Wind power a farce in Montana!
founder
Posted by Chad (+1767) 17 years ago
If you read my other post you know I'm on a mission. I am 90% committed to purchasing a 10kw wind turbine and a 100' tower for installation North of Miles City. Here comes the roadblock! The local power co-op- Tongue River Electric Co-Op. Seems they have no net metering agreement available and they're not interested in one.

Montana's farmers, ranchers and rural residents are eligible for grants and low interest loans through the recent Federal Farm Bill for development and implementation of alternative energy projects. It's been sold to Congress as a way to reduce our reliance on outside energy sources. Well, that's fin and dandy but 90% of farmers and ranchers get their power from electric co-ops. In Montana all the co-ops are exempt from participating in net metering programs. Seems they did a fine job lobbying our legislature about how unreliable the wind blowing is; they're better off getting power from PPL, WAPA, or the BPA.

Net Metering you ask? Here's the deal:

1. I buy a wind turbine (or some other renewable power system)

2. I am hooked up to the local co-op for power and I pay the monthly service/provider fee like every other customer.

3. If my wind turbine produce less power than I need I buy what I need from the co-op at the same price as I've always paid, just like everyone else. I pay my bill each month like everyone else.

4. If my turbine uses more than I need my meter runs backwards and the co-op gets the power.

5. At the end of each year the monthly totals are added up, If I have produced more power than I used the co-op owes me nothing! They get the power free of cost from me.

Pretty good deal for the co-ops. The equipment is safe and meets all UL, NEC, and IEEE regulations and codes. There are literally thousands of these systems installed all over the world, including throughout the U.S. and Canada. The technology is safe and reliable.

So, anyone that is actually educated or informed have any idea why Montana co-ops refuse to participate?

My uncle Roy would hit these roadblocks once in a while and ask me, "Chad, why is the world so full of sh*t"!
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Posted by Duncan Bonine (+280) 17 years ago
Chad, in your estimation is this roadblock with Tongue River Electric co-op or with the Montana Electric Co-op Assn?

One of the problems with the structure of most any co-op is that the board of directors is made up of members/patrons who seldom really know what is going on. Because of this lack of knowledge, the board will usually just go along with whatever management recommends. While co-ops make a big deal out of being member owned and managed via the board of directors, they are almost always controlled by a manager who can convince the board to do whatever he/she wants.

I would suggest contacting all of the members of the board of directors and creating some commotion. Have them anser the question; "Why isn't TREC interested in free power?" Chances are they won't be able to answer you and will start asking management for answers. It is pretty ridiculous for those co-ops not to be interested in alternative power, especially if they don't have to pay for it.

In the Powell/Cody area the irrigation districts have as many as four or five turbines in some of the canals and the electric companies pay for the net meter power.
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supporter
Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+15423) 17 years ago
There is a reason co-op's and 501c3's are not taught as sucessful business models in business schools.
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founder
Posted by Chad (+1767) 17 years ago
Richard & Duncan you're sensible men. I am seeking allies and support from other co-ops and industry and government persons that are knowledgeable of the issues involved.

It ain't over 'til it's over!
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Posted by Asbigaroundasacanofcorn (+8) 17 years ago
So if this is a success, you will have your own private generator?

I don't get all of the details. You buy the equipment, it produces juice and you wire it into your house.

Why do you need the coop to be involved? Just to buy back excess juice?

How much will all the equipment cost you?
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supporter
Posted by Rick Kuchynka (+4455) 17 years ago
I think the idea is that you'd need supplemental power for when the wind can't provide enough.
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Posted by Asbigaroundasacanofcorn (+8) 17 years ago
Right, I get that part. But you'll only have to pay for what you use right?

And the juice created by the wind is yours, and if the co-op don't want any excess, so be it.

So what is the hold up?
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supporter
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Posted by Hal Neumann (+10306) 17 years ago
Chad, last night I listened to a brief talk by Cliff Bradley (Montana Microbial Products) on the topic of a "Blue Print for a Sustainable Energy Future". Cliff and others are working with AERO (Alternative Energy Resources Organization) to present the upcoming session of the legislature with suggested legislation. If I understood Cliff correctly, among the items they hope to address is the "metering" roadblock you mentioned.

If you've not brought your concerns to AERO's attention, it might be worth considering that option.

Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO)
432 N. Last Chance Gulch
Helena, MT 59601
(406) 443-7272 (406) 442-9120 fax
Email: [email protected]
http://www.aeromt.org/

For those who've aren't familiar with AERO, take a look at their web site. It's an interesting organization. And no . . . it's not some touchy-feely group founded by granolas in Missoula AERO sprang up in Eastern Montana in the 1970s.
http://www.aeromt.org/
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supporter
Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+15423) 17 years ago
I wish the picture at the top of the AREO web page was a little clearer when you zoom in... the yellow flowers look an aweful lot like toadflax or leafy spurge. Ironinc.
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founder
Posted by Ken Ziebarth (+312) 17 years ago
The reason your utility doesn't want you to run your meter backward is that it means they are paying you retail price for your electricity. They make money by buying low, ..etc. But in many places the Public Utility Commission, or whatever such agency exists, requires that this be done anyway to reduce the need for new power plants. Here in Colorado we passed an initiated statute requiring utilities to not only buy back at retail, but to subsidize the cost of small scale generation, at least photovoltaic.
Ken Ziebarth
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Posted by Eric Brandt (+848) 17 years ago
Under a net metering arrangement, typically the utility "stores" your power for you until you need it. At the end of the meter cycle, the utility either owes you money which they pay at WHOLESALE or you owe them money which you pay at retail.

It is very expensive to change the power level of a power plant. Particularly to down-power it where the utility has to waste power through large resistor banks until they re-achieve a lower level. Since the power usage is typically greater during the day, there is a large loss every evening. The larger the power plant, the longer the transition and the larger the loss.

The utility companies typically prefer the net metering situation because home generators push power onto the grid while you are at work using the power and pull back once you leave work.

This allows the power plants to avoid the larger swings in power. By providing you with a "100% efficient battery" they save a lot of energy and money as well.
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founder
Posted by Chad (+1767) 17 years ago
Eric,

You're a bit off. Under net metering regulations in North America (those that I have reviewed or studied) the small producer does not get paid at all for any excess power that is produced; the local utility gets to keep it without paying for it.

Small producers are given three options:

1. Disconnect from the grid and be completely self sufficient.

2. Sell the power at the prevailing wholesale rate (usually a sliding spot market rate).

3. Net meter-
A. Stay connected to the grid; if you need power you can use it and you still pay for the monthly connection/use fee and power used at the same rate as other users.
B. If you make more power than you use the local utility gets to keep it without paying you for it.

I agree that it is inefficient to operate a power plant if you're having to increase and decrease output as loads go up and down, but for me and a hand full of small producers the impact of a small wind, water, geothermal turbine/power plant isn't even a drop in the over bucket of the power pulsing through the electric grid in this country. If I have a 1000 watt turbine I can't even run a hair dryer. I'm planning a 10Kw turbine and if it runs at peak speed 20% of the year it won't meet the electric demand of my farmstead. 20% is about what I can expect.

My long term goals are to reduce my utility bills, help out a bit with "green" power generation, and to set an example of how we can ween ourselves from both corporate power control as well as reliance on centralized power systems. You may recall that Miles City once had their own power and heating plant.
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supporter
Posted by Van (+561) 17 years ago
Co-ops are wellfare??
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