Federal Funds Sweep into Montanaby Morgan Webert
NW Current, January 2, 2007
Federal funding swept into eastern Montana in November, bringing with it new opportunities for wind generation.
Montana wind energy projects received $72 million in federal funds Nov. 20 through the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program. Created by the 2005 Energy Bill, the program allows governmental and tax-exempt entities to finance alternative energy projects at zero interest. The program set aside a total of $800 million in tax credit bonds.
Montana received support for 34 projects, 32 of which are proposed by cities and towns and two belonging to electric cooperatives. All the projects combined are expected to generate 65 megawatts (MW) of electricity.
Billings-based Green Electricity Buying Cooperative secured $31.7 million in financing authority to launch two wind farms, one in Yellowstone County northeast of Billings and one in Towe Farms in McCone County. Each project is expected to produce enough electricity to power 3,500 homes. The Southern Montana Electric Cooperative, also based in Billings, received $12 million for a wind project in Great Falls capable of producing up to 6 MW of electricity.
"The winds of today will create the good-paying jobs of tomorrow," said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "This is about harnessing the wind - a clean, renewable resource - to help us get more energy independence while powering our homes, main streets and businesses."
According to the Internal Revenue Service, 709 applicants from 40 states sought a total of $2.5 billion in bond authorization. The agency reported that $2 billion of the requests came from governmental entities and $500 million came from from cooperatives. The bonds were allocated to 610 renewable energy projects across the United States, with a large portion going to California for solar projects. Montana was the only Northwest state to apply for tax credit bonds through the program.
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