The state’s largest wind farm goes up in flames

The Clearwater Wind Project in southeast Montana began generating power for Puget Sound Energy this month.

The Washington utility announced Nov. 16 that it is receiving power from its 350-megawatt interest in the wind project about 30 miles northwest of Miles City. Puget acquired the power through a 2021 power purchase agreement with project owner NextEra.



wind farm

The first phase of the Clearwater Wind project includes 131 turbines and a power line to the Colstrip substation. The turbines are 584 feet tall and weigh 798,000 pounds.


LARRY MAYER, BILLINGS GAZETTE


Clearwater will be Montana’s largest wind project with 150,000 acres and 269 wind turbines when completed in 2023. The 750 megawatt project touches three counties of Montana, Custer, Garfield and Rosebud.

“Today is a big day for PSE as we begin delivering new clean energy from the Clearwater Wind Project,” said Ron Roberts, PSE vice president of energy supply, in a press release. “This is another step that will help us achieve our goal of reducing our own carbon emissions to net zero by 2045. We know Montana has large wind resources and this agreement demonstrates PSE’s continued investment in Montana’s energy industry.”

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Portland General Electric buys Montana wind farm

Portland General Electric CEO Maria Pope described the Clearwater acquisition as a $415 million investment that would help position PGE for a government-required transition away from coal.

Puget is Montana’s oldest energy export customer. The Washington utility, which has had an interest in the Colstrip power plant since the 1970s, is facing state climate legislation that requires the utility to phase out coal-fired electricity to its 1.5 million customers by the end of 2025. A similar law in Oregon has forced another Colstrip owner, Portland General Electric, to buy a 208-megawatt ownership interest in Clearwater.



Clear Water Wind Chart

Portland General Electric is scheduled to begin purchasing electricity in late 2023. In addition to its own stake in Clearwater, Portland General Electric will purchase an additional 103 megawatts under contract.


Montana's largest wind farm under construction near Miles City

Half of the project is scheduled to go online by the end of 2022. Colstrip stakeholder Puget Sound Energy has signed a contract for the first 350 megawatts of the project’s capacity.

Three of the four owners of Colstrip in the Pacific Northwest have invested in wind projects in Montana over the past four years. PacifiCorp’s Pryor Mountain wind project near Bridger began operations in 2021. Pryor’s capacity is 250 megawatts.

In the last two years, PacifiCorp’s parent company, Berkshire Hathaway, has also purchased the Montana Alberta Tie Line, a 190-mile commercial transmission line connecting Great Falls and Lethbridge. The 230-kilovolt capacity line will also carry shippable Canadian natural gas power south to NorthWestern Energy.



wind farm

A pickup truck is dwarfed by wind turbines at the NextEra Energy Resources Clearwater Wind Project between Miles City and Jordan.


LARRY MAYER, BILLINGS GAZETTE


Berkshire also bought three MATL-maintained wind farms in Montana this year. Glacier Wind Energy I and II and Rim Rock Wind Energy generate turbines with a total capacity of 399 megawatts. They are among the earliest wind farms built in Montana for energy export and were previously owned by NaturEner.


Analysts see benefits of Montana wind farm for school trust countries

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