Last week's story, "Windmills for Northern" was right on the mark and reinforces why the Montana Legislature should leave the Renewable Energy Standard alone.
As Jay Reed, instructor in the Sustainable Energy Technology Program at Montana State University-Northern, points out, wind energy as no longer alternative energy. It is mainstream energy.
That's why Northern, along with Missoula College, is preparing students for an ever-expanding field. About 20 students earn sustainable energy technician degrees each year through these programs (a number that continues to climb every year), and these degrees lead to some of the highest paying jobs around.
The driving force behind the creation of many of these job opportunities in Montana is the Montana Renewable Power Production and Rural Economic Development Act, or simply the RES, which became law in 2005. Wind projects built since 2005 have created 1,150 direct jobs in Montana, and landowners are receiving $4,500 to $10,000 per turbine per year through lease agreements.
Despite the benefits of the RES, the Montana State Legislature is working to water down the RES again this legislative session. Doing so would lessen the job opportunities for recent college graduates from programs like the one at Northern.
Montana's RES is working to create jobs, bring economic development to rural Montana and produce clean, affordable energy for consumers. The Legislature should leave it well enough alone.
Sam Thompson, Helena