Peggy Beltrone has ambitious plans for the largest Superfund site in the nation. She aims to erect eight wind turbines, each 400 feet tall, not far from the old Anaconda Copper Company Smelter Stack. If the project gets the go-ahead, the farm would generate enough electricity to power 6,000 homes.
"It represents an accomplishment, using these lands for a purpose, when they have so few purposes," says Beltrone, who's president of the green energy company Exergy Integrated Systems. "It has national significance, because it would be the first project on these Western mining properties."
Exergy is working with Pintler Power and Deer Lodge County to make the plan a reality. On Aug. 28, the company submitted a proposal to NorthWestern Energy to build the 19.2-megawatt wind farm on C Hill above Anaconda.
Exergy's pitch came in response to NorthWestern's request for green energy project ideas. NorthWestern is mandated by law to increasingly draw power from community-owned renewable energy projects.
Beltrone says that because of Anaconda's history of using a significant amount of power to fuel the once-booming mining town, the region is equipped to connect to the existing power infrastructure. "Because of its history of having a lot of electrical load feeding into the mining operation, it now has space for energy to feed back through that system," she says.
Carl Nyman, Deer Lodge County's Superfund coordinator, says Exergy's proposal fits squarely with the county's 2010 growth policy, which calls for transforming the area into the "renewable energy center of the region."
The project is anticipated to create 30 short-term construction jobs and two long-term positions. Some community members, however, have said that's not a significant enough return for marring the skyline with noisy, towering turbines. Linda Behan Brooks, for one, told the Montana Standard last week that the project's sheer size made it a "monstrosity."
Nyman says that if NorthWestern signs off on the project, it will be vetted by the county, and community members will have a chance to weigh in.