- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Montana regulators have set power rates too low for a wind farm project near Big Timber to be profitable, the project’s developers said.

The Public Service Commission on Tuesday set the rate that Greycliff Wind Prime could charge NorthWestern Energy at $45.49 per megawatt hour for power from the 25-megawatt Greycliff Wind Farm for up to 25 years.

Federal law requires utilities like NorthWestern to buy power from small, independent renewable power generators to promote alternative energy resources. The utilities are charged the amount it would have cost them to supply the same power itself, according to PSC officials.

Greycliff had requested a rate of $53.39 per megawatt-hour, while NorthWestern sought $35.65.

Developers of the wind farm said the rate the PSC settled on is 16 percent lower than the price needed to make the project profitable.

“It’s not a rate that works. It’s also not a rate that’s realistic,” said Steve Tyrell of Greycliff told the Billings Gazette (https://bit.ly/2a0sciM).

Another Greycliff Wind developer, Ryno Stinchfield, said the PSC rates have stymied wind energy development. No wind project has been built in the past 10 years at the rates set by the PSC, Stinchfield said.

PSC Chairman Brad Johnson said setting the rate requires balancing the needs of energy producers and customers.

“It was our goal to calculate a price that complies with the law by not overcharging consumers, while at the same time fully compensating Greycliff for the power it produces, and the commission’s decision achieves exactly that,” Johnson said in a statement.

In June, the PSC eliminated guaranteed rates for small solar projects. NorthWestern Energy had argued that the guaranteed rates were too expensive for its customers.

That decision cut the number of viable solar farms to fewer than 10, the Billings Gazette reported.


Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com

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