Posts Tagged ‘Montana Wind Energy Projects’
NWE seeks to pay indie power producers far less than it asks consumers to pay for dams
- Published on Monday, 28 July 2014 17:14
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July 27, 2014 12:00 am
HELENA – NorthWestern Energy and its regulator, the Public Service Commission, are rightly getting plenty of press on the company’s proposal to pay $870 million for a dozen hydroelectric dams.
But another energy issue involving both entities is flying well under the radar — and has the clear potential to affect small, independent power projects in many parts of rural Montana.
The issue is how NorthWestern buys power from these small wind and hydro projects, which, by law, are entitled to contracts if they meet certain requirements.
When it buys power from these projects, NorthWestern includes the electricity in the mix it sells to its 340,000 electric customers in Montana.
The project developers say their plants offer power that’s sometimes cheaper than what NorthWestern produces, that provides some competition to NorthWestern’s power-generation, and brings development to rural areas.
If the PSC approves the dam purchase as proposed by NorthWestern, customers will be paying the company about $60 per megawatt hour for power produced by the hydroelectric dams it owns.
But in recent filings before the PSC, NorthWestern is saying it should pay the independent projects only $40 a megawatt hour for their power.
This discrepancy has small project owners hopping mad, and crying discrimination. The power company, they say, knows if such rates are approved by the PSC, the small power projects will never be built, because they can’t be financed at that price.
NorthWestern, which has often resisted such projects, simply wants to own as much generation as possible, which means more profit for the company, and discourage any competing, independent producers, they say.
Small-project developers also point their finger squarely at a majority of the PSC, saying it has repeatedly let NorthWestern get away with undermining federal law that requires small projects to be able to sell their power to the local utility, at a fair price.
They note that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled in March that the PSC has taken illegal actions making it difficult or impossible for some small power projects to get a contract — and that the PSC has done little or nothing to correct those actions.
PSC Chairman Bill Gallagher, a Republican from Helena, says he hasn’t seen a need to rush into a decision, in response to the FERC ruling, and that the PSC must fully consider how
rates and conditions for the small-project contracts will affect the company and consumers.
He also says he has a problem with how federal law grants “preferred status” to small power projects selling renewable power. Competition among projects should be the determining factor, he says.
FERC, however, disagreed, saying the law requires contracts to be awarded at a rate set by the PSC, tied to what the utility would have to pay to buy or develop similar power elsewhere. It said the PSC cannot arbitrarily limit the amount of wind projects that get condtracts, and cannot require projects to enter into competitive bidding that, in reality, seldom occurs, and which they never win.
Still, the PSC appears finally to be moving forward on the issue, likely holding a work session later this summer to respond to the FERC ruling and related items.
Commissioner Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman, says he expects the PSC to change its rules to comply with the FERC ruling and look for a way to treat both the power company and the small-project developers equitably.
“We do not want to send the message that we want to see NorthWestern’s portfolio include their own hydro (plants) but that it doesn’t have room for (small independent power projects),” he says.
NorthWestern also has acknowledged the FERC ruling, but, at the same time, is asking the PSC to lower the price NorthWestern must pay for a proposed 25-megawatt wind project near Fairfield and other projects, to the $40 per megawatt hour range.
Company spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch says the dams that NorthWestern wants to buy are more valuable resources than the small power projects, and therefore command higher rates.
The company wants to ensure that any power it buys from small producers is at a price that reflects the current market, and can be reliably delivered, she says.
Yet Commissioner Travis Kavulla, R-Great Falls, says actions by NorthWestern seem discriminatory against the small producers, and that he hopes the PSC will take a hard look at the issue.
“I think we need to consider righting the situation so we can be fair to all players,” he says.
Mike Dennison is a state reporter for Lee newspapers.
North American Windpower: Global Wind Power Capacity To More Than Double By 2020
- Published on Wednesday, 11 June 2014 06:34
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Despite an overall slump in installations last year, global wind power capacity will more than double from 319.6 GW at the end of 2013 to 678.5 GW by 2020, led by China, according to a new report from GlobalData.The company says it expects China, the largest single wind power market responsible for 45% of total global annual capacity additions in 2013, to have a cumulative wind capacity of 239.7 GW by 2020.
China overtook the U.S. as the leading market for installations in 2010, when it added a massive 18.9 GW of wind capacity.“China doubled its cumulative wind capacity every year from 2006 to 2009 and has continued to grow significantly since then,” says Harshavardhan Reddy Nagatham, GlobalData’s analyst covering alternative energy. “Supportive government policies, such as an attractive concessional program and the availability of low-cost financing from banks, have been fundamental to China’s success.
“While China will continue to be the largest global wind power market through to 2020, growth for the forecast period will be slow due to a large installation base.”The report also states that the U.S. will remain the second largest global wind power market in terms of cumulative installed capacity, increasing from 68.9 GW this year to 104.1 GW in 2020. GlobalData says this will largely be driven by renewable energy targets in several states, such as Alaska’s aim to reach 50% renewable power generation and Texas’ mandate to achieve 10 GW of renewable capacity, both by 2025.
Nagatham concludes: “The slump in 2013 was largely a product of a decrease in installations in the U.S. and Spain. While there are likely to be further slight falls in annual capacity additions in 2015 and 2016, overall industry growth will not be affected as global annual capacity additions are expected to exceed 60 GW by 2020.”
Wind farms face major challenges across Montana | KPAX.com | Missoula, Montana
- Published on Thursday, 08 May 2014 03:02
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▶ Fairfield Wind Turbine #1 Rotor Installation – YouTube
- Published on Friday, 18 April 2014 13:59
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Installing the rotor on Fairfield Wind turbine #1, a General Electric 1.7-100. Work conducted by Dick Anderson Construction of Great Falls.