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Green Power Transmission Line Given New Life

March 11, 2010 - 4:34pm

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Poles for the Montana-Alberta Tie Line are unloaded outside Shelby, Mont. | Photo courtesy of Tonbridge Power

Poles for the Montana-Alberta Tie Line are unloaded outside Shelby, Mont. | Photo courtesy of Tonbridge Power

 

Thanks to funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, construction of a green power transmission line stretching from Lethbridge, Alberta in Canada, down to Great Falls, Mont., was put back on track after a bank failure.

Currently under construction, the Montana-Alberta Tie Line, which is owned by Toronto-based Tonbridge Power, will connect the electricity markets of Alberta and Montana and bring about 600 megawatts of wind-generated power to communities throughout the Western U.S. and Canada.

Echoing U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s comment last fall, Peggy Beltrone, a Cascade County, Mont., commissioner, says the 214-mile green power line will create jobs and begin the build-out of transmission networks needed to invigorate and expand the wind energy business in Montana.  

“This new transmission line, and the accompanying wind farms, will create high wage jobs, needed property taxes and substantial revenues to landowners,” Beltrone says. “The clean energy investment carries an economic impact of over $1 billion.”

The transmission line should generate about 150 construction jobs and 50 to 75 green jobs directly related to the wind energy companies, which have secured space for their wind farms along the line.

Montana is ranked third in terms of wind energy potential in the U.S., according to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory report published in February.

The new wind farms will also be a good source of revenue for Cascade County.

 “Our economic strategy is to attract wind parks because they have a high property tax value,” says Beltrone, who came to Washington this week to speak at the White House about the new sustainable communities grant program. “Rural communities suffer from shrinking tax base; wind energy helps communities restore public services.”

The new 230-kilovolt line will carry about 300 MW of Montana wind-generated power north to markets in Canada and another 300 MW to U.S. markets. That’s enough to power about 35,000 homes.

The Western Area Power Administration loaned Tonbridge stimulus funds totaling $161 million after a bank failure. The company stepped in because the new bank owners did not honor the original bank credit commitment.

Private investments total over $70 million for the $215 million project. Construction should be completed by the middle or end of this year.

“What the Recovery Act did was take a really, really, really big boat and help turn it around,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., told the Billings Gazette last month.

Editor's Note: July 2010 -- Tonbridge Power has begun construction of the Montana-Alberta Tie Line’s Marias substation near Cut Bank, Mont. The company is working with local contractors to receive materials needed to start construction of the transmission line. The project remains within budget and is on track to be in operation by 2011.

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