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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.

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Climate Parents | Senator Wyden: Restore support for wind power!

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I just signed a letter calling on U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and Congress to renew the vital tax credit for wind and other sources of renewable energy. The Production Tax Credit (PTC) helps wind energy compete with highly subsidized fossil fuel industries, attracts investors for new wind projects, fosters innovation and employs tens of thousands of Americans in the clean energy economy.

Because of wind energy’s growing success, dirty energy billionaires, like the Koch brothers, campaigned to kill the renewable energy credit program. Congress is at a crossroads.

Will they support policies and industries that increase carbon pollution, fueling climate-related disasters? Or will they take action to promote safe, clean energy that will allow us to stabilize the climate?

As incoming Chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Wyden will play a major role in deciding which direction Congress goes.

Please join me in telling Senator Wyden to renew the renewable energy tax credit now: http://act.engagementlab.org/sign/wind-credit_Wyden/?referring_akid=.227975.zAnFDm&source=taf

By signing the letter, you will send a message the future of our kids and and the stability of our climate are priorities that deserve urgent attention. Thank you for taking action!

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION via Climate Parents | Senator Wyden: Restore support for wind power!.

NaturEner – Natural Energy for a Sustainable Future – NaturEner USA Participates in Project to Improve Wind Power Forecasting

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NaturEner USA has partnered with WINData LLC and OSIsoft, LLC to improve forecasting of ramp events for the Glacier Wind farms in Montana. The effort is a DOE funded research project to improve forecasts of ramps events for wind farms, titled “Use of real-time off-site observations as a methodology for increasing forecast skill in prediction of large wind power ramps one or more hours ahead of their impact on a wind plant”.

NaturEner is uniquely interested in improving wind forecasts because the Glacier Wind farm operates as a wind only balancing authority, and improved forecasts are the most cost effective way to improve reliability and reduce integration costs. Toward this end, NaturEner has specified performance metrics to quantify the ability of the forecast to predict ramp events. WINData and OSIsoft have created a grid of next generation offsite meteorological sensors in the region around the wind farm, and have contracted with Garrad Hassan to help develop WINDataNOW Technology, a novel forecasting approach to incorporate these measurements. The OSIsoft PI software is being used to collect and transfer the data to Garrad Hassan, and to display the forecasts and measurements to NaturEner’s real time scheduling desk. WINData and Garrad Hassan are presenting promising preliminary results at the UWIG forecasting workshop. NaturEner is now receiving the forecasts and will evaluate their performance operationally.

via NaturEner – Natural Energy for a Sustainable Future – NaturEner USA Participates in Project to Improve Wind Power Forecasting.

Fairfield Sun Times > Archives > News > County Commission Hears Fairfield Wind Farm Proposal

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Last week representatives of a California based firm, Foundation Windpower, met with Teton County commissioners regarding a proposed wind farm north of Fairfield.

According to Martin Wilde, a former Choteau resident who operates Windata, Inc., a firm that assists with site selection, the project has been in the works for several years, in part because investors have “signed up and then disappeared, which was very disappointing.”

Matt Wilson and John Pimental, representing Foundation Windpower, said they are committed to the project which will consist of 5 turbines reaching nearly 400 feet in height. The turbines will be installed to the north and south of the Bole substation, north of Fairfield in Township 23N, Range 3 West and Sections 35 and 26. Marvin Klinker and Reece Brown were on hand as landowners.

If all goes according to plan, the turbines could be up as early as the end of the year.

Foundation was seeking a letter to provide to their bankers. The commissioners asked the developers to use a letter from the county commission issued in 2010.

According to Wilson and Pimental, a federal law known as The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) dating to 1978 would require Northwestern Energy to purchase the electricity. Even though it is a Federal law, the act’s implementation is left up to the individual states.

The commissioners have put the project on the agenda for the next scheduled meeting.

via Fairfield Sun Times > Archives > News > County Commission Hears Fairfield Wind Farm Proposal.