Northwestern Energy is considering building a natural gas fired electrical generating plant adjacent to the Mill Creek substation near Anaconda. They are considering a plant in the 120 to 220 MW range, which would help stabilize their existing power lines and firm up the power produced by wind generation. If the plant is built, construction will probably begin in 2009, with a completion date of 2010. It is expected to cost more than $100 million, and employ 10 full-time workers after construction is complete.Northwestern has also retained the service of Credit Suisse to evaluate their “strategic options” with regard to their stake in the Colstrip 4 plant. Northwestern leased this power until 2007, when they purchased 222 MW outright. Approximately 40% of this power is used in Montana, with another 40% shipped to the Seattle area. The Montana Consumer Council believes that Northwestern violated the terms of the 2004 agreement that brought the company out of bankruptcy when they purchased this power without first receiving permission from the Montana Public Service Commission.
On Thursday, Two Dot Wind LLC of Billings asked the Montana Public Service Commission to reject Northwestern Energy’s plan to charge what they feel is an exorbitant integration fee to add power from the company’s wind generators into Northwestern’s electrical grid. Northwestern’s position is that if they are required to buy the four megawatts of power generated by Two Dot Wind at Martinsdale and Livingston, they will also need to purchase an equal amount of regulating reserve power to make up for times when the wind isn’t blowing, and that Two Dot Wind should be responsible for paying for the extra costs of integrating that power output. Two Dot Wind and representatives of other small wind generating companies contend that the cost of integrating their power into the grid is small, and that they should not have to pay unless Northwestern comes up with a study that shows the actual cost. They fear that if the Public Service Commission allows the higher cost, wind energy companies will abandon projects in Montana in favor of neighboring states with lower integration costs. Two Dot Wind was founded by Billings doctor David Healow, and owns wind turbines at the Martinsdale Hutterite Colony and just north of Two Dot.
The Helena Independent Record article by Mike Dennison on this story can be found at www.helenair.com/articles/2008/03/07/top/55st_080307_wind.txt