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.
Wind farm breaks ground: Completion of $19M project near Choteau expected in June of 2014 | Great Falls Tribune | greatfallstribune.com
Groundbreaking has begun on a new wind farm that will soon rise above the wheat fields of Teton County.
When completed, the $19 million Fairfield Wind project will include six utility scale turbines standing 398-feet tall, with a combined total of 10 mega watts of generating capacity.
“It has broken ground, and we expect to complete commissioning by June of 2014,” said John Pimental, president of Foundation Windpower, a wind energy engineering and development company based in the San Francisco Bay area.
The Fairfield Wind project is jointly owned by Foundation Windpower and WINData, a wind energy consulting and project management firm located in Great Falls. The general construction contractor for the project is Dick Anderson Construction, also of Great Falls.
During construction, the project is expected to employ 50 to 60 workers. Foundation Windpower has already inked a power purchase agreement with NorthWestern Energy, which will begin accepting electricity from the turbines in 2014.
Fairfield Wind may have the distinction of being one of the last wind energy projects initiated in Montana under the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) program. Enacted in 1992, the PTC program encourages investment in renewable energy by lowering an energy development company’s overall tax liability.
As currently structured, the PTC offers 2.3 cents in tax offsets per kilowatt of electricity generated to owners of new wind energy facilities. Credits are offered for the first 10 years that a wind energy facility is in operation. Proponents of the program argue that investment in renewable energy would be negligible without these types of government incentives.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wind energy now constitutes 3.91 percent of total energy generation in the United States, up from 0.27 percent 10 years earlier.
Critics of the PTC argue the federal government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in the energy industry, and that wind energy is less economical than other sources of electricity.