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GREAT FALLS — A Chicago-based company has applied for a permit to build a $50 million, 24-megawatt wind farm southeast of Great Falls.

In its application filed Wednesday, Invenergy said the project would bring an $18 million economic benefit to the area over 20 years in the form of property taxes, construction contracts and landowner royalties.

Company spokesman Mark Jacobson described the location's wind resource as "screaming," the Great Falls Tribune reported.

"It's very similar to the Judith Gap wind regime," Jacobson said, referring to the company's 135-megawatt Judith Gap Wind Farm in Wheatland County.

The Big Otter Wind Energy Project is proposed on 3,500 acres of leased private land just south of Belt, about 20 miles from Great Falls. The power would be shipped to an existing 100-kilovolt transmission line.

The company said it has an additional 40,000 acres for future phases of the project, which it said demonstrates support from surrounding landowners.

The wind farm would create 100 jobs during construction, and up to four wind technicians would be hired to operate it.

To limit the impact on views, the 400-foot-tall turbines will have tubular towers and be painted gray or off white, company officials said. It said the project would fall within the national range of bird mortalities of 2.2 birds per turbine per year, based on the company's initial analysis.

Invenergy has asked that construction be allowed to begin within 18 months of the issuance of a special-use permit, rather than the usual six months. Jacobson said the start of construction will depend on whether Invenergy reaches an agreement to sell the power.

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