Eight wind turbines have been approved for state-owned school trust property in Sweet Grass County as part of a larger wind farm that would be the county’s first.
Planned for the rolling terrain north of Interstate 90 south of the Crazy Mountains and three miles northeast of Springdale, the Coyote Wind Project would generate at least $21,600 in annual revenue for the state, said Dick Moore, area manager of the state Department of Natural Resource’s Southern Land Office in Billings.
Last Tuesday, the DNRC approved the eight turbines that are planned on school trust land.
The state Department of Environmental Quality conducted a survey of school trust property for wind development potential, and the Springdale site ranked second behind Judith Gap, where a 135-megawatt wind farm went on-line in 2006, Moore said.
On adjacent private land, 36 turbines are proposed, which would generate 64.8 megawatts of electricity. The eight state land turbines would generate 14.4 megawatts for a total of 79.2 megawatts.
That’s enough to power about 40,000 homes — if the wind farm is operating at full capacity, said Daniel Abelson, project manager for developer Enerfin, which is based in Spain but has an office in Portland, Ore.
The project is shovel-ready and transmission exists to ship the power, but when construction will begin depends on when the company reaches an agreement to sell the power, Abelson said.
He said the Montana site would produce the most electricity during the winter, when demand also is high in states such as Idaho and Oregon.
“Montana, and especially the Sweetgrass County area, has one of the best wind resources in the Northwest, so it’s a very attractive resource for utilities in the Northwest,” Abelson said.
On Aug. 10, the DNRC issued a draft environmental impact statement, collecting 177 written and oral comments from 21 citizens. The top concerns raised were the impact the facility would have on bats and birds and views, Moore said.
Two years of post construction monitoring of bats and birds will be required, Moore said. A technology advisory committee also will be formed to provide advice on corrective action if necessary, he said. The committee will include representatives from the state and federal wildlife agencies.
The poles will stand 262 feet tall but with the attached blades their total height will be 400 feet, Moore said.
Enerfin will pay the DNRC a one-time installation fee of $14,400, plus $21,600 year or 3 percent of gross annual revenue whichever is greater. The money will be placed on the common school trust, which is earmarked for schools.
KARL PUCKETT, Great Falls Tribune – http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20091210/NEWS01/912100303/First+wind+turbines+OK+d+for+Sweet+Grass+County