Transmission line a reality, work to begin this fall

By John Adams, GFT Capital Bureau
Transmission line a reality, work to begin this fall   Officials with the U.S. Department of Energy have reached a financing deal with a Canadian energy company, paving the way for construction of the $213 million Montana-Alberta Tie Line (MATL).
   According to the DOE, Tonbridge Power Inc. of Toronto will receive up to $161 million in federal stimulus loans to construct the 230-kilovot transmission project, which will be delivering 300 to 600 megawatts of mostly wind-generated energy to markets outside Montana.
   The Western Area Power Administration will use borrowing authority under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus package, to help build the project between Great Falls and Lethbridge, Canada.
   A large part of the transmission line will run through Pondera County. It is estimated that between 45-52 miles of transmission line poles will be in the county.
   County Commission Chairman Sandy Broesder told the I-O on Thursday, “This (news) is fantastic!” The commissioners as a whole noted that road department funds that were lost when the missiles were pulled out will be boosted by taxes.
   Pondera County may be the big winner in the tax benefits over Cascade, Glacier, and Teton counties with an estimated range of between $1,038,970 and a high of $1,182,684 coming to the county.
   Almost two-thirds of the 214-mile transmission line will be located on U.S. soil, crating for the continued expansion of renewable energy production, according to the DOE.
   “By integrating renewable energy onto the electrical grid now, we are helping to shape America’s economy, powered by clean, secure and affordable electricity,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.
   He went on to say, “This project will help put Americans to work and build the transmission networks needed to bring renewable energy to consumers across the West.”
   Bob Williams of MATL Ltd., a Tonbridge subsidiary, said the financing deal allows the company to move forward with final construction preparations.
   “We are ready to get going on the next phase of the project, which really involves getting the rest of the work that has to be done before the construction finished up,” Williams said.
   Some of the work includes conducting legal surveys along the transmission corridor and performing geothermal analyses to determine tower placements.
   Construction should begin this fall, Williams said.