Southeast Montana’s Clearwater Wind Project began generating electricity for Puget Sound Energy this month.
The Washington utility announced Nov. 16 that it was receiving power from its 350 megawatt share of the wind project roughly 30 miles northwest of Miles City. Puget acquired the energy through a 2021 purchase power agreement with project owner NextEra.
Clearwater is Montana’s largest wind project at 150,000 acres and 269 wind turbines, when completed in 2023. The 750-megawatt project touches three Montana counties, Custer, Garfield, and Rosebud.
“Today is a big day for PSE as we start to bring on new clean energy from the Clearwater Wind Project,” said Ron Roberts, PSE vice president of energy supply, in a press release. “This is another step that will help us move towards achieving our goal of reducing our own carbon emissions to net zero by 2045. We know Montana has great wind resources and this agreement demonstrates PSE’s continued investment in Montana’s energy economy.”
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Puget is Montana’s oldest export energy customer. A stakeholder in Colstrip Power Plant since the 1970s, the Washington utility faces state climate laws requiring the utility to stop servicing its 1.5 million customers with coal power by the end of 2025. A similar law in Oregon has compelled another Colstrip owner, Portland General Electric to buy a 208-megawatt ownership stake in Clearwater.
Portland General Electric should start receiving electricity by the end of 2023. In addition to its owned share of Clearwater, Portland General Electric will buy another 103 megawatts on contract.
Three of Colstrip’s four owners in the Pacific Northwest have invested in Montana wind projects in the last four years. PacifiCorp’s Pryor Mountain Wind Project near Bridger started spinning in 2021. Pryor’s capacity is 250 megawatts.
In the past two years, PacifiCorp’s parent company Berkshire Hathaway, has also purchased the Montana Alberta Tie Line, a 190-mile merchant transmission line connecting Great Falls and Lethbridge. The 230-kilovolt capacity line will also move dispatchable Canadian natural gas power south to NorthWestern Energy.
Berkshire also purchased three Montana wind farms serviced by MATL this year. Glacier Wind Energy I and II, as well as Rim Rock Wind Energy are generating assets with a combined capacity of 399 megawatts. They are among the earliest wind farms built in Montana for energy export and were previously owned by NaturEner.