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Rim Rock wind farm moving forward in Glacier, Toole counties

NaturEner USA of San Francisco announced Tuesday that the renewable energy company has received financing it needs to proceed with construction of a 189-megawatt wind farm on 21,000 acres in Glacier and Toole Counties, its third wind farm in Montana.

NaturEner says it expects the Rim Rock project to be operating by the end of 2012. The wind farm, which would feature 126 Acciona wind turbines, will produce enough energy to power more than 60,000 homes.

NaturEner announced it is ready to proceed with construction after securing a $320 million construction loan from Morgan Stanley – and a $285 million tax-equity capital contribution from San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) once the project has reached commercial operation.

SDG&E will use the green energy produced at the wind farm to meet California’s renewable energy requirement, which is 33 percent by 2020. Rim Rock will contribute about 3.5 percent of SDG&E’s renewable portfolio each year, NaturEner said.

“The Rim Rock Wind Farm is one more opportunity for Montana to be a leader in the energy future, and I am thrilled to see it moving forward,” U.S. Sen. Max Baucus said in a news release. “This is great news for Montana jobs and American energy security.”

As chairman of the Senate committee overseeing the tax code, Baucus helped to craft the Production Tax Credit for wind energy, which helps make projects like Rim Rock possible, his office said.

Tax-equity contributions are made possible because of the Production Tax Credit reauthorized in 2009. The tax break allows investors, in this case SDG&E, to invest in return for collecting a tax credit based on total electricity produced.

The Production Tax Credit expires at the end of 2012. Baucus said he will fight to extend it.

Rim Rock would have access to transmission via the Montana Alberta Tie Line (MATL), a transmission line that’s planned from Great Falls to Lethbridge, Alberta.

NaturEner also announced that it has hired Mortensen Construction of Minneapolis to construct the wind farm. Mortensen also constructed NaturEner’s Glacier I and Glacier II wind projects, which produce 210 megawatts of electricity combined. Rim Rock is located 20 miles north of the Glacier facilities.