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Group announces plans new 500-megawatt wind farm December 1, 2009

A Minnesota-based wind energy developer and a Montana-based company announced plans for a 500 megawatt wind farm to be built near the Judith Gap wind project, which produces 135 megawatts of electricity

National Wind and Billings-based Montana Wind Resource are forming Judith Highlands Energy in the central Montana counties of Judith Basin, Wheatland, Golden Valley, and Fergus.

Currently, the project includes nearly 50,000 acres, almost 100 percent of the land needed to develop the wind farm’s first phase.

Montana Wind Resource’s Chief Executive Officer Rhyno Stinchfield and Chief Operating Officer Steve Tyrrel, along with National Wind’s development team, will jointly manage the wind farm.

The business model is unique and gives landowners the chance to become stakeholders in the wind farm, said Erin Edholm, spokeswoman for National Wind.

“Typically landowners receive a lease payment when a turbine is placed on their property,” said Edholm. “We not only do that, but once the project actually begins generating electricity, the landowner receives some of that revenue too.”

Landowners do not have to become company stakeholders to participate, however, she said.

Judith Highlands Energy’s development team executed two leases for on-site meteorological equipment installation. The met towers are scheduled to be installed within the next 30 days. One year of on-site wind analysis is needed to effectively determine the best spots for wind turbine placement.

“The measuring equipment transmits daily reports on what the wind is doing,” Edholm said. “We’ll use that to design the final project and then apply for permits after that is complete.”

Judith Highlands Energy is expected to be developed in multiple 100-plus megawatt phases over the next five to eight years. A local board of advisors, consisting of participating community members, is being put together.

The project will include more than 300 turbines.

“Primarily, landowners have been very positive about this project,” said Stinchfield. “We have not done the calculations on what the tax revenue will be for the counties involved, but it will be substantial.”

The Judith Highlands Energy wind farm will be about 20 or 30 miles west and north of the Invenergy Judith Gap wind farm, just north of the Little Belt Mountains, said Edholm.

A transmission line for the project has not been named yet, she said.

‘We will have to submit a request to gain access to the current grid,” said Edholm. “”We are looking at some of the private transmission projects, such as the TransCanada Northern Lights project, to really build this project to its potential.”

Montana Wind Resources has two employees. National Wind is based in Minneapolis and has 48 employees. The company has a 50 megawatt wind farm in southwestern Minnesota and recently finished a 169 megawatt wind farm in North Dakota.

“We have another project in southeastern Minnesota,” said Edholm. “We have about 4,000 megawatts of wind generation in the pipeline of projects that will be online in the next two to three years.”

Financing for the Judith Highlands Energy will be secured after the final project is designed, said Edholm.

Jo Dee Black, Great Falls Tribune – http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20091201/NEWS01/912010305/Group-announces-plans-new-500-megawatt-wind-farm

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