Research Confirms Montana’s Wind Energy Potential

Published Date: 
Sun, 04/28/2002

Ameresco LogoFRAMINGHAM, Mass. (April 28, 2002) -- Doug Barba, Executive Vice-President of Ameresco Inc, announced today that over nine months of research at their wind energy site in Cut Bank, Montana has confirmed the commercial viability of a major wind energy installation at that site.

“It’s better than we thought in terms of velocity and consistency. We also found that our site will generate power at the time that Montanans need it the most. We have the best wind during the daylight hours in the coldest months,” Barba said. “This will justify an investment of over $150,000,000 in a Montana wind project by our company,” he added.

Ameresco, the 99% owner of Montana Wind Harness, is evaluating the wind potential of major sites in Montana. The evaluation process involves erecting 150 foot towers on each site, and placing an instrument called an anemometer on top of each tower to monitor the speed, direction and duration of the wind at that site.

Commercial banks require at least six months of satisfactory wind data before a site is deemed “commercial”. The determination that this project is commercial allows banks to provide the millions of dollars required to construct up to 40 large wind turbines at this site.

Montana Wind Harness has a contract with Northwestern Energy (formerly Montana Power) to develop 150 megawatts of wind power on three major sites in Montana. Montana Wind Harness will be concluding its wind research at other sites in the months to come.

“We are recording similar data at our other sites,” Barba commented.

Bill Pascoe, the Vice President of Energy Supply for Northwestern Energy, said “We are pleased to hear about the data from the Cut Bank site. It confirms our belief that wind energy can play an important role in our energy portfolio, and that it is a clean, renewable energy resource with commercial potential in our state.”

The site is located East of Cut Bank. A local ranch owner has recently entered into a lease with Montana Wind Harness.

“We’re excited about the prospects. As a long-time Montana ranch family, we are always looking at ways to make our land more productive,” said the rancher. “This is a clean, renewable resource that will fit nicely with our current ranch operation,” he added.

Montana Wind Harness has committed to build up to 115 1.3 megawatt wind turbines in Montana. These turbines employ state-of-the-art European technology, and stand more than 300 feet high from the base to the top of the blades. That is the height of a thirty-story building.

“European countries committed to wind power in a major way about 20 years ago” Barba noted. “Over the years, they have pushed the technology from relatively small machines to the graceful giants that we are going to install here in Montana. Wind has now become the fastest growing energy segment in Europe.” Barba said.

“In fact, Germany has gone from 500 megawatts of installed wind capacity in 1990 to over 6500 megawatts of installed wind capacity today. A major coal fired power plant would be in the 300 to 500 megawatt range, so you can see that this growth in wind power in Germany has been quite remarkable. There has been similar growth in a number of other European countries, such as Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands as well.”

“To give you an idea of the amount of power we are talking about” Barba said, “One megawatt will provide enough electricity for approximately 1000 homes.”

Release Date: 4/28/2002