Montana Wind Energy
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
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
March 30, 2016
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.
Construction back on track at Greenfield wind farm after delay over taxes Karl Puckett, email@example.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.
U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has introduced legislation that he says would permanently extend the production tax credit (PTC) for renewables and drive over $500 billion in clean energy investments between now and 2030.The American Clean Energy Investment Act of 2015 and The Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act – both co-sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Edward J. Markey, D-Mass. – would significantly reduce carbon pollution and help put the U.S. on a path to more than double the size of its clean energy workforce to 10 million by 2030, says Sanders.The bills would allocate $41 billion to helping oil, gas and coal workers as they transition out of the fossil fuel industry. According to Sanders, the costs for these proposals are completely offset by repealing all subsidies for fossil fuels and ending the tax breaks that encourage corporate inversions.Sanders says The American Clean Energy Investment Act of 2015 would stimulate a strong, sustainable economy by spurring massive new investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.Specifically, the act would permanently extend the PTC for renewable electricity generation from sources including wind and solar. It would also permanently extend the investment tax credit for advanced clean energy property and expand the 30% credit for offshore wind facilities.The Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act would help coal miners and other fossil fuel workers and their families by connecting displaced workers with new job opportunities through vocational education and job skills programs. The bills would also provide support so that transitioning workers and their families could maintain family-level wages, health care and pensions until they are able to start new jobs, the senator explains.”The American Wind Energy Association [AWEA] deeply appreciates Sen. Sanders’ leadership in seeking long-term policy support to enable the growth of our nation’s wind energy sector,” AWEA says in a release from the senator. “This legislation is the latest example of his attention to wind energy and his leadership in promoting policies that will generate affordable, reliable and clean energy and provide a future for wind energy workers and American factories. We look forward to continuing to work with Sen. Sanders and his colleagues with the shared goal of delivering the benefits of wind energy to even more American families.”
|in News Departments > Policy Watch|
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.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is shunned by the environmentalists that laud renewable energy sources. However, by not supporting both initiatives, they may be working at cross purposes. Natural gas, booming largely because of fracking, complements renewable energies on the grid. The two seemingly opposite technologies are, for the moment, inextricably linked.
Renewable energies like solar and wind produce most of their output at times of the day when not that many people need it. Peak demand for electricity is usually in the morning and evening. Solar production is highest during the middle of the day and afternoon, and wind reaches its highest production at night. Because there is no large-scale economical way to store that energy and reconcile the misaligned supply and demand, most of our peak demand must still rely on non-renewable fuel sources.
Electricity outputs from burning different fossil fuels also have different characteristics. Output from coal-fired plants is particularly inefficient to ramp up and down to meet changes in demand. However, natural gas-fired plants can quickly meet those hourly variations. Some natural gas can even ramp up or down at a moment’s notice to meet minute-to-minute fluctuations
During most of the year in Northern states, energy consumption peaks first in the morning as we all take showers and get ready for the day, then levels out during the midday. It peaks again more dramatically in the evening hours as we flip on computers, televisions, ovens, microwaves and water-heaters. Demand finally drops down to base load, or minimum demand, at night. Some states use Demand Response programs to smooth out demand by making electricity cheaper on off-peak hours, thereby disincentivizing peak use. However, even the best program can’t eliminate all variability in power demand.
Base load in most parts of the United States is still provided by coal plants or nuclear plants. Because both are slow and inefficient to ramp up — though very efficient once at full capacity — they have contractual minimum run times that can last several days. In contrast, large, efficient combined-cycle natural gas plants, which can often be ramped up in half an hour, are used to accommodate these relatively predictable hourly changes. More renewables, however, lowers the predictability of the total energy supply.
The wholesale price of electricity is measured by marginal cost, with the cheapest going on line first. Because renewables are essentially free to switch on, they’re the lowest part of the order, or supply stack, and are automatically connected to the grid. The minute-to-minute variations in solar and wind output from cloud cover or interrupted winds adds another layer of variability to the inescapable daily variation in renewable output.
That variation within daily variability is met by either gas- or oil- fired peaking units, named for their ability to meet fluctuations in peak demand quickly. While gas-fired peaking units are less efficient than their large combined-cycle counterparts, most of them are capable of ramping up to full output within just a few minutes to offset either an unexpected or expected fall in renewable production. Large natural gas combined-cycle units are ostensibly cleaner than coal plants and the same is true of gas-fired peaking units versus their oil counterparts.
When all options were available, hydroelectricity is actually the perfect way of compensating for variation in renewable production. Hydro power ramps up nearly instantaneously, emits few greenhouse gases, if any, and has almost no marginal cost, which determines electric wholesale prices. However, it is limited both to specific locations and in total quantity. Only 6 percent of American electricity is generated by hydropower, and most of it is consumed within state lines.
As gas prices have plummeted from the fracking boom, natural gas is becoming more attractive. Fracking cracks open deep hard-packed reserves of petroleum, and horizontal drilling allows up to 18 different miles-long fracking lines from one single well-pad on the surface. Drillers use a proprietary mix of chemicals to lubricate the fracture, hold it open with sand and allow the trapped gas and oil to rush to the surface. The consequent boom in natural gas extraction has been rebuked, however, largely because of the potential hazards of that chemical slurry. While many companies choose not to disclose their recipes, chemicals can include a lengthy list of ingredients, including hydrochloric and boric acids.
In addition, many blame fracking for the hundreds of earth quakes a year in states like Oklahoma, which recorded only a few dozen a year prior to fracking. After drilling, many companies pump the frack-water back into old wells, disrupting the tectonic homeostasis on the surface. Especially when the process was first developed, drill casings also leaked into water tables a la documentary film Gasland. What’s more, natural gas is largely methane, itself a potent greenhouse gas. So even if the process were entirely clean, it would still add to global warming, albeit less than oil or coal.
Record low natural gas prices induced by the fracking boom have made it more economical and a more likely choice for power generators. The cost of natural gas delivered to power plants peaked at $9.26 in 2008 and averaged $5.19 in 2014. In addition, the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards make cleaner-burning natural gas a better choice for most generators. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan rules, yet to be fully fleshed out, are also expected to make early retirements for coal plants more attractive. This two-pronged move to natural gas is expected to incent increased natural gas-fired capacity, which can ramp up electric generation at a moment’s notice and increasingly supports renewable energy development.
The paradigm is usually framed as renewables instead of fossil fuels — what economists would call substitutes, as opposed to compliments. However, as natural gas compliments renewable energy, they become increasingly price dependent. For example, peanut butter and jelly are also compliments because they’re usually eaten together. If the cost of peanut butter goes down, people will eat both more peanut butter as well as more jelly, assuming that the cost of jelly hasn’t changed. Likewise, when the price of natural gas goes down, so does the effective cost of renewables, which are made ever more plausible by gas-fired generation.
It’s increasingly taken as a given that the energy industry, the largest global greenhouse gas emitter, has to become more sustainable. One theory of that transition supposes that using non-renewable resources can help ease our economy into a renewable era without causing rolling blackouts that can cost billions. The natural gas-renewable complementary relationship is a perfect example of that logic.
Despite the environmental consequences of fracking, the associated boom in natural gas may prove to be a crucial piece of the puzzle in renewable energy integration. Long-term climatic and economic stability depend on the smoothest and quickest transition to renewables possible — and the natural gas boom might be the ticket.
Owen Reynolds is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and an economist at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with an MS in economics from Northeastern University. The opinions and views offered here are his own and not those of the United States, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, individual Commissioners or members of the Commission staff.
Lead image: Fracking. Credit: Shutterstock.