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Financial problems end talks on 75 MW Montana wind project

Minneapolis-based Navitas Energy and Montana utility NorthWestern Energy have officially scuttled their talks on a 75 MW wind project at an abandoned gold mine near Whitehall, Montana. Navitas and its partner in the project, Wind Park, were selected from among the responses to a request for proposals in early 2003 to build a combined 150 MW of wind capacity within NorthWestern's service area (Windpower Monthly, December 2003). Navitas has since been negotiating a power purchase agreement with the financially unhealthy utility, whose parent company -- NorthWestern Corp -- sought protection under Chapter 11 of the US bankruptcy law in September last year. With the utility's low credit rating, Navitas has had trouble getting financing, even with a power purchase agreement (PPA) in place, because lenders fear the utility may default on payments for the wind electricity it has committed to buy. "We were unsuccessful in coming to terms for a PPA," says Greg Jaunich, adding that NorthWestern, due to its financial situation, never fully committed to a PPA. "But we're still very active in Montana." Since its 2003 request for proposals (RFP) for wind power, NorthWestern has developed an integrated resource plan that includes wind in its future resource mix. It released another solicitation in July. The problem with that, Jaunich says, is that NorthWestern may get through a decent RFP process, but they still have their financial credit issues to deal with.

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