Deer Lodge County pitches Anaconda wind farm to NorthWestern

2012-11-02T09:00:00Z 2012-11-14T09:03:06Z Deer Lodge County pitches Anaconda wind farm to NorthWesternBy GEORGE PLAVEN Montana Standard The Billings Gazette
November 02, 2012 9:00 am  • 

ANACONDA — A wind farm atop Anaconda’s C Hill could inch closer to development if NorthWestern Energy likes what it sees out of the project proposal.

Deer Lodge County, in conjunction with local partners Pintler Power LLC and Exergy Integrated Systems, is exploring the possibility of installing eight wind turbines that would generate 19.2 megawatts of electricity on the hill over the south side of town.

Exergy submitted its proposal to NorthWestern Energy on Aug. 28. The utility is seeking up to 45 megawatts of renewable generation, required by statute, to meet growing demand.

NorthWestern Energy is pursuing those resources by attracting cost-effective, community-owned projects across the state. It is expected to compile a short list of eligible projects by the end of the month.

Peggy Beltrone, project manager with Exergy, believes a wind farm in Anaconda would not only fit the bill but also highlight new development opportunities on remediated Superfund land.

“I think this is exactly the type of project intended,” Beltrone said. “We believe our proposal fits in nicely with the community renewable requirement.”

The wind farm would consist of turbines more than 400 feet high. By comparison, the nearby smelter stack comes in at 585 feet high. They would power as many as 6,000 homes in the area.

C Hill is situated close to an existing NorthWestern Energy transmission substation, Beltrone added, and an interconnection agreement is already in place for the resource.

“We know power can be put on the system and brought to market,” she said.

In 2009, Anaconda-Deer Lodge County began negotiations for a wind energy development lease with the Philipsburg-based Pintler Power, which began collecting wind data at C Hill.

With help from the Environmental Protection Agency, they set up two anemometer towers to track average wind speeds and measure the potential of a wind farm development.

Jack Standa, owner of Pintler Power, said the wind resource at C Hill was good enough to move forward with the project. That’s when he contacted Exergy to get involved.

“We’ve stuck with it, and we’re at a point now where we have a competitive proposal,” Standa said. “It looks like a nice little project, and it fits with what NorthWestern Energy is looking for.”

The project also fits with the county’s objectives in its growth policy, according to Superfund coordinator Carl Nyman. He is excited to see a potential wind farm taking shape.

“It’s one of those redevelopment opportunities we have here,” Nyman told the Standard. “Our growth policy identifies this as a favorable development for the county. We’ve been very supportive of it.”

Beltrone points to numerous construction jobs, a handful of permanent jobs and additional tax revenue as benefits for the county.

But not everyone is excited.

Linda Behan Brooks, a self-employed resident of 12 years, is concerned that a wind farm on C Hill would be a noisy eyesore in the community.

“I can’t imagine what eight 400-foot turbines would do to our skyline,” Brooks said. “That’s a monstrosity. I just feel it would be a really bad thing for Anaconda.”

Beltrone said there's plenty of work ahead, but said she is optimistic.

“We are Montanans, and we would like to help a Montana community,” she said.

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