Project Overview

Description

  • Single landowner.
  • Sited in an area with world-class wind resources.
  • Total potential capacity of up to 600 MW.
  • No fatal flaws have been identified.
  • Connecting directly to the backbone of the Montana electrical grid on the 500 kV Colstrip Transmission System.

Montana based, Haymaker Wind, LLC is developing the Haymaker Ranch Wind Energy Project. The project will be located on private land in Wheatland County, Montana, seven miles northwest of the small community of Two Dot. The project is located on a large ranch, owned and operated by a single landowner on a relatively flat, grassy and windy plateau.

Wind Assessment 

To assess the wind resource three 60 meter met towers were installed across the site and over five years of wind data have been collected. The wind resource assessments confirmed that the area has some of the highest wind speed and capacity factors in the United States.

Environmental and Permitting

A Regulatory and Environmental Constraints Analysis was completed for the project site. The analysis evaluated land ownership, permitting and environmental issues with no fatal flaws or roadblocks being identified.  Since the project is sited on private land, the permitting is less complex and can be accomplished within a short timeframe closer to construction.

Intensive environmental studies were initiated in 2018, all of which relate to characterizing risk to species protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA). The project will have collected data necessary to support eagle take permitting if warranted. The project is regularly engaging with US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) regarding study plans and wildlife issues.

It is important to note that according to the State of Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Mapping database, the Project site is not within any designated habitat area. Sage grouse are considered a species of concern in Montana and wind farms are not allowed in sage grouse core habitat areas without mitigation.

Interconnection

The Haymaker Ranch Wind Energy Project is situated between two separate and equidistant existing high voltage transmission lines, resulting in multiple interconnection options for the project. An interconnection request for 600 MW of wind generation has been accepted by the Colstrip Transmission System Owners (NorthWestern Energy, Puget Sound Energy, Avista, PacifiCorp and Portland General Electric) for a point of interconnection at the Colstrip Transmission System (two 500 kV lines) near Martinsdale, Montana. The Colstrip Transmission System Owners have another senior queued request in the generation interconnection queue at this location from the Gordon Butte Pumped Storage Hydro Project. Much of the substation design work has been completed for the Gordon Butte project and can be used to expedite studies for the Haymaker Wind Project.

An additional request for 200 MW from the Project was queued at the same time for interconnection to NorthWestern Energy’s 230 kV system in Montana adding alternatives for entities such as NorthWestern Energy, Avista or Montana corporate loads.

Regional Market Influences

The amount of affordable electricity delivered to the national grid by renewable energy generators is increasing. The costs of ever-improving renewable energy technologies have declined steadily and are anticipated to continue to decrease. As grid and market operations are improved, and companies increasingly take advantage of economies of scale, renewable energy prices will be reduced further. The Haymaker project is designed to be flexible regarding size to benefit from the economies of scale and is well positioned to take advantage of upcoming changes in an evolving western market.

One significant factor influencing the market in the West is upcoming coal generation retirement. The 2,100 MW Colstrip Generating Station in Montana and the corresponding Colstrip Transmission System (two 500 kV transmission lines from the Colstrip facility to the Bonneville Power Administration’s transmission system) were initially constructed to provide reliable and cost-effective access to Montana resources for the benefit of the Pacific Northwest region. With coal-fired plants under increasing market and political pressure, two of the Colstrip plant owners have agreed to retire the oldest and most financially risky coal-burning units at the Colstrip plant by December of 2019. The decision marks an opportunity to use Colstrip’s existing large transmission system to build out more clean energy and export it to the Pacific Northwest.

The Haymaker project is positioned to take full advantage of this opportunity. The Project’s proximity to the Colstrip Transmission System will allow direct access to transmission capacity from the Project to the Pacific Northwest made available by this coal generation retirement. Interconnection with the Colstrip Transmission System will also reduce transmission rates and rate pancakes that other Montana projects must pay. The Project’s higher quality wind resource more closely matches Pacific Northwest loads and makes it competitive with other renewable resources available to Pacific Northwest utilities, despite the added transmission costs. Portland General Electric, a Colstrip plant co-owner recently published an integrated resource plan demonstrating the system benefits of adding Montana wind to their generation portfolio. The addition of Montana wind was shown to yield cost and integration benefits through improving the efficiency of their thermal fleet utilization, reducing oversupply and diversifying their renewable generation profile.