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BUTTE - North-Western Energy says it intends to conduct "open seasons" for two electric transmission projects.

That means potential customers will be able to reserve capacity on proposed transmission lines. The company says it helps ensure a line is built to meet the demand, and the project will have the revenue necessary to support the investment.

The open-season process has been used for many years in the pipeline business and over the past few years has been used more and more in electricity transmission, NorthWestern spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said Friday.

NorthWestern has filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct an open season on a proposed "collector system" of up to five new transmission lines in Montana. They would connect new generation, primarily wind farms, to the existing NorthWestern transmission system and potentially to the proposed Mountain States Transmission Intertie.

NorthWestern also proposes a second open season on the Mountain States Transmission Intertie, a proposed 500-kilovolt line that would run from near Townsend to near Midpoint, Idaho.

"There are more than 5,000 megawatts of proposed new electric generation, much of it wind energy, that has sought access to our transmission system in Montana," said Dave Gates, NorthWestern's vice president of wholesale operations. "In order for these wind and other potential projects to be built, we must expand the transmission system to carry the power to population centers across the West where it is in great demand."

Construction on the MSTI line will begin after the necessary environmental approvals and permits are obtained. It is expected to be placed into service in 2013.

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