Valley County Wind back
Developer: GreenHunter Energy
Valley County, MT
Valley County, Montana is located on the border with Canada, about twenty-six miles north of the city of Glasgow. The county is sparsely populated, with just over one person per square mile. Glasgow has a population of just over two thousand and a median income of about $30,500. The northwest part of the county is home to the Bitter Creek Wilderness Study Area, a large undeveloped area rich in wildlife, scenery, and cultural resources. The Wilderness Study Area consists of untrammeled shortgrass prairie and badlands, which house a number of rare animal and plant species.
In 1999, WindHunter, LLC, a division of Texas-based GreenHunter Energy, began looking at possible sites in Northeastern Montana for a large wind farm. By 2004, it had settled on a location in northwestern Valley County and proposed a 500MW wind farm over 20,000 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Montana School Trust Lands, and private land. The Valley County Wind Energy Project would contain 337 1.5MW turbines, built in four phases over several years. A high-voltage (230kV) transmission line would also be built from the wind farm to a proposed Antelope County substation, seven miles west of Glasgow. Valley County was proposed to be the largest wind farm in a state that has only 150MW of installed wind.
GreenHunter cited the rising demand for energy in the western U.S. as the main reason for building the wind farm. By choosing a renewable resource, Valley County also meets the demand of Montana’s Renewable Energy Standard, which requires 15% of all energy purchased to be from renewable sources by 2015. Valley County also meets a rising demand from consumers for “green” power.
After doing public scoping in 2005, GreenHunter released its environmental assessment (EA) in June 2006. Public comments displayed concerns about wildlife, land use, and visual impacts, so GreenHunter revised its plans and scaled down the farm to 117 units producing 170 MW with a 61kV transmission line. It released a supplemental EA and draft finding of no significant impact (FONSI) in May 2007 and opened up for public comment once again. The public response was significant enough to cause further reassessment, and the project was scaled down to 50MW in September 2007 and finally became a planned test facility in February 2008, producing just 10MW from new turbines made by Chinese manufacturer Min Yang.