If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
That appears to be wind farm developer Caithness Energy’s strategy for its proposed Beaver Creek development in Montana.
After several legal fights with NorthWestern Energy, the New York-based developer filed a smaller version of the project on June 12 that was tweaked to address concerns heretofore raised before regulators [D2019.6.34].
Caithness had first sought to build four 80 MW capacity wind farms, plus 10 MW of battery storage facilities, in Stillwater and Sweet Grass counties about 50 miles west of Billings. However, NorthWestern Energy and Caithness clashed over the project in the Montana PSC and before FERC.
The utility tried to stop and then overturn FERC’s certification of the projects as QFs. NWE argued that the battery storage put the projects over the 80 MW cap for QFs (CU No. 1872 ). That dispute was never resolved, and the most recent petition largely renders it irrelevant.
In 2018, Caithness petitioned the PSC to force NorthWestern into a power purchase agreement [D2018.8.52] . The fight hinged, in part, on how to value energy storage and its ancillary services (CU No. 1865 13]). While commissioners partially ruled in Caithness’ favor in March, the developer pulled its petition and submitted a redesigned proposal, which is the most recent filing.
Caithness now wants to build two wind farms—Beaver Creek Wind II and III—in Stillwater County. Each project would have 60 MW nameplate capacity and 20 MW battery storage. That ensures there is no argument about the 80 MW cap imposed on PURPA projects.
The developer also hopes the new configuration addresses a concern raised by NorthWestern in the previous PSC docket—that the battery capacity was undersized for the wind capacity. The ratio between the two resources is much closer now, Caithness’ attorney in the case, Helena-based Michael Uda, notes in the petition.
The developer says it can have the projects on line by October 2020. That depends, though, on whether the legal dust has settled.
NorthWestern petitioned on June 25 to intervene in the case.