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Firm eyes wind farm by Geyser/Stanford, Mont. March 25, 2009

Prompted by interest from a New York developer, the state of Montana is soliciting bids to develop what would be Judith Basin County’s first commercial wind farm.

Dave Healow of Billings-based Two Dot Wind said the area’s wind capacity is “first class all the way from Raynesford to Windham.”

Healow arranged the proposal, which is being called Surprise Creek, but has asked OwnEnergy to invest in and develop the project, he said.

OwnEnergy, which is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., asked the state to seek development bids.

“It looks like a legitimate inquiry at the initial stages of wind development,” said Clive Rooney, area manager for the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s northeast land office in Lewistown. “But who knows whether it will result in a project or not.”

The project involves 3,120 acres of school trust land on a ridge straddling Highway 200 between Geyser and Stanford east of Great Falls, he said.

Preliminary plans call for up to 59 megawatts of wind energy, Rooney said. That’s a little less than half the size of the Judith Gap wind farm.

The land currently is being leased for crops and grazing with the remainder set aside in the Conservation Reserve Program.

“There’s speculation from wind developers in the area, but there are no wind turbines being developed,” Rooney said.

After OwnEnergy nominated the site for wind development, it kicked in a competitive bidding process that will conclude April 29.

A similar bidding procedure is used when state lands are nominated for oil and gas development, Rooney said.

The land would be leased to the company that best demonstrates competency to run a wind farm and offers the best price per megawatt of energy produced, Rooney said.

The state charges wind developers an annual minimum operating fee of 3 percent of gross annual revenues or $3,000 for each megawatt installed on school trust, whichever is greater.

A one-time installation fee of $2,500 per megawatt of installed capacity also is charged.

OwnEnergy’s Web site says it partners with landowners to develop small- to mid-sized wind projects producing 10 to 80 megawatts of electricity.

The company was founded by Jacob Susman, who helped form the alternative energy investing group for Wall Street money manager Goldman Sachs, the Web site says.

Karl Pucket, Great Falls Tribune – http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20090324/NEWS01/903240303

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