The Montana Public Service Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to establish contract terms and conditions between Greycliff Wind Prime and NorthWestern Energy, for a 25-megawatt wind farm in southcentral Montana.

The Greycliff Wind Farm will move forward as a qualifying facility (QF) under the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, a law which requires utilities like NorthWestern Energy to purchase power from independent renewable generators less than 80-megawatts in size, at the utility’s “avoided cost.” Avoided cost is the cost the utility would have incurred had it supplied the same amount of power itself, or obtained it from another source.

Speaking to the commission’s decision, Commissioner Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman, said,

Unfortunately, in every QF docket, the Commission is faced with trying to make sense out of federal policies that make no sense. The best the Commission can do with unworkable law is try to strike a fair balance with the best information we currently have available, thereby providing as much consistency and predictability as possible to the renewable energy marketplace.  Moreover, if QF developers are going to insist on fixed, long-term power purchase agreements, then the Commission must strive to make its first priority the protection of the consumer, by avoiding rates that appear to be insupportably high.  Hopefully in our actions today, we struck a good balance that was fair to these dedicated wind entrepreneurs, while putting the legitimate interests of ratepayers first.

The two primary points of dispute resolved by the PSC are:

·         The project will move forward with a contract length of up to 25 years at $45.49 per megawatt-hour for the full length of the contract.

·         NorthWestern has the right to curtail purchase of Greycliff’s power during light load hours ONLY for safety purposes. NorthWestern had requested curtailment rights for economical reasons in addition to safety, but that request has been denied.