Democrats last week announced legislation to help establish an energy co-op powered by two windfarms near Fort Peck and Molt.
The wind farms would each cost about $16 million and generate 10 megawatts. The farms would have four or five windmills each, depending on how many people buy into the co-op and could be up and running within two years.
“It’s not only good policy, it’s also good for the earth,” said the sponsor, Sen. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula. “If we really want to do something about energy independence, this is the beginning.”
Wanzenried’s bill would allow the co-op to sell bonds to finance the project. While the bill had over 35 co-sponsors, none were Republicans.
Because the windmills would share power over NorthWestern Power’s transmission lines, Rep. Alan Olson, R-Roundup, worried that the project could raise rates for the utility’s consumers.
“The wind doesn’t blow all the time,” Olson said. “You can’t just drop that wind onto the transmission system.”
Because wind blows intermittently, Olson said, all wind-generated power requires a “firming” or “regulatory” power source that provides more consistent backup power.
Olson said republicans might be receptive if lawmakers can agree on financing the wind project and its attendant infrastructure in a way that doesn’t obligate NorthWestern ratepayers.
“People won’t oppose wind just because it’s green,” Olson said. “I have no intention of making it a wedge issue.”
(The Legislative Digest is compiled by Dan Testa, a graduate student at the University of Montana School of Journalism.)
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