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Wind farm won’t move forward until year’s end – Eight turbines proposed for Anaconda’s C Hill

ANACONDA – The fate of a controversial wind farm proposed atop Anaconda’s C Hill remains on hold until at least the end of the year.

NorthWestern Energy continues to evaluate the project – one of about 30 proposals submitted from across the state – as the company seeks up to 45 megawatts in renewable generation from two or three community-owned developments.

If selected, the wind farm at C Hill would consist of eight, 400-foot tall turbines generating 19.2 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power an estimated 6,000 homes in the area. By comparison, the famous smelter stack is 585 feet tall.

Anaconda-Deer Lodge County began negotiations for a wind energy development lease in 2009, working with the Philipsburg-based Pintler Power LLC on the initial research. It then got in touch with Exergy Integrated Systems, which put together and submitted the proposal in August.

But Butch Larcombe, spokesman with NorthWestern Energy, said they are still working with an energy consultant to evaluate the applications and have not reached any decisions.

“It is absolutely not a done deal,” Larcombe told The Montana Standard. “We have to look at these (proposals) to assess them fairly and honestly.”

The Public Service Commission has stipulated that NorthWestern must generate 15 percent of its electrical capacity from renewable sources by 2015. It is possible NorthWestern could look further into several proposals or none at all.

Average wind speed and data collected at C Hill show the resource is adequate for energy development, according to Pintler Power. C Hill is also located close to an existing NorthWestern transmission substation.

Peggy Beltrone, project manager with Exergy, previously said the wind farm would bring along a number of construction jobs, several permanent positions and highlight redevelopment of Superfund land.

A recent Standard poll of readers found a majority would support the project: of the 739 votes cast, 523 were in favor; 195 were opposed; and 21 had no opinion.

Critics question whether a wind farm would be noisy, ugly and detract from open space on C Hill. Proponents feel it would make beneficial use of the land.

NorthWestern is not expected to compile a short list of finalists until late December or early January.