NextEra Energy will start construction of what is expected to be Montana’s largest wind farm to date, the Clearwater Wind Project, during 2021; it would be operational in 2022, according to company’s sources.
Clearwater wind farm would reach Rosebud, Custer and Garfield counties in Montana, as it will plug into the grid at Colstrip substation, targeting the markets in the Pacific Northwest. It will provide up to 750 megawatts of clean energy, which makes it the biggest wind farm in the state.
According to NextEra’s spokesperson, Lisa Paul, “construction on Clearwater will begin in 2021; it would become operational in 2022.” She also note that “the project does not need additional transmission capacity to become available on the Colstrip Transmission System for Clearwater to come online.”
NextEra’s developers pushed for the last two years to secure transmission access in the three counties that the farm would reach. According to local news media, the company secured access in the community of Colstrip last summer; thus, clearing the way for Clearwater to enter online as soon as it’s completed.
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Lisa Paul assured that, as Clearwater wouldn’t need additional transmission capacity, its start in operations wouldn’t mean the powering down of Colstrip’s power units. In fact, there was some concern in the community about that, as the size of Clearwater might not leave enough transmission power for Colstrip’s Unit 2 and 3.
Nevertheless, in the start of 2020, Colstrip’s units 1 and 2, coal-fired, were closed, leaving 614 megawatts of transmission power available.
In this regard, Clearwater would be a big participant for Montana. It is expected to create 350 jobs during the construction period, and 20 base jobs to operate the facility. It will expend $226 million to landowner payments, and further $217 million in tax revenue over the first 30 years of the project’s lifecycle.
With the up-coming Joe Biden presidency, and its energy transition efforts, Clearwater will become a key competitor in Montana, as it is the first out of three large renewable energy projects being rolled out in the state, as demand for green energy increases.
The two others are the Pryor Mountain Wind Farm, from PacifiCorp with 250 MG capacity, and Broad Reach Power’s 500 MG wind and solar developments near Broadview.