June 15, 2001
Contact: Lucas Hamilton
Morrison asks DNRC to identify potential wind-energy generation sites on school trust lands
State Auditor John Morrison has asked the State Lands Division of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to open discussions on identifying state lands most suitable for the generation of wind power at the June 18 State Land Board meeting.
Morrison's request was prompted by his conversations with a major wind-energy developer interested in building three-megawatt windmills in Montana.
"It is critical that we look for alternative energy sources to help solve Montana's energy crisis," Morrison said. "This would be a win-win situation for everyone. This clean and renewable source of electric power could generate significant revenue for our public schools."
Morrison asked the department to identify trust land sections in windy areas that have transmission lines running through or nearby them.
"I envision a map which also would show important environmental information such as migratory birds flyways, wet lands, and elk winter range and calving areas," Morrison wrote in a letter to the department.
Morrison also requested that the department develop rules to provide a framework in which wind-generation leases could occur.
The federal Renewable Resource Data Center ranks Montana second in the nation for its potential to produce wind energy as a percentage of total electricity consumption. The center estimates that 15 percent of Montana's electricity could be produced by wind.
In Texas, which the data center estimates can produce 10 percent of its electricity by wind, generation facilities have operated on school trust land since 1996. Over the past five years a 35-megawatt field has produced about $100,000 a year for schools. Conventional formulas suggest the 35-megawatt field at full production would provide power to 35,000 homes on the western grid.
"There is great potential for wind energy production in Montana," Morrison said. "Having this kind of information available for developers would be a beneficial economic development tool."
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