Summary of Montana Wind

Montana has 665 MW of wind installed.  It has many rural areas with a strong wind resource, which would be suitable for siting a wind farm.  However, although the wind energy could be produced, it is geographically cut off from consumers.  This problem is especially problematic in eastern Montana, which has the lowest population and the highest wind resource.  A growing local opportunity could be the industrial boom in the Bakken region.  Ironically, this boom has created a new market of local demand for electricity, which could be supplied by wind.

Transmission issues make it challenging for Montana to export its power to population centers in other states.  The two biggest electric grids in the US are the Western Connection and the Eastern Connection.  These meet in eastern Montana. However, policy and financial issues make it impractical for eastern Montana to export energy across the grid divide into Washington State.  As a result, the strong wind resource potential in eastern Montana is effectively cut off from exporting energy to the west. 

For new projects, PPAs are hard to obtain under current market conditions due to cheap natural gas, plateaued demand, and continuing policy uncertainty. Distributed wind is still uncommon in Montana and a recent state bill designed to expand net metering was rejected in 2015.

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