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Secretary Chu Highlights Clean Energy Opportunities in Montana

September 16, 2010 - 11:04am

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On Tuesday, Secretary Chu took the stage at the Montana Economic Development summit to highlight how the Recovery Act has boosted energy projects across the state and why the state is in prime position to benefit from the shift towards a clean energy economy.

The Secretary noted that the Recovery Act has made an historic investment in Montana’s energy efficiency with $26.5 million going toward their weatherization assistance program, $25.9 million to the state energy program and an additional $15.2 million for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, which strives to reduce total energy use and fossil fuel emissions while stimulating the economy.

Montana has enormous wind energy potential, but needs the transmission infrastructure to move the electricity to where it can be used. One of the projects that has benefited from these investments is the Montana Alberta Tie Limited, a 230-kV transmission line that will connect Montana with the electricity markets of neighboring Alberta. Recovery Act borrowing authority allowed the Western Area Power Authority (WAPA) to lend $161 million to the project, which will allow for the bi-directional transmission of up to 300 MW of wind energy.

Opening up new energy markets for Montana’s wind farms is a big step, but Secretary Chu also emphasized the potential for Montana to expand its use of hydropower through the implementation of pumped storage. The state is already among the top producers of hydropower in the U.S. but pumped storage will allow them to balance their load by using reversible turbines that facilitate the storage of excess power during times of low electrical demand. This approach also benefits the wind and solar industry, which can put the excess energy they produce, energy that would normally go to waste, toward pumping water back up into the reservoir, where it can be held until demand warrants its release. The Secretary noted that several permits to construct pumped storage facilities in Montana were already pending, so that shift may not be far off.

While the Secretary’s remarks were tailored toward Montana, clean energy accomplishments and opportunities exist all across the country. For a snapshot of what the Recovery Act has done to advance energy projects in your state, check out our state summaries page.

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