Western Area Power Administration, Northwestern Energy sign agreements to study two regional wind-energy transmission projects to move Montana's wind power to out-of-state purchasing markets

BUTTE, Montana , September 13, 2010 (press release) – Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus announced today during the Economic Development Summit that Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and Northwestern Energy have signed agreements to coordinate the planning of two regional wind energy transmission projects, which will help move Montana's wind power out of the state to purchasing markets.

Baucus has been pushing for months to facilitate the agreements to study the Montana Renewable Collector System (MTRCS) and the Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI). His 2010 Montana Economic Development Summit, which kicked off today, provided an important catalyst to speed the partnership along.

"The potential for wind energy development in Montana is enormous, but we can't turn that potential into good-paying jobs without the right infrastructure in place to move that energy to the folks who want to buy it. Today's agreement between Northwestern and WAPA provides another critical step in our effort to build the infrastructure Montana needs to become a wind energy leader," said Baucus. "I promise to do my part to enact common-sense policies that support domestic energy production and help us build a strong wind industry in Montana."

The collector system would gather wind power generated in north central Montana at the new substation in Townsend, and the MSTI project would carry the power between southwestern Montana and southeastern Idaho. The MSTI line would begin at the Townsend Substation and proceed south, connecting to Idaho Power Company's existing Midpoint Substation, located 10 miles north of Jerome, Idaho. Together, the system would help move Montana's wind power out of the state to markets where it could be purchased.

Northwestern Energy and WAPA signed two separate Memorandums of Understanding agreeing to study the projects' potential to enable renewable energy development in the West. Baucus is hopeful the studies will identify value in the projects and lead to further coordination among the utilities to bring the projects to fruition.

Baucus made the announcement at a wind energy networking panel at the 2010 Montana Economic Development Summit, which kicked-off today on the Montana Tech Campus in Butte. Baucus brought leaders from General Electric, Horizon, and Siemens, along with power purchasers such as Pacific Gas and Electric, the administrators of Western Area Power Administration and Bonneville Power Administration and Department of Energy experts to participate in Summit and explore the opportunities and challenges in developing wind energy in Montana. In total the Summit will host six energy panels over the next two days to study Montana's energy development potential, from wind to coal, to oil and gas, to biomass.

A live webcast of the Summit is available online at: www.montanaeconomicsummit.org.

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