A wind farm proposed in Valley County in northeastern Montana keeps getting smaller, but the developer insists the project isn’t dead.
Stephen Wiley of Texas-based GreenHunter Wind Energy LLC, said the company now hopes to construct a 10-megawatt wind farm entirely on private land.
The initial proposal was for a 500-megawatt facility covering 20,000 acres of publicly and privately owned property.
Conservation interests raised concerns because the project was located so close the Bitter Creek Wilderness study area, which is known for its views and wildlife.
GreenHunter scaled its plans back to 170 megawatts and then to 50.
This week, Wiley said the opposition made the larger plans too risky, prompting the third reduction in size to 10 megawatts.
“From my perspective, it was a risk element I just didn’t need to deal with,” Wiley said.
However, the project remains important to the company, he said.
It will be a test site of new wind turbines the company has purchased from a Chinese company called Min Yang.
Min Yang is the first Chinese company to export turbines to the U.S. market, Wiley said.
If the turbines prove satisfactory, they would be used for other projects, he said.
European manufacturers, who dominate the market, and U.S. companies have a backlog of orders because demand is so strong, Wiley said.
“Because they have not been used in the U.S., we plan to use this Valley County project as a test project,” he said.
Larry Mires, who works with Two Rivers Economic Growth, the Valley County economic development agency, said residents are disappointed the project has been reduced so much.
Environmental groups decry coal-fired power but when a green energy project is proposed they oppose it because it’s going to hurt the view, he said.
“I find that really hard to swallow,” Mires said.
Mark Good, the outreach coordinator for the Montana Wilderness Association, said MWA isn’t against wind power. Some areas are better suited for development, whether it’s wind, natural gas or oil development, he said.
Good said the large project in the original plans was literally located on the border of the wilderness study area.
“The Bitter Creek Wilderness Study Area is not the only place the wind blows in eastern and central Montana,” Good said.
Mires said the towers were sited there because that’s where the wind was the best.
“You don’t pick where the wind blows,” he said.
By Karl Puckett
24 February 2008
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