Tim MacDonald Havre Daily News email@example.com
It is Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s goal to make Montana the “green” battery and fuel source for the West. “Montana has more potential for energy development from existing and untapped diversified sources than any other state in the nation,” Schweitzer wrote in the introduction to his energy policy. In Montana’s energy potential Schweitzer sees markets, employment, tax base and a way to diminish America’s reliance on outside energy sources. His desire to bring Montana to the forefront in energy production is the gem of his administration. “Believe me he (the governor) is on top of energy development,” Anthony Preite, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development said. “If I am not up on what is happening in the energy market the last thing I want to do is run into the Governor in the hall. I go and hide and get caught up as soon as I can.” There are four basic sources for energy that can be developed. Montana already has hydroelectric energy and the potential for more; there are also available untapped oil and gas reserves; the state has the largest untapped coal reserves in the United States; the potential for developing wind generated electrical energy is also the largest in the country and there is an ongoing effort to be a leading producer of bio fuels and lubricants. The development of this energy will provide tax base and good jobs to the area of Montana outside “the boot” which is a nickname for the area of western and southwestern Montana which is already experiencing and economic surge. One of the areas outside “the boot” is the Hi-Line. The Hi-Line has untapped oil and gas reserves and existing capped wells that may now be feasible sources of fossil fuels with the rise of petroleum prices, There is also rich farm land which could be developed as a source of oilseed and other fuel sources and one need only step outside on most days to see the potential as a source of wind energy. The governor’s plans for each of these sources becomes a little complicated, so, to make each source easier to understand, the Havre Daily News is putting together a series of articles isolating and explaining each potential energy source. The first is wind power generation.
Montana is ranked third in the U. S. in winds of class three and above, according to the governor’s office. This is the line on the seven-class wind scale that is capable of generating wind power. All of the area where this wind is available is east of the Rocky Mountains. There are already two existing wind generation plants in Montana. The Horseshoe Bend array of windmills in Cascade County is the smaller of the two, generating nine megawatts (MW) of electricity. The second is at Judith Gap in Wheatland County. There are five more arrays planned, one in Wheatland and Meagher counties to generate 50 to 100 MW, one in Glacier County to generate 175 MW, a 35 MW array in Jefferson County, a 400 to 450 MW array in Stillwater County and a 500 MW array in Valley County. The demand for cleanly produced electrical energy is expected to be 21,000 MW in California and 30,000 in the western United States, according to statistics from the Governors office, it is this market that Schweitzer hopes to tap. “The government cannot dictate to the private market, but we can play a central role in attracting needed energy producers,” Schweitzer said. The office states that their objectives include supporting all Large scale wind farms to individual generators for farms homes and businesses. The plan is to combine with generated electricity with existing and newly advanced fossil fuel generation to create a source of “green” energy and to sell it through planned and state-supported transmission lines to states with energy shortages. There are a number of tax breaks and other incentives for generating wind power, including federal and state tax breaks for both large scale generators and individuals. There are also bonds available through the federal government to individuals and large generators, including Indian reservations for wind power development. “I am committed to growing all sectors of Montana’s diverse economy. One of our most exciting economic growth potentials is energy development,” Schweitzer said.