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Berkshire Hathaway to buy Montana wind farms

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Three north-central Montana wind farms are the latest assets sought by Berkshire Hathaway, whose subsidiaries have steadily expanded in-state holdings in recent years.

The three wind farms currently owned by NaturEner are located near Cut Bank and the electricity flows into Canada by way of the Montana-Alberta Tie Line, or MATL. Berkshire Hathaway Energy filed paperwork Aug. 2 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to acquire Glacier Wind Energy I, and II, as well as Rim Rock Wind Energy. The generating assets combined capacity is 399 megawatts. They are among the earliest wind farms built in Montana for energy export.

“The proposed transaction will add high-quality assets and dedicated employees to Berkshire Hathaway Energy as the company works to create a sustainable energy future,” said Jessi Strawn, BHE vice president of communications. “Berkshire Hathaway Energy is excited to be investing in Montana with this proposed transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals and expected to close in fourth quarter 2022.”

Two years ago, Berkshire Hathaway Energy bought MATL, a 230-Kilovolt capacity transmission line between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Alberta. The 214-mile transmission line was the first connecting power grids in the United States and Canada and came online in 2013. It was also hailed as Montana’s first newly constructed major transmission line in two decades.

BHE also tells FERC that 200 megawatts of Canadian electricity will begin traveling south online in January to a customer in Montana yet to be identified. For comparison, 200 MW is the same capacity as NorthWestern Energy’s generation from Colstrip Unit 4. In April, FERC approved a transmission service rights agreement between BHE and Calgary-based Heartland Generation.

Heartland operates 10 gas-fired powered plants, including two recently converted to gas from coal. After its first year of 200 megawatts of transmission capacity, Heartland’s agreement scales down to 150 megawatts from January 2024 through December 2031.

Berkshire Hathaway investments in Montana electricity generation dates to the 1980s and Units 3 and 4 of Colstrip Power plant. Berkshire subsidiary PacifiCorp owns a 10% share in the units and a similar-size share of capacity on the Colstrip Transmission Line. PacifiCorp is one of the four Colstrip owners facing deadlines to cut coal-power from its portfolio, the first deadline coming at the end of 2025 in Washington.

In 2021, PacifiCorp rolled out plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 26% of 2005 levels. That year, the company also completed its 240 megawatt Pryor Mountain Wind Farm near Bridger. A $406 million project, Pryor Mountain is the largest wind farm currently spinning in Montana. It provides power the PacifiCorp customers in Wyoming and Utah.

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