Montana State University's Great Falls College of Technology (MSU-Great Falls) has received approval from the Montana Board of Regents to install a 50 kW wind turbine to generate power for its new industrial and construction trades building. It will be similar to the turbine erected in 2008 at the Cascade county roads and maintenance shop. It would be placed on a 120 foot tower on campus property southwest of the existing buildings. Location will depend on the results of site engineering tests.

The Regent’s approval is a first step leading to the actual commissioning of the turbine. The entire permitting, bidding, acquisition and installation process will take approximately nine months. MSU-Great Falls’ application for a conditional use permit will be considered by the Great Falls City Commission early February. The City Planning Board/Zoning Commission has recommended approval of the permit. If approval is granted, MSU-Great Falls hopes to have the turbine in place by Fall of 2009.

Over the past year, MSU-Great Falls has been actively researching wind energy development and workforce preparation for the wind energy industry. Part of the research process included a feasibility study (see attachment). The study, conducted by Western Community Energy (WCE) of Bozeman, found that the turbine should generate enough electricity to offset some electricity costs. The turbine could result in significant immediate savings, depending on the actual average wind speed. As energy costs rise, the annual saving from the wind generation would also increase.

Joe Schaffer, MSU-Great Falls’ Interim Dean, said the project has additional goals, “It will serve as a demonstration project in green energy production for public facilities and institutions and will provide a field application site for students in alternative energy programs, including students in Great Falls Public Schools. The college is working to develop a wind technician training program, anticipating that as the wind industry grows in the state, there will be an increasing need for technicians to maintain and operate the turbines at large commercial farms, as well as smaller community wind projects.”

The students at MSU-Great Falls have also given their support and approval to this project “We (the students) believe that, as an institution of higher learning, we need to set an example in our community for utilizing sustainable energy and working to be a front runner in meeting the Governor’s 20×10 Initiative.” stated Mark Mathison, President of the MSU-Great Falls Associated Students. “We are all concerned about saving our environment and being energy conscious. We believe that the wind turbine will help our campus become ‘greener.’ We need to be part of the solution, not a continuation of the problem.