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Study Says Montana Wind Energy Potential Tops Columbia River Gorge

Windmill at the Judith Gap, MT wind farm.
David J. Laporte (CC-BY-2)
Windmill at the Judith Gap wind farm.

A new study says that Montana’s potential for wind energy production is better than that of the Columbia River Gorge, between Oregon and Washington.

Ben Kujala with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council says that for utilities looking to meet their regional electricity loads, the blowing patterns of Montana winds are better than those of the famously windy gorge.

“Overall what we do see is you have in Montana a resource with higher annual energy generation. I don’t think that surprises anyone. What we are really adding in here is in the winter it really is a much better capacity resource for utilities looking to diversify.”

He spoke at a meeting of Montana’s Wind and Transmission Working group Thursday, Sept. 22. The working group was created earlier this year at the direction of Governor Steve Bullock in his Montana Energy Future plan. It brings together developers, utilities and state and federal agencies.

Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality says the state ranks among the top five for wind power potential. The DEQ reports about 7 percent of electricity generated in Montana in 2015 came from wind, and that percentage is expected to grow.

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