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PSE IN MONTANA:

NEWS

 

Please see a number of news articles relevant to PSE's work in Montana. For more information please visit our FAQ section or the PSE Newsroom.

Stillwater County News Column: Beaver Creek Wind project diversifies Montana’s energy economy

Jim Hogan

PSE Director of Major Projects

May 9, 2024 

 

While we’ve been in Montana since the 1970s, this month marks an important milestone for Puget Sound Energy (PSE) as we break ground on the Beaver Creek Wind Project – a 248 MW utility-scale wind project located on the high plains of Stillwater County. 

 

As Puget Sound Energy takes responsible steps toward one of the largest clean energy transformations of any utility in the country: we want to make it very clear – Montana is a big part of that journey. Montana’s wind provides real value to PSE’s system as a winter peaking resource. Simply put, Montana wind blows longer and stronger in the winter when our customer demand is greatest.

 

Montana has been an incredible energy partner keeping the lights on for PSE and our customers for over 50 years. For these reasons, we continue to invest in the state and its energy economy. This month, we were proud to deliver Stillwater County’s first impact fee from the project in the amount of $2.68 million. Further benefits will flow to the local community, county and the state in terms of temporary and permanent job creation, tax revenue, project spend, and support for the community.

 

We are proud to be investing in Montana communities. And equally happy to be looking to expand our infrastructure and investments in Washington state, both east of the mountains and in our service area. There are unique resource opportunities in different places, and all of them will be required to meet the needs of customers and communities.

 

As we look to the future, we see incredible opportunities to continue to partner with Montana and be a responsible, and reliable partner in the state’s vibrant renewable energy future. In fact, there may be further opportunity to add wind turbines in neighboring Sweet Grass County, as well as a lithium-ion battery energy storage system to shape Beaver Creek’s variable wind output and better match PSE’s customer energy needs.

 

While we have a lot of experience developing and operating major wind projects, Beaver Creek is our first wind development in over a decade, and we couldn’t be more excited. We have received an incredibly warm reception from the local community in Stillwater County and we want to thank the county commissioners, landowners, and local businesses for their warm hospitality.  

 

It is important for us that we are a good neighbor and that we keep the lines of communication open as the project comes to life. We invite you to learn more about our work across Montana and specifically the Beaver Creek project. We will post regular updates on our PSE in Montana website: www.PSEMontana.com.

 

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Stillwater County News: Promise kept: Son honors father's wish for a wind farm

Charlie Denison 

Apr 11, 2024 

 

Loren Eder looks out the window of a ranch home on his family’s property located on the high plains in Stillwater County, between Reed Point and Rapelje. He’s always admired this view, one that captures the Beartooths. You can even see the lights of Red Lodge at night, he said, and — since 2018 — he can also see around 30 wind turbines on the horizon, a result of Pattern’s Stillwater Wind project.

 

By summer of 2025, the view from outside his family home — land that has belonged to the Eders since the early 1900s — will no longer just have wind turbines in the distance; it will serve as host to many wind turbines, as there will be a total of 88 in the neighborhood.

 

Although Loren said he’d “rather not see the towers,” the wind farm is what his late father Adelbert — and other landowners — envisioned for the land, inspired by the wind farm built north of Harlowton.

 

“I don’t think [Adelbert] envisioned that many turbines,” Loren said, “but he knew it would subsidize what he really loved: the farming and ranching.”

 

Adelbert passed away three years ago, and — as acting manager of the family ranch — Loren wants to honor his late father’s plans. He promised he would and — as an evangelical pastor — he practices what he preaches. He follows through.

 

Still, it’s not what Loren ever expected for the land. Although he and his family live in Columbus now, coming back to the ranch always holds a special place. He wouldn’t trade growing up outside Five Mile Road for anything, he said. He’s grateful for the memories, and for all the work ethic that was instilled in him. All the children had chores to do. Whether haying or harvesting, it was all hands on deck.

 

As of April 1, a different kind of work requiring all hands on deck has begun, as Puget Sound Energy has started construction of the Beaver Creek wind farm. According to PSE Director of Special Projects Jim Hogan, this construction project will employ somewhere between 150-200 workers for an expected year’s worth of work. The project encompasses 41 miles of roads north of Interstate 90 between Columbus and Reed Point.

 

There will be traffic, and there will be inconveniences, Loren said, but he doesn’t think it will pose the same kind of problem as the Pattern project did six years ago.

 

“The increased traffic when construction was in process was an issue for some of the neighbors when the last project took place, but once it got done then the truck traffic and all that died down,” Loren said. “But I don’t see that being as much of a problem with this project. We just don’t have the population out here.”

 

Hogan, who was present at the Stillwater County Commissioners’ April 2 traveling meeting in Rapelje, said there are currently around 30 workers on site. It is Hogan’s intention to avoid traffic issues while construction takes place between now and May of 2025. One way he hopes to accomplish this is to give trucks hauling materials to the site a strict 35-mile-an-hour speed limit on gravel roads.

 

As construction has started Eder says things have been going smoothly. There’s a long way to go — at its peak there will be around 200 workers on site — but Eder said he’s optimistic this will remain the case. So is Hogan.

 

“We have received an incredibly warm reception from the local community in Stillwater County and we want to thank the county commissioners, landowners, local businesses and community for welcoming us,” Hogan said. “It’s important to us that we are a good neighbor and that we keep the lines of communication open as the project comes to life.”

 

 

It’s taken more than 20 years for Adelbert’s wind farm to come to fruition, Loren said, which makes it hard to believe it’s finally here — and it will come with some positive impacts for the community. This includes the first of three impact fees paid to Stillwater County for $2,680,000.00 (.5% of the construction cost). Construction began on April 1, one week ahead of schedule. Commissioners are still determining how the money will be distributed.

 

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Stillwater County News: Beaver Creek wind farm construction slated for April 2024

Charlie Denison

December 28, 2023

 

An 88-turbine wind farm will be in Stillwater County’s future by 2025.

 

Located between Stillwater and Sweet Grass counties, the Beaver Creek Wind Farm — a dream of Rapelje area resident Adelbert Eder, who passed away three years ago — encompasses 41 miles of roads north of Interstate 90 between Columbus and Reed Point. Adelbert’s son Loren is following in his father’s footsteps to see to it that this project comes to fruition, a process his father started more than 20 years ago.

 

According to PSE Project Manager Jim Hogan, this project is a win-win for PSE and Stillwater County, as the project moves PSE forward to abide by Washington’s ambitious new regulations and provides an economic boon for the area. “[PSE] has a plan to be carbon neutral by 2030,” Hogan said, “and the Beaver Creek project is the first new project to help us attain that goal, which makes Beaver Creek very important to us.”

 

Construction on the project is expected to begin around April 1, weather permitting, and will employ somewhere between 150-200 workers for an expected year’s worth of work.

 

According to psemontana.com, the project will also utilize federal tax credits and comply with provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that emphasize the importance of union and/or prevailing wage jobs and apprenticeship programs for tradespeople involved with the project.

During the construction period, Hogan said county residents should expect more traffic in the area. He ensures the public, however, that this traffic will die down and be more restrictive to landowners in the area once construction is complete.

 

“We are going to try to be a good neighbor and not repeat traffic issues that have occurred in the past,” Hogan said, referencing some of the traffic concerns when Stillwater Wind facility opened in 2019.

 

Being a good neighbor includes agreeing to the county’s request to maintain the designated roadways impacted by the project.

 

Stillwater County Commissioner Tyrel Hamilton said he is encouraged that PSE is mindful of the fact that the ag producers still need to bring their equipment and animals up and down the road and will do their best to avoid collisions or other issues related to others using the road.

Hogan said he’s been very intentional about this and has been to several Stillwater County Commissioner meetings, where he’s has had a lot of “parking lot conversations” in which he addressed the traffic concerns, as well as concerns regarding safety of birds in the area.

“As part of the permitting process for this facility there’s an avian study that’s been done,” Hogan said. “We look for impacts on golden eagles, bald eagles and the species. That dictates where we place the turbines. For us, part of the attraction of this site is it’s not a site that has a high avian population and we have done studies to evaluate the avian population and we will continue to do that during the project.”

 

All in all, Hogan said he’s encouraged by the talks with landowners and others in the community and is excited to get rolling on the project.

 

“It’s fun and exciting for me to come into a community with a project like Beaver Creek and have so many happy to see us,” he said. “Like I said, the situation is a win-win. We’re going to spend a lot of money, build something cool and help the local community.”

 

PSE’s interest in Montana energy is not new. The company has been a partner in Montana’s energy economy since the 1970s, most significantly in Colstrip, and more recently with power purchase agreements with major Montana projects including the Clearwater Wind Farm in Rosebud, Custer and Garfield Counties and hydropower from the first tribally owned hydroelectric dam in the U.S., the Selis Ksanka Qlispe hydroelectric project, located at Flathead Lake. PSE is working on complying with a requirement from the state of Washington to no longer use coal as a power supply by 2025.

 

This being the case, PSE is prioritizing wind and other energy alternatives, and Montana “has a lot of wind and solar potential that is really attractive to a lot of utilities.” Hogan said he is grateful to have the opportunity use Montana’s resource. As far as he’s concerned, “From a global standpoint, we’re all on the same planet, and we all need to work together.” Sharing energy resources is an example of this.

 

Considering PSE already partners with Montana energy, this project came together rather organically. Hogan said the project will interconnect on NorthWestern Energy’s system and will use existing PSE transmission on the Colstrip Transmission System to bring the wind energy back to PSE customers.

 

“We’ve got the transmission and Montana is a great resource for both wind and solar, so this is an opportunity for us to get the power we need and it’s also an opportunity for us to inject a lot of money and jobs into Montana, so I think it’s a win-win,” Hogan said.

 

This is a new stage for PSE, and one that excites Hogan, to be in a different part of Montana with a wind resource as opposed to a coal resource. He’s also thrilled that the landowners and county are behind that works for PSE from a resource standpoint. Hogan said the developer had been working on this project for close to 10 years, and PSE had the ability to acquire the work the developer has done. The process has been smooth.

 

This new PSE operation, Hogan said, comes with a lot of benefits, one being good jobs, as PSE will open up 15-20 permanent, full-time positions. These employees are expected to start come summer 2024.

Hamilton is also excited about the wind farm. He said the biggest benefit to the county as a whole is the long-term taxes.

 

“[PSE] is operating on a 25-year plan, and tax abatement runs for 10 years. By year 11 they will be paying full taxable value.”

 

Hamilton said the total project cost estimate per wind farm is $126 million, and the project includes three farms, equating to $1.26 million of impact fees per project. These impact fees come directly to the county, Hamilton said, a benefit that can be used for impacted school districts, which in this case would be Rapelje and Reed Point.

 

In addition to the commissioners, Hogan said landowners are also enthused that the project is a go. “For a farmer to have wind turbines on their farm — it’s an income source, and it’s relatively low impact to them,” Hogan said. “Again, I think it’s one of those things that’s a win-win.”

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Billings Gazette: Large wind farm slated for Columbus

Tom Lutey

December 7, 2023

A Washington utility unveiled plans for a commercial-scale wind farm near Columbus on Thursday, reviving a project once slated to serve Montana consumers.

 

Puget Sound Energy said it will build a 248-megawatt wind farm in the Beaver Creek area southwest of Columbus by 2025, with the potential to add more generating turbines and batteries for power storage in later phases.

 

Beaver Creek marks the second major investment in Montana renewables by Puget, which owns the largest share in Colstrip Power Plant, but must transition out of coal power within two years to comply with Washington climate laws. The western Washington utility with 1.5 million metered customers also purchases hydropower from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. 

 

"PSE is undergoing one of the largest clean energy transformations of any utility in the country. Our priority is meeting our customers’ demand for clean energy while continuing to deliver the safe and reliable energy they also expect,” said Puget CEO Mary Kipp.

 

Beaver Creek will be Montana’s second largest wind farm, on scale with the Pryor Mountain Wind Project built by PacifiCorp near Bridger in 2021. Over 25 years, Beaver Creek should contribute $150 million in taxes to Stillwater County, which has emerged as a Montana renewable energy hub. 

 

The project is expected to go up quickly and should be spinning in early 2025. The timeline speaks to the work done by previous developer Caithness Energy, of New York, which had already secured permitting and a wind turbine agreement with General Electric. Puget noticed the project in the regional transmission queue where Caithness had already indicated Beaver Creek would be moving power from Montana to Washington. The project's commercial operations date, or COD, indicated it could be delivering power less than a year after construction launched in 2024.

 

"Early 2025, so that's barely, well less than a year of construction. It's a really fast project. It was almost shovel ready, which is one of the things that made it so attractive," said Jim Hogan, PSE's senior manager of major projects.

 

Getting the Beaver Creek spinning in early 2025 assured the energy would be available ahead of Puget's exit from Colstrip in December of that year. Puget has acquired more than a gigawatt of nameplate renewable capacity in preparation for its state required exit from coal power. Beaver Creek will provide roughly 10% of the energy necessary to comply with Washington's Clean Energy Transformation Act, which requires not only a phase out of coal power, but also at a later date a phase out of energy produced with natural gas.

 

Puget has been a Montana energy generator since the 1970s when it partnered with Montana Power Company to build the now retired Colstrip Units 1 and 2. The utility remains Colstrip's largest stakeholder with ownership in both Colstrip Units 3 and 4.

 

Beaver Creek is expected to generate enough energy to power 83,000 homes annually.

 

Utilities in the Pacific Northwest are turning to Montana wind as a source of renewable energy in winter months when projects in Washington and Oregon are flagging. That interest has generated development of more than 1 gigawatt of nameplate Montana wind capacity since 2020.

 

"For us, the real value is it's winter peaking wind," Ron Roberts, PSE's vice president of supply, said of Beaver Creek. "In the wintertime, that's when the wind blows through that area the most. And in our area (Washington), that's when our wind drops to very low levels.

 

"We're more of spring/fall wind, not so much a summer and winter. So, trying to find wind that matches those profiles and gets us wind at the right times of the year is really critical. Of course for us, power prices are the highest in the winter and the summer. So having a wind facility that peaks at that time is obviously advantageous to our customers."  

 

The Beaver Creek project is a wind farm Caithness had proposed roughly five years ago as a three-site wind project coupled with battery storage. The company planned for three 80-megawatt wind farms in the Columbus area, which it expected to connect to NorthWestern Energy as qualifying facilities under terms set by a 42-year-old federal law guaranteeing contracts for alternative energy projects of a limited size.

 

The federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA, guarantees qualifying facilities a contract with a monopoly utility and the right to a negotiated price based on the utility’s avoided cost, which is to say the utility’s cost of either producing the energy itself including expenses for maintenance and operation, or buying it from another source.

 

But Caithness was unable to reach a workable agreement for Beaver Creek, namely because Montana utility regulators undervalued the project’s battery storage as they attempted to set rates in order to end a stalemate between NorthWestern and Caithness. The batteries would have made Beaver Creek’s electricity available during times of peak demand, not just when the wind was blowing, which should have increased what the energy was worth during peak times.

 

Similarly, Puget plans to use batteries to make Beaver Creek's output more stable, though not as part of the plant's initial rollout. 

 

Puget Sound Energy expects construction to begin in the spring. The utility estimates the construction of Beaver Creek will create 150 to 200 jobs during construction and about 10 to 15 full-time positions to manage the wind farm when it’s operational. Turbines should start spinning in 2025. The project will be utility owned and eligible for construction and production tax credits included in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. With those IRA incentives are requirements of union labor and a prevailing wage. 

 

By capacity, the largest energy projects under construction in Montana since 2020 are being developed to export energy to the Pacific Northwest. The 750-megawatt Clearwater Wind Project between Miles City and Forsyth sends power to Puget Sound Energy under contract and also to Portland General Electric, which has an ownership share of the wind farm built by Florida-based NextEra.

 

Like Puget, PGE is a Colstrip owner facing a state deadline to phase out coal power. Portland General Electric and fellow Oregon utility PacifiCorp plan to exit Colstrip by 2030.

 

PacifiCorp's Pryor Mountain Wind Project near Bridger is a 250-megawatt plant delivering electricity into Wyoming by way of the Yellowtail Intertie, which services Yellowtail dam.

 

Regulators in both Washington and Oregon have compelled their utilities with Colstrip ownership to include Montana renewable energy project in their long-term resource planning. There is also an expectation that Colstrip-related transmission be used for renewable energy, or that transmission costs be removed from customer rates, an expensive ultimatum for utilities who don't develop.

 

Currently, the only Pacific Northwest utility with Colstrip ownership and no renewable energy project in Montana is Spokane-based Avista Corp.

 

At the end of December 2025, Puget plans to transfer its ownership shares of Colstrip to Talen Energy. Avista Corp. plans to transfer its Colstrip ownership share to NorthWestern Energy at the same time. 

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Puget Sound Energy announces clean energy wind project
PSE to build a 248 MW utility-scale wind project in Stillwater County, Montana 

 

BELLEVUE, Wash. (12/7/2023) Puget Sound Energy (PSE) announced today it is developing the Beaver Creek wind farm, a utility-scale wind project that will be located on the high plains in Stillwater County, Montana. 

The Beaver Creek wind farm is the latest addition in a growing list of renewable energy resources that PSE is acquiring as it works toward complying with Washington state’s ambitious clean energy laws. By 2030, the amount of new, non-emitting generation resources PSE will need to have is more than the utility has accumulated in its 150-year history.

The wind farm will have an expected initial nameplate capacity of 248 megawatts (MW), enough energy to power about 83,000 homes a year. Additionally, there will be an opportunity to add wind turbines in neighboring Sweet Grass County, as well as a lithium-ion battery energy storage system to shape Beaver Creek’s variable wind output and better match PSE’s customer energy needs. Montana wind has a high production rate that is especially valuable during extremely cold weather in the Pacific Northwest, when high pressure systems mean that Washington wind farms produce less energy.

"PSE is undergoing one of the largest clean energy transformations of any utility in the country,” said Mary Kipp, president and CEO of Puget Sound Energy. “Our priority is meeting our customers’ demand for clean energy while continuing to deliver the safe and reliable energy they also expect.”

PSE has been a partner in Montana’s energy economy since the 1970s and continues to invest in the state of Montana and its communities. The project will interconnect on NorthWestern Energy’s system and will use existing PSE transmission on the Colstrip Transmission System to bring the wind energy back to PSE customers.

The Beaver Creek project will utilize federal tax credits and comply with provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that emphasize the importance of union and/or prevailing wage jobs and apprenticeship programs for tradespeople involved with the project. It is also PSE’s intent to use domestically produced products when possible. The wind farm is expected to utilize an estimated 150-200 skilled workers during construction with an ongoing need for 10-15 permanent on-site workers during operation. Construction is set to begin in the spring of 2024, with the facility expecting to be operational in 2025.

 

As part of the clean energy transition, PSE continues to partner with energy producers in the state of Montana. Recent examples include power purchase agreements signed with Energy Keepers, Inc., the tribally owned corporation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes for hydroelectric power, and an agreement with NextEra for power from Montana’s largest wind farm, Clearwater Wind, based in Rosebud, Custer and Garfield Counties. Learn more about these projects and PSE’s work in Montana at www.psemontana.com.

 

Earlier this year, PSE announced the expansion of its largest wind farm in Washington state, located near Pomeroy, Washington; signed a contract to purchase wind power from Vantage Wind Energy Center in Ellensburg, WA; and signed a long-term clean energy contract with Chelan PUD to receive renewable hydropower from the PUD’s two projects on the Columbia River. Since 2019, PSE has added more than 1,000 MW of renewable nameplate capacity to its system. 

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PSE to nearly double its clean energy portfolio by 2025

PSE expects to deliver more than 43 million MWh of clean energy by 2025; enough electricity to power more than 1 million homes a year

November 27, 2023

BELLEVUE, Wash. - Through its early and aggressive acquisition of clean energy resources, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) will deliver more clean energy than originally forecasted in its Clean Energy Implementation Plan (CEIP), a course of action for clean electricity programs and investments to align with policies established by Washington’s Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA). 

PSE filed its CEIP update to provide a progress report and update to the 2021 CEIP

 

PSE exceeded its clean energy goal in 2022 and it hopes to achieve similar success going forward, through a combination of utility scale renewables, new customer programs, distributed energy resources, and continued energy efficiency. Based on progress so far, PSE is currently on track to meet or exceed its obligation to achieve 80% clean or non-emitting energy by 2030 and 100% by 2045 by adding resources like the Clearwater Wind project in Montana, the Vantage Wind Energy facility, signing a long-term clean energy contract with Chelan PUD and expanding its Lower Snake River wind facility, with more resources expected to come online in the future. 

 

Since the 2021 CEIP was filed, PSE has continued its work on energy equity and has developed a framework for energy justice – how to make the clean energy transition work for everyone. PSE has also thoughtfully engaged with its customers, particularly in highly impacted and vulnerable communities, resulting in recommendations for new and refined program designs, as well as critical definitions and approaches that will help ensure all customers benefit from the transition to clean energy.

In addition to acquiring utility-scale clean energy resources, PSE is also rapidly expanding its customer-side programs such as energy efficiency, demand response, and community and customer owned resources, like solar and storage.

 

By the end of 2025 customer demand response and customer-side solar and storage will contribute almost 200 MW annually, with the expectation it will grow from there.

In order to deliver these resources, PSE is modernizing its grid to better accommodate smaller scale, localized resources. PSE has established a Virtual Power Plant platform to enable, control and monitor distributed energy resources to ensure a stable energy supply during peak times.

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Lee Newspapers: State's largest wind farm fires up

Tom Lutey

November 21, 2022

 

Southeast Montana’s Clearwater Wind Project began generating electricity for Puget Sound Energy this month.

 

The Washington utility announced Nov. 16 that it was receiving power from its 350 megawatt share of the wind project roughly 30 miles northwest of Miles City. Puget acquired the energy through a 2021 purchase power agreement with project owner NextEra.

 

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

 

“Today is a big day for PSE as we start to bring on 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 move towards achieving our goal of reducing our own carbon emissions to net zero by 2045. We know Montana has great wind resources and this agreement demonstrates PSE’s continued investment in Montana’s energy economy.”

 

Puget is Montana’s oldest export energy customer. A stakeholder in Colstrip Power Plant since the 1970s, the Washington utility faces state climate laws requiring the utility to stop servicing its 1.5 million customers with coal power by the end of 2025. A similar law in Oregon has compelled another Colstrip owner, Portland General Electric to buy a 208-megawatt ownership stake in Clearwater.

 

Portland General Electric should start receiving electricity by the end of 2023. In addition to its owned share of Clearwater, Portland General Electric will buy another 103 megawatts on contract.

 

Three of Colstrip’s four owners in the Pacific Northwest have invested in Montana wind projects in the last four years. PacifiCorp’s Pryor Mountain Wind Project near Bridger started spinning in 2021. Pryor’s capacity is 250 megawatts.

 

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

 

Berkshire also purchased three Montana wind farms serviced by MATL this year. Glacier Wind Energy I and II, as well as Rim Rock Wind Energy are generating assets with a combined capacity of 399 megawatts. They are among the earliest wind farms built in Montana for energy export and were previously owned by NaturEner.

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PSE to start receiving clean energy from MT Clearwater Wind Project

November 16, 2022

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is excited to announce it will start receiving clean energy from NextEra Energy Resources, LCC’s Clearwater Wind Project in Montana, which is now operational. 

 

“This is a big milestone for PSE as we start to bring on new clean energy from the Clearwater Wind Project,” said Ron Roberts, PSE vice president of Energy Supply. “This is another step that will help us move towards achieving our goal of reducing our own carbon emissions to net zero by 2045. We know Montana has great wind resources and this agreement demonstrates PSE’s continued investment in Montana’s energy economy.”

 

Last year, PSE signed a 20-year power purchase agreement to add 350 MW of wind energy from the Clearwater Wind Project. This increases its portfolio of owned and contracted wind to 1,500 MW. 

 

About Clearwater Wind Project:

·         The entire wind project will generate 750 MW of clean energy which is enough to power 140,000 households a year.

·         The wind farm will span three counties: Rosebud, Garfield and Custer.

·         The full project created 350 construction jobs and nearly 12-15 full-time operational jobs.

·         The full project is also expected to deliver substantial economic benefits to the region, providing more than $400 million in support through jobs, tax revenue and private land leases.

NextEra Energy Resources acquired development rights for the project from Orion Wind Resources LLC, a joint venture between Orion Renewable Energy Group LLC and MAP® Energy. Learn more about Clearwater Wind at www.clearwaterwind.com.

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KTVQ: 'Gold mine': Southeastern Montana wind farm poised to become Montana's largest

Wind farm near Miles City set to power thousands of Pacific Northwest homes

Russ Riesinger

Jul 04, 2022

MILES CITY -- If you’ve driven between Miles City and Jordan lately on Highway 59, then you may have spotted the huge metal structures that are now sprouting from the ground like skyscrapers out in the distance.

 

It’s all part of the Clearwater Wind Project that NextEra Energy Resources is building.

 

Construction is ahead of schedule on the wind farm, which the company says will be the largest in Montana.

 

"The reason we are here obviously is because of the wind. This is where the wind is,” says Jess Melin, executive director for NextEra. “I think here in eastern Montana, we have found a gold mine here.”

 

A lot of research went into putting the wind farm here, and Melin is certain they found the right spot.

 

“We have over 10 years of onsite meteorological data. We know how much the wind blows, we know when it blows, we know how it blows over the land. We combine that with satellite data and models to determine where to put the turbines,” says Melin.

 

Melin says animal species in the area and landowners' requests were also considered before construction began on the wind farm.

 

Eventually close to 300 wind turbines— each roughly as tall as a 40-story building—will snake through parts of Garfield, Rosebud, and Custer counties.

 

The first phase of the project, which includes around 130 turbines, is moving closer to completion.

 

An 85-mile power line is being built to transfer the power that is harnessed from the farm to the substation in Colstrip, where existing transmission lines will be used to send the power to Washington state.

 

Puget Sound Energy, based in Bellevue, Washington, has rights to purchase the energy from the first phase of the project for customers in the Pacific Northwest.

 

The wind farm will eventually provide about 750 megawatts of electricity—enough to power about 135,000 homes.

 

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Billings Gazette: Montana's largest wind farm underway near Miles City

Tom Lutey

Dec 26, 2021  

ANGELA -- On a recent winter afternoon the wind on this Eastern Montana plain was rising slowly like a tide, the cool dense air rolling in to replace what’s been warmed by daylight.

 

At first, the change is barely noticeable, but then the 210-foot blades of the Clearwater Wind Project start to turn. Though the blades have been feathered to catch none of what this chilly air has to offer, they turn nonetheless.

 

The setting is perfect for what will be Montana’s largest windfarm, said Jess Melin. A Livingston guy, Melin is executive director of renewable development for NextEra Energy Resources.

 

The company brands itself as the world's largest generator of renewable energy from wind and solar. This 750-megawatt giant is NextEra’s first Montana project. Melin seems to preface all his observations about Eastern Montana with “I’m a little biased.”

 

“You got to have a place to put a machine, you have to have willing landowners. Very gracious landowners who have been great to work with in Eastern Montana. I'm a little biased, but I've always thought Eastern Montana has the best people on Earth and we found great landowners,” Melin said. “You need transmission, need a way to get your product to market. We have to build that transmission down to the Colstrip substation because this is where the fuel is. But we're delivering this to Colstrip. One of the gems of Eastern Montana is the Colstrip transmission system.” Read full article here.

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Lee Newspapers: Analysts see Montana wind farm benefits for school trust lands

Tom Lutey

Jun 9, 2021 

BILLINGS -- A southeast Montana wind farm would generate more than $700,000 for Montana schools over the next three decades, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

 

Clearwater Wind, a sprawling 150,000-acre development set to begin construction this summer, would include 11 wind turbines on school trust land, for which the state would receive $770,400 in lease payments over 35 years, with more money to come from energy royalties.

 

"The projected income could be well over $700,000," said Cory Shaw, DNRC property management section supervisor. 

 

The state share of the project area is about 4,500 acres. Power generated from state land would produce additional payments, the amount of which is still uncalculated. 

 

A DNRC analysis of Clearwater Wind concluded that a lease for the turbines would more than double the current revenue from the land, which already generates about $36,400 a year from cattle grazing. The wind turbines and the cows would share space after construction.

 

NextEra estimates taxes paid on the wind farm will be $217 million over the 30-year life of the southeast Montana project 22 miles northwest of Miles City. Payments to landowners are estimated at $226 million over three decades. 

 

At 750 megawatts capacity, Clearwater will be three times bigger than the state's current largest wind farm, the 250-megawatt Pryor Mountain Wind Project constructed by PacifiCorp near Bridger in 2020. Read more here.

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Seattle Times:  Puget Sound Energy turns to Montana wind power in push to reduce carbon emissions

Hal Bernton

June 2, 2021

Puget Sound Energy, Washington’s largest private utility, has signed a 20-year contract to purchase wind power in Southeast Montana as part of a major shift away from coal- and gas-generated electricity.

 

PSE will buy 350 megawatts of power, enough electricity for about 140,000 homes, from NextEra Energy Resources, which is building the Clearwater Wind Project in three counties of Southeast Montana, according to a statement released Wednesday by PSE.

 

The wind project is expected to begin generating power at the end of 2022. It is some 60 miles north of Colstrip, Montana, where PSE is part-owner of a coal plant that has long generated electricity for the Puget Sound region.

 

Under Washington state law, PSE is required to stop using coal-fired power by 2025 and stop using fossil fuels to generate electricity by 2045 unless some way is found to curb the release of carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. Meanwhile, PSE, which also supplies natural gas to residential and business customers, earlier this year announced a corporate goal of reducing its carbon footprint to net-zero emissions by 2045. Read full story here.

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Billings Gazette: Montana's largest wind farm contracts with Puget Sound Energy

Tom Lutey

Jun 2, 2021 

 

BILLINGS -- What’s expected to be Montana’s largest wind farm secured its first customer Wednesday from Colstrip Power Plant co-owner Puget Sound Energy.

The Seattle-area utility confirmed Wednesday morning that it has a 20-year contract with the owner of the Clearwater Wind project, a massive three-county wind farm being developed near Colstrip. Puget will purchase 350 megawatts of Clearwater capacity, enough to power 140,000 homes, according to the utility.

The power is expected to come on line by the end of 2022.

In May, wind farm owner NextEra Energy Resources told Lee Montana Newspapers the Clearwater construction would begin this summer.

 

Clearwater is a 750-megawatt wind farm with turbines slated for Rosebud, Custer and Garfield counties. NextEra expects construction to create 350 jobs. Afterward, a crew of 20 people will run the wind farm.

 

NextEra is touting the estimated taxes paid on the Clearwater project as $217 million over the next 30 years, during which time landowners with lease contracts will receive an estimated $226 million. Full story here.

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Montana Public Radio: CSKT Signs 15-year Contract With Washington Utility

Associated Press

March 30, 2020 

 

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Energy Keepers Inc., owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, has signed a contract to sell hydroelectric power to a Washington state utility.

 

The 15-year contract allows Puget Sound Energy to draw 40 megawatts of power from the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ hydroelectric project, according to the Billings Gazette. That project includes a Flathead River dam.

 

The deal will supplant Puget's delivery of coal-fired electricity from the Colstrip Power Plant after 2025. The deadline, shared by all Washington utilities, is set by the state’s Clean Energy Transformation Act. The law requires all electricity to be free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

 

Puget is working to cut all coal ties, and has agreed to sell its 25% share of Colstrip Unit to NorthWestern Energy, pending regulatory approval. Full story here.

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Billings Gazette: Colstrip grants intended to help workers displaced from power plant and coal mine

Tom Lutey

Mar 2, 2021

 

COLSTRIP -- The first transition grants for people affected by changes at the Colstrip Power Plant and Rosebud mine are being offered through the end of April, as part of an agreement with the power plant’s longest owner Puget Sound Energy.

The money, available through the Colstrip Impacts Foundation, is intended to help displaced power plant and mine workers, as well as communities facing declines in tax revenue because of power plant closures. There is also money available for economic and community development.

 

The foundation announced Monday that grant applications would be accepted through April 30.

 

“I think $10 million was offered to Montana through that rate case settlement,” said Mary Rutherford, of the Montana Community Foundation. “They’ll review grant applications quarterly, but (the applicants) have to be impacted as defined by the committee."

 

For example, city and county governments may apply for grants to offset tax revenue lost to power plant closures, but the money can’t be used for special projects outside of the normal operating budgets. Full story here.

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Montana Public Radio: New Advisory Group Will Help Steer Colstrip Transition

Eric Whitney

December 14, 2017 

 

COLSTRIP -- The Colstrip Power Plant consists of four separate coal-fired generating units, collectively owned by Puget Sound Energy, Talen Energy, Avista Corporation, PacifiCorp and NorthWestern Energy.

Governor Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox announced Thursday they’re creating an advisory group for Colstrip to help the area develop an economic impact plan.

 

Late this year a legal settlement with one of the Colstrip power plant’s part-owners, Puget Sound Energy, resulted in that utility allocating $10 million to help people in the area as the power plant’s Units 1 and 2 shut down. That’s scheduled to happen by 2022.

The Community Impact Advisory Group includes two labor representatives, the mayor of Colstrip and State Senator Duane Ankney, as well a Rosebud County commissioner, a local rancher, and state labor and environmental agency officials, and a representative from Puget Sound Energy. Full story here.

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PSE signs agreement to purchase 350 megawatts of wind energy from Montana project

PSE Newsroom

Jun 2, 2021

 

BELLEVUE, Wash. - Puget Sound Energy will soon add 350 MW of wind energy, increasing its portfolio of owned and contracted wind to 1,500 MW.

 

PSE signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC to buy clean energy from the planned Clearwater Wind Project, located about 60 miles north of Colstrip, Montana.

 

The agreement will allow PSE to use existing transmission lines from Colstrip, Montana to bring in the energy to its customers in western Washington. This is also part of PSE’s commitment to the environment and deep decarbonization by investing in more wind energy.

 

“We are excited to partner with NextEra Energy Resources, which will move us to toward achieving our goal of reducing our own carbon emissions to net zero by 2045,” said Ron Roberts, PSE vice president of Energy Supply. “This is one of the steps we’re taking to meet our carbon commitment of Beyond Net Zero and increase our use of alternative fuels for power generation. We’ve been saying Montana has great wind resources and this agreement demonstrates PSE’s continued investment in Montana’s energy economy.”

 

The Clearwater Wind Project is expected to come online at the end of 2022, and it will provide sufficient energy to power about 140,000 households a year. Read full article here.

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PSE to purchase zero carbon energy for the next 15 years

PSE Newsroom

Mar 24, 2020

 

BELLEVUE, Wash. - Puget Sound Energy signs deal with Energy Keepers, Inc. in Montana

Puget Sound Energy continues making progress towards meeting its clean energy goal by signing an agreement with Energy Keepers, Inc. the tribally owned corporation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

 

PSE is set to purchase 40 megawatts of zero carbon energy produced by the Selis Ksanka Qlispe hydroelectric project starting this month. PSE has signed a deal with Energy Keepers, Inc. that runs through July 2035.

 

“We are excited to partner with Energy Keepers to bring more clean energy to our customers in Washington state,” said PSE Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, David Mills. “This agreement is another step in our effort to create a better energy future.”

 

The Selis Ksanka Qlispe hydroelectric project, located at Flathead Lake in Montana, is the first tribally owned hydroelectric dam in the U.S. It encompasses a three-unit hydroelectric plant with the capacity to generate 208 megawatts of electricity. It is a multipurpose facility that supports flood risk management objectives, recreation, fisheries, irrigation, and power production. Read full news release here.

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