EverPower develops three 80-MW phases of Mud Springs Wind project in Montana

EverPower Wind Holdings is currently developing the Mud Springs Wind Ranch Project and requesting from PacifiCorp three 80-MW wind qualifying facility (QF) contracts for projects that are all adjacent to each other in Montana, said Jonathan Weisgall, a vice president at Berkshire Hathaway Energy, at a June 4 hearing in Congress.

Weisgall testified before the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It was in regards to legislation related to the accountability and energy efficiency aspects of the committee’s “Architecture of Abundance” energy package being pushed by the panel’s Republican majority.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE) owns three regulated U.S. utilities, including PacifiCorp, Weisgall noted. Much of his testimony centered on suggested reforms to the Public Utility Regulatory Policiies Act (PURPA) of 1978. He said that qualifying facility developers are working around PURPA by splitting up larger projects into smaller ones that meet an upper limit of 80 MW per project. He said the projects also technically meet a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rule that they be at least one mile apart, with FERC unable or unwilling to look beyond the one-mile rule at the projects as a whole, which usually share the same developer and the same interconnecting transmission line.

In one of his examples, Weisgall said that the EverPower projects in Montana meet FERC’s one-mile rule, but share a common 230-kV transmission line they are building into PacifiCorp’s service area near Frannie, Wyoming, in order to secure Wyoming avoided cost prices. The three phases/projects will each be owned by a separate limited liability company, but operated as a single large wind farm, Weisgall said. They are the:

  • Mud Springs Wind Ranch – Pryor Caves Wind Project (80 MW)
  • Mud Springs Wind Ranch – Mud Springs Wind Project (80 MW); and
  • Mud Springs Wind Ranch – Horse Thief Wind Project (80 MW).

Weisgall wrote: “FERC has not attempted to address gaming of its one-mile rule. FERC enforces its one-mile rule literally and has stated it will not examine whether larger projects have been divided into smaller projects in order to obtain QF status, so long as the projects comply with the one-mile rule. In particular, FERC has stated the one-mile rule does not contain a ‘rebuttable presumption’ that may be used by a utility to contest the QF status of a given project.”

His suggested congressional remedy is: “Enable utilities to rebut FERC’s assumption that QFs are independent for purposes of applying the 20- or 80-MW size limitations where the sites are located more than one mile apart by demonstrating that the facilities are part of a common enterprise.”

Said the EverPower website about this project: “The Mud Springs Wind Ranch project consists of three 80 MW wind farms located in Carbon County, Montana. The three separate 80 MW wind farms are located in the Sage Creek Valley of Carbon County. The project will be located on ranch lands and could include up to 120 turbines when completed. The project will share a common 14 mile long 230 kV power line and the point of interconnection is expected to be near Frannie, Wyoming. Current plans will utilize a turbine at 100 meter (330 feet) hub height and will include a series of project roads and overhead and underground collection and transmission lines throughout the project area.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.