US developer books capacity on Montana-Canada wire

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A proposed new merchant transmission line to connect the Canadian province of Alberta to US electricity markets is continuing to drive potential wind development in isolated parts of the US state of Montana. Montana Alberta Tie Ltd (MATL), based in Calgary, plans to build a 230 kV alternating current line stretching 326 kilometres from Lethbridge, Alberta, to Great Falls, Montana. Construction could begin this fall, pending approvals from regulators on both sides of the international border. Project developer Invenergy Wind Montana LLC has requested 180 MW of capacity on the line to transport wind generation from south to north and another 125 MW to carry power from north to south. Invenergy's Kevin Smith says the new transmission gives the company, which recently finished construction of the 135 MW Judith Gap wind station in Montana, enough lines capacity develop its second wind project in the state. "Combining MATL's mission of opening up transmission capacity between Alberta and Montana with Invenergy's desire to capture some of the best wind speeds in North America should make for a successful project," he says. The request from Invenergy would fill the proposed line to capacity, which is 300 MW in each direction. MATL has already awarded 15-year transmission service rights contracts to GE Wind for 175 MW to transport wind production south to Great Falls, and to Great Plains Wind and Energy to ship 120 MW north to Lethbridge. All the wind projects, including Invenergy's, are planned for the area near Cut Bank, Montana. The region, in the north central part of the state, has the wind resource but lacks high capacity transmission. MATL has posted public notice of Invenergy's request to allow other interested parties to submit competing expressions of interest. If they do, MATL will hold a competitive bidding process for the transmission capacity. If not, it will be awarded to Invenergy.

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