California Company Gets $320M Loan for Montana Wind Farm

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – A California company says it has lined up a $320 million loan to construct a wind farm in northern Montana that will generate 189 megawatts of electricity.

San Francisco-based NaturEner USA LLC said Tuesday its Rim Rock wind farm will generate enough electricity to power more than 60,000 homes.

The company said the loan from Morgan Stanley will allow construction to proceed immediately on the 126-turbine project, located on 21,000 acres north of Cut Bank.

The wind farm is NaturEner’s third in Montana.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Max Baucus and Jon Tester, said they welcomed the company’s announcement. It would increase the state’s wind power generating capacity to more than 600 megawatts, Schweitzer said.

Commercial operations could begin by the end of the year. When that happens, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. will make a $285 million investment in the project to gain credits toward potential tax breaks.

Baucus took credit in a statement for helping pass tax credits for the wind energy industry, such as those that San Diego Gas and Electric hopes to get through its pending investment.

But Schweitzer, who is also a Democrat, said what made the project possible was a willingness by the companies involved to work through their differences on a project Schweitzer said was in danger of falling apart several months ago. He said he had brought the different parties together in November to advance various agreements needed before construction could begin.

“The news isn’t ‘wah, wah, wah’ coming out of Washington. The news is NaturEner has the money to start construction now,” Schweitzer said. “This thing is going to be built. It’s no longer a project on paper.”

NaturEner CEO Jose Sanchez-Seara said in separate statements that both Baucus and Schweitzer helped make the project happen.

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