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Wind power meeting set for Havre

Havre and Glendive are now on a list with Billings and Great Falls to host workshops on installing turbines for wind power.

The Montana Wind Working Group will hold the workshops to tell people how they can apply for money through the 2002 Farm Bill to install alternative energy supplies.

Gayle Shirley, a staffer for Secretary of State Bob Brown who is a member of the working group, said it added Havre and Glendive to the list after hearing about interest in the program in rural areas.

The Glendive workshop will be on Feb. 3 and the Havre workshop will be Feb. 4.

Larry Flowers, technical director of Wind Powering America, a U.S. Department of Energy initiative to inform and educate people about wind power, will be one of the speakers at the workshop. He said the purpose of the workshops is to make people familiar with the options for using wind power, and with the kinds of projects that were funded through the Farm Bill last year.

About an hour of the workshop will be spent on how people can apply for federal money, he said.

Flowers said Wind Powering America has given a high priority to presenting information in several states that have good wind resources but not much development of wind power, including Montana.

Timlynn Babitsky, executive director of the North America Rural Futures Institute in Havre and a member of the Montana Wind Working Group, said she was able to get the two rural meetings scheduled after people responded to her publicized request to hear about local interest in the wind program. After a story appeared in the Havre Daily News, she said, 35 people in north-central Montana called her saying they wanted to attend a workshop.

"It was the response of the folks that read that article that gave me the leverage to say we need to have one in Havre, we need to have some workshops outside of Billings and Great Falls," she said.

The group had said at earlier meetings that enough interest would have to be demonstrated to justify bringing out-of-state specialists like Flowers to the Hi-Line, she said.

Once the money becomes available early in 2004, people will have about a six-week window to apply for it, Babitsky said. NARFI, which is a sponsor of all of the workshops as well as the host of the Havre workshop, will assist anyone who needs help once the applications are available, she said.

NARFI is looking for sponsors to help with the Havre workshop, she added.

Flowers said Wind Powering Montana will hold sessions in other towns modeled after the workshops in Billings, Glendive, Great Falls and Havre.

The Montana Wind Working Group has set an objective to have 25 small wind turbines operating by 2004, and to have wind power supplying 150 megawatts to the Montana power grid, probably through wind farms and other larger projects, Shirley said.

Although interest in alternative energy is rising in the state, very little has been done to install wind power, according to Babitsky.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this year has distributed $21.7 million provided by the Farm Bill to 114 projects in 24 states. None of those were in Montana.

Eligible projects include wind power, solar power and other renewable sources.

Small wind-power systems can be hooked into a power grid, replacing power purchased and providing a credit on the owner's power bill for any surplus electricity provided to the grid.

Babitsky said Montana Wind Working Group can help people find funding sources beyond the USDA money, but that some money probably will have to be provided by the person installing the system. Guaranteed loans to cover the cost of wind systems also are available, she said.

For more information, contact Babitsky at 265-6354.

On the Net: NARFI:

Montana Wind Working Group:

Wind Powering America:


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