014 proposed rule, but it takes on a more prominent role in the final rule.

Implementation of the program will take place over the next 15 years. As noted above, each state has a limit it must attain by 2022 and a more stringent limit by 2030. Many of these limits have changed dramatically from the 2014 proposal (e.g., the 2030 limit for Washington increased from 215 lbs CO2/MWh to 983 lbs CO2/MWh, while North Dakota decreased from 1,783 lbs CO2/MWh to 1,305 lbs CO2/MWh).  Each state must develop a plan for how it will attain these limits that must be reviewed and approved by EPA. If a state fails to propose a plan or the EPA disapproves the state’s plan, then the agency will impose requirements in that state. The initial submittals are due by Sept. 6, 2016. This initial submittal can consist of either a state’s final plan or an initial plan with a request for an extension. By Sept. 6, 2018, all final plans must be submitted. These plans must identify milestones used to demonstrate progress toward achieving the CO2 reduction goals.

The rules create the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), which provides an interesting opportunity for renewable energy developers. The CEIP allows states a mechanism to reward wind and solar projects that commence construction after a state submits its 111(d) plan to the EPA (or after Sept. 6, 2018, for states that choose not to submit a final state 111(d) plan by that date).

A project must be either located in a state or benefit a specific state to be eligible under the CEIP as part of that state’s 111(d) program. The states are required to include a CEIP implementation regimen in their 111(d) plan and account for allowances (if a mass-based plan approach) or emission rate credits (ERCs) if a rate-based plan approach. If the state does so and the wind or solar project commences construction after the state plan is submitted, then the project earns ERCs or allowances based on the quantity of metered megawatts generated in 2020 and 2021. Among renewables projects, only wind and solar are eligible. For every metered MWh generated in 2020 and 2021, the project will receive one ERC (half from the state and half from the EPA). Even states or tribal areas without any regulated generating units may provide ERCs so long as they are connected to the contiguous U.S. grid and meet certain eligibility requirements. The ERCs or allowances can be used for compliance by a regulated generating unit and are fully transferable prior to such use. A nationwide cap of 300 million tons of CO2 ERCs/allowances applies to the CEIP program (and includes ERCs/allowances awarded to low-income energy efficiency projects that reduce electricity usage in low-income communities in 2020 and/or 2021).  In order to be eligible for the ERCs/allowances under the CEIP, developers are not required to demonstrate that their project is “additional” or surplus relative to a business-as-usual or state-goal-related baseline. Many questions abound about how the CEIP will work, and the EPA does not address them in Monday’s rule. Instead, the agency plans to issue another rule with the details of the CEIP.

Stay tuned as this process unfolds in the next few days, weeks and years. The EPA’s issuance of the rules shifts the burden to the states to develop plans and triggers further rulemaking to flesh out requirements like the CEIP. There will be opportunities to get involved in the federal rulemaking, as well as with state rulemaking efforts as the states navigate this maze of requirements and work to meet the tight deadlines.

Tom Wood is a partner at Stoel Rives LLP, where his practice focuses on the Clean Air Act.

North American Windpower: A Technical Overview Of The EPA’s Sweeping New CO2 Rules.

Second wind farm going up near Fairfield

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Second wind farm going up near Fairfield

Karl Puckett, kpuckett@greatfallstribune.com 7:41 p.m. MDT May 1, 2015

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(Photo: Tribune photo/Karl Puckett)

FAIRFIELD – Construction of a 25-megawatt, 15-tower wind farm is expected to begin Monday seven miles north of here, following difficult negotiations between the developer and NorthWestern Energy, which will purchase the power.

It’s called Greenfield Wind LLC.

The Montana Public Service Commission, which had rejected a settlement agreement on the power purchase price between NorthWestern and WINData LLC on Dec. 16, reconsidered and approved the 25-year contract March 4.

Now construction can proceed.

“Getting the power contract has been the biggest challenge here,” WINData CEO Martin Wilde said at the Greenfield site.

On Thursday, stakes marked the locations where towers will begin rising in August and September. A strong breeze was blowing 18 mph, which is typical.

“This is perfect wind,” Wilde said.

The Greenfield wind farm is 1.5 miles to the east of the 10-megawatt Fairfield wind farm, which Wilde completed a year ago.

Wilde, an early pioneer of wind development in Montana, would like to see more projects like the Fairfield and Greenfield wind farms constructed by Montana-based, independent power producers, but it isn’t easy, he says.

“In this case, they kind of had it out with us, and we sort of held our own and settled,” Wilde said of negotiations with NorthWestern.

WINData has a 20-year contract to sell power generated at the 10-megawatt, six turbine Fairfield wind farm to regulated utility NorthWestern Energy.

It negotiated a 25-year deal with NorthWestern for the Greenfield energy.

NorthWestern argued that the price of the electricity, $50.49-per-megawatt hour, was too high, Wilde said, and “we fought back.”

NorthWestern always gives prime consideration to how a price will be reflected on the bills of NorthWestern’s 342,000 electricity customers in Montana, NorthWestern spokesman Butch Larcombe said.

“And a lot of times the developers have a different price in mind than we do,” Larcombe said.

The U.S. Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 created a new class of generating facilities called “non-utility generators” or “qualifying facilities” that would receive special rate and regulatory treatment.

One of the goals was to encourage development of renewable energy.

Greenfield is a qualifying facility.

In Montana, the Public Service Commission has established two categories of qualifying facilities, Wilde said.

One is the standard size, which is a maximum of 3 megawatts. Those projects come with “standard offer” contracts, and negotiations are not required.

Qualifying facilities that are larger than the standard size require negotiations, and the Greenfield wind farm is the first large QF wind project negotiated and approved in Montana, Wilde said.

Instead of NorthWestern producing the power, Wilde said, it is purchasing green energy from an independent power producer, bringing diversity to its power mix, Wilde said. WINData carries the risk for generation, not NorthWestern’s ratepayers, he added.

When NorthWestern needs power the most is at times of peak demand, when it’s very cold or hot, Larcombe said.

“And unfortunately, a lot of times, that’s when the wind isn’t blowing,” Larcombe said. “We have concerns about the wind’s ability to meet the needs of our portfolio at this point.”

Wilde started out in the wind business in Montana in 1991. He’s owned his own companies and also worked for the U.S. Department of Energy.

He’s investigated many sites for wind potential in state. That leg work has attracted large wind developers, he said.

“We were trying to get commercial wind energy in Montana,” he said.

Today, Wilde owns WINData LLC based in Fairfield.

While Montana has seen some successes in wind development, Wilde says the development climate is poor compared to other states such as Texas.

“It’s like learning how to box in prison,” Wilde said. “It’s a difficult environment to do wind, period.”

The export of wind-generated electricity from Montana could be robust, but Wilde says the NorthWestern seems intent to stick with hydro and coal generation.

Larcombe, NorthWestern Energy’s spokesman, defended the utility’s efforts to own and purchase renewable power.

NorthWestern owns or has contracts with 17 different wind projects in Montana with a capacity of 282 megawatts, he said.

“To say we’re not interested or haven’t been involved in wind production really isn’t an accurate statement,” he said.

When NorthWestern purchased PPL Montana’s hydroelectric facilities in November, it changed the look of the utility’s energy portfolio, he said.

The dams are helping NorthWestern meet the typical needs for electricity in Montana, he said.

Wind in the Fairfield area doesn’t blow trains off the tracks, as it’s been known to do in locations such as Browning, Wilde said.

However, there is always a breeze.

General Electric turbines that produce 1.7 megawatts each will be erected at the Greenfield wind farm.

The distance from the ground to the tip of the blades will be 422 feet, or about 42 stories.

They are the largest wind turbines in the state, Wilde said.

“They lend themselves to calm but constant winds, which is the kind of wind we have here,” Wilde said.

The wind farm should be connected to the grid by November, Wilde said.

WINData is partnering with Wind Power of San Francisco, which will help to arrange financing through large investment banks, Wilde said.

It usually costs about $2 million per megawatt to build a wind farm, which would put the project in the $45 million to $50 million range.

Dick Anderson Construction out of Great Falls has been hired for the job. GE will assist in installing the turbines.

The 15 wind towers will stand on a ridge in two rows on a ridge overlooking wheat and hay fields.

The land is being leased from four property owners who will receive royalties based on production.

“So this is an additional crop for farmers,” Wilde said.

Reach Tribune Staff Writer Karl Puckett at 406-791-1471, 1-800-438-6600 or kpuckett@greatfallstribune.com.

via Second wind farm going up near Fairfield.

Choteau Acantha Article – Wind Farm asks PSC for reconsideration

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February 4th 2015

A stalled project to put 15 industrial-sized wind turbines next to the six already up and running between Choteau and Fairfield will get reconsideration before the Montana Public Service Commission on Feb. 10.

Martin Wilde of Fairfield, working through the company, Greenfield Wind L.L.C., has been in a disagreement with NorthWestern Energy since April 2014 over what the utility will pay the wind developer for each megawatt-hour generated. The cost to integrate the intermittent energy into the region’s power grid is also unsettled.

In December, both parties agreed to a price to avoid further litigation, and filed a joint motion to approve a settlement agreement with the PSC, but the commissioners denied the settlement by a 3-2 vote.

Since that time, Brad Johnson replaced Bill Gallagher on the commission. Gallagher, Roger Koopman and Kirk Bushman voted against the settlement, while Travis Kavulla and Bob Lake voted for it.

Wilde called the denial “an 11th hour surprise reversal ruling” that “appeared to result from Gallagher placing his personal opinion and politics ahead of federal and state laws and ahead of the best interests of Montana rate payers.”

The PSC has invited the parties to present oral arguments for reconsideration at its Feb. 10 meeting in Helena.

At stake is whether Teton County will see a doubling of wind generation and an additional six-figure tax bill it will pay. Wilde’s Fairfield Wind six-turbine project that cost more than $25 million will start paying taxes next November.

Greenfield Wind attorney Ryan Shaffer of Missoula stated in his written motion to reconsider that the PSC’s decision was “unlawful, unjust and unreasonable” and constitutes an unlawful discrimination against “qualifying facilities,” namely, certain types of small power generation facilities, such as those from renewable-energy sources like the wind.

According to the Edison Electric Institute, the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) requires electric utilities to purchase energy offered by qualifying facilities. The goal is to support the development of small, onsite renewable generation and to promote diversity of a utility’s supply portfolio.

Montana has a renewable portfolio standard that requires public utilities to obtain a percentage of their retail electricity sales from eligible renewable resources. That percentage grew to 15 percent in 2015 after starting at 5 percent in 2008.

The PURPA also requires utilities to purchase electric energy from qualifying facilities at rates that are just and reasonable to consumers and that are equal to the utility’s avoided cost, defined as the incremental energy and capacity cost the utility would have incurred generating power from its own operating plant.

The state, through the PSC, governs the process to define those rates and has set a standard rate for certain qualifying facilities, but the Greenfield Wind project does not meet the criteria for that rate.

Wilde said that Greenfield has been seeking a long-term contract under PURPA with NorthWestern since 2010. But those efforts have been stymied, Wilde said, by the PSC’s rules prohibiting such long-term contracts for projects over a three-megawatt eligibility cap for the standard rate. Greenfield would generate 25 megawatts.

The rule used to be that the standard rate would apply to facilities generating 10 megawatts or less, and Wilde’s Fairfield Wind six-turbines qualified for the standard rate by generating 10 MW.

While the two parties were far apart at first in their proposed rates for the power, Shaffer said, “Greenfield recognized that with some concessions on Greenfield’s part, the gap between the rate proposed by NorthWestern and the rate proposed by Greenfield could be largely bridged.”

The negotiated rate is $50.49 per megawatt-hour if Greenfield pays NorthWestern for integration or $53.99 per MWh if Greenfield delivers a wind-integrated product. Another stipulation calls for Greenfield to delay the commercial online date until 2016.

Back in 2011, NorthWestern was paying a weighted average cost of $60.44 per MWh for qualifying facilities.

The PSC staff recommended that the commission approve the settlement but the commission voted otherwise.

Recent case law in the state determined that rates for purchases from qualifying facilities must be based on “current avoided least cost resource data,” Shaffer said. He argued that the market prices underlying the negotiated rate and the PSC staff’s benchmarking analysis come directly from NorthWestern’s 2013 least cost plan.

Shaffer alleges that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that the PSC is failing to implement federal law for projects exactly like Greenfield. His argument is tied to the PSC’s recent approval of NorthWestern’s purchase of PPL’s hydroelectric dams. That process used the same market rates for evaluating whether the hydroelectric power system was a least-cost source. The commission voted for approval of the acquisition, Shaffer said.

He said the settlement rate “would save between $5.9 and $10.6 million over the life of the project compared to the two most reasonable alternative avoided-cost benchmarks.”

Wilde said, “Rejection of the unopposed settlement unreasonably deprives NorthWestern’s customers of the benefits of these favorable rates.”

He added that Greenfield’s rates would be significantly higher if Greenfield is forced to fully litigate its claim to a “legally enforceable obligation,” which is a “must-buy” provision of PURPA.

He explained that PSC’s own rules provide that a utility shall purchase available power from any qualifying facility at either the standard rate determined by the commission to be appropriate for the utility, or at a rate which is a negotiated term of the contract between the utility and the qualifying facility.

http://www.choteauacantha.com/
Feb 4 2015