Wind Picks Up In Montana-Alberta Borderlands

The border between Montana and Alberta, Canada, is becoming something of a wind energy hot spot. San Francisco-based NaturEner has announced that it has secured a $320 million construction loan from Morgan Stanley to construct the 189-megawatt (MW) Rock Rim wind farm, in Glacier and Toole counties, on the U.S. side of the border. The project will consist of 126 Acciona AW-77 1.5 MW turbines, and is expected to generate enough energy to power more than 60,000 homes. Rim Rock will be constructed on approximately 21,000 acres of private land, and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2012.

The power output from Rim Rock will be purchased by San Diego Gas & Electric (SGD&E) to help the utility meet California’s renewable portfolio standard, which requires SDG&E to generate 33 of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020. Rim Rock will contribute about 3.5 percent of SDG&E’s renewable portfolio per year. Once the wind farm is fully operational, SDG&E has agreed to make a tax-equity capital contribution of about $285 million in the project. The tax-equity investment, which is the first agreement of its kind for a California regulated utility, is designed to pass through lower utility financing costs to SDG&E’s customers, NaturEner said.


image via NaturEner

Rim Rock is merely one project out of more than 1 gigawatt (GW) of wind power capacity that NaturEner has planned for the windy corridor surrounding the Montana-Alberta Tie Line (MATL) transmission line. The 300-MW, 214-mile long MATL will stretch from a substation nine miles northeast of Lethbridge, Alberta, to Great Falls, Mont.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

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