Grid Could Expand Wind Power in Montana, But Also Coal

Montana is flush with wind power capacity and the state's governor wants $15 billion in federal funding to build the infrastructure to transmit it. But some worry the proposed grid would also expand coal-based energy production.

"The interior West's abundance of both green-energy resources and traditional fossil fuels make some watchdogs nervous about a rush to build what has been called an Interstate highway system for electrons. The idea of expanding transmission lines is commonly pitched by politicians as a way to put people to work while removing a crucial obstacle to renewable power."

"But it's not going to be just wind and sun on those wires. '[S]ome proponents of expanding coal-fired electricity production are using windfarms as a rationalization for greatly expanding transmission lines through the region.'"

"'They talk a lot about wind power, but their real interest is vastly expanded use of coal in generating electricity,' says Larry Swanson, a regional economist at the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West at the University of Montana in Missoula."

"Schweitzer does not deny that federally funded transmission lines would also help his state's coal industry. He says he is a strong advocate not just for renewables but for so-called clean coal technologies."

Full Story: Montana’s got wind, needs power lines

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