Local Ownership Provides Local Benefits with Community Wind Projects
May 29, 2015
The Gordon Butte Wind Farm is a 10-megawatt community wind project located in Central Montana. The idea for the project began in 2007 and commercial operation began in 2012.
Bryan Rogan, a partner in the project, explains the beginning steps.
"Instead of us leasing the land to a wind developer to find out what those answers were, we decided to pursue those things on our own. So, that involved putting up a met tower and measuring the wind resource. We, soon after that, submitted an application to get into the interconnect queue, which there's a lot of activity at that time with interconnects for these types of projects."
The project was financed non-traditionally through a local bank.
"We had the opportunity to put up assets to collateralize the loan that we eventually ended up getting from Stockman Bank. That involved the construction loan, and then once the project was built, we converted that to a long-term loan. It was the first energy project, I believe, that Stockman Bank had ever financed, and using local resources was a big motivating factor for that. We're thrilled to be able to say that we are financed with a local Montana bank."
Community wind farms provide economic development benefits to local communities, and the Gordon Butte Wind Farm is no exception.
"During construction, there was between 60 and 80 people onsite. Just having their presence there obviously had a big impact on the community during that time. The town of Martinsdale, which is where the wind farm is located, the population is approximately 300 people. And then Harlowton, which is the closest, larger town about 20 miles away, the population there is about 1,000 people. So, it's easy to see the type of economic impact that it can have over the time. Another interesting note is the transportation company that we used to have the turbines delivered, which were coming from New York, it took them about 2 months to transport the turbines out to us, and all of those drivers would not have had jobs that summer if it was not for our project."
The wind farm supports two-and-a-half jobs, which Rogan says is significant to the small town of Martinsdale, Montana.
Every wind project is unique, but Rogan says the best advice he can give to those planning community wind projects is to do their due diligence. He says to get the baseline studies and analysis accomplished early on to know the wind resource value and how easy or difficult it may be to distribute that energy resource.
"It's hard to make these projects happen. There are so many different moving parts that you have to align, and oftentimes, those things don't align at the same time. But when they do, as was in our case, you have to be ready to react. So, if it's a power purchase agreement, in our case it was a qualified facility, and the rate for that changes from time to time and it's probably one of the most critical parts of any wind farm is the cost of the power, when that rate got to an area that we were comfortable with, we had already done all of our baseline work, so we were able to react quickly and get going on the project right away. So, that was probably the biggest advantage that we had, moving forward and successfully completing the project ahead of time and within budget."