A renewable energy development company with ties to Ireland has set up an office on Central Avenue in Great Falls as it pursues the possible construction of wind farms and a facility that would store compressed air in underground caverns to generate electricity when demand is higher.
Ireland and Montana may be on different continents, but they have great wind in common, which is why Gaelectric LLC chose to set up shop in the Electric City two years ago, said Colin McGowan, the company’s chief operating officer.
The Great Falls office has since hired seven employees.
“It’s much more efficient to build where the resource is and transport the load,” McGowan said.
The company is tight-lipped about its specific plans in Montana, but it is not shy about promoting wind development.
In October, the company, which has hired a Billings-based public relations firm, briefed state officials at the Capitol on its plans for storing electricity underground.
Additionally, Gov. Brian Schweitzer visited with Gaelectric officials in November in Ireland after he received an award at the University College Dublin.
Since Montana is competing with other states for renewable energy development, the state and industry need to promote themselves, McGowan said.
“How do we attract industry to Montana?” he asked. “There are a lot of people out there promoting their states.”
Gaelectric isn’t the only energy company with ties to Europe that is doing business in Big Sky Country.
“Montana’s open for business,” said Chantel McCormick, a senior energy development specialist with the state Department of Commerce’s Energy Promotion and Development Division.
For example, Spain-based NaturEner is constructing the $500 million Glacier Wind Farm in Toole and Glacier counties, McCormick said. And plans by Fuhrlander AG of Waigandshain, Germany, for a $25 million turbine manufacturing plant are still moving forward, she added.
The Great Falls-based Gaelectric LLC is a subsidiary of Gaelectric Holdings of Dublin, Ireland.
The company also has U.S. offices in Chicago and Clarkston, Wash. The Washington office is the headquarters for Gaelectric Northwest, a recently formed joint venture with Air Dynamics LLC. The partnership is planning 4,000 megawatts of wind power development over the next five years in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, McGowan said.