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New Transmission Needed to Unlock Wind Potential

August 2, 2011

HELENA, Mont. - "Spinning in vain" could be the description of up to 275,000 megawatts of wind power in mostly-rural areas, including Montana. A new report from the Center for Rural Affairs shows that many rural turbines present potential, but the electricity they could generate needs to be connected to transmission lines.

Report author Johnathan Hladik says it's time to invest in "connecting the dots" so the power gets to where it's needed, and creates jobs in rural areas along the way.

"Transmission at this point is the key step in really enabling our vast wind resources, and even solar for that matter, to come online and to make a difference in our energy portfolio."

In terms of jobs, Hladik says, annual wages for those involved in transmission projects average $65,000.

"Because all of this will need to happen in rural areas, which is essentially where the wind is; that's where the jobs will go. And it's not just the people employed in the construction process, but it's the manufacturing, too."

He says there are estimates that transmission project investment needs to be at least $12 billion a year for the next 20 years, and that could come from a blend of private and public entities.

The full report, "Connect the Dots: Transmission and Rural Communities," is at

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT