DEQ Awards $1 Million in Renewable Energy Development Grants in Montana

The grants are funded with federal Recovery dollars. "Montana is rich in alternative energy potential." said DEQ Director Richard Opper. "The grants make it possible to move these projects from planning into production."

The four grant applications scored highest among the 15 that were submitted in a highly competitive process according to Brian Spangler, Renewable Energy Section Manager at the DEQ. "All of the applicants showed promise." he said. "The major goal of these grants was to advance the commercialization of these technologies in Montana and these four really stood out in that regard."

CORE Wind Power, Inc. was awarded $500,000 to develop a 3-megawatt direct-drive wind turbines to be built in Ronan. The company holds a patented wind motor/generator that uses direct-drive technology.

CORE stands for Conductor Optimized Rotary Energy. The heavy drive-train gearbox in conventional generators is replaced with the direct-drive CORE system.

The wind energy developers believe this type of generator will be lighter, lower in cost, and less prone to failure. The grant will help fund a 3-megawatt demonstration wind turbine to be built in Ronan. The wind turbine will be sent to the National Renewable Energy Labs in Colorado for testing before returning to be erected in the Ronan area.

Algae Aqua Culture Technologies (AACT) was awarded $350,000 to develop a commercial-scale algae greenhouse that will convert waste wood chips into an organic fertilizer near Columbia Falls. The company has developed a process to convert biomass and waste gases into alternative energy and organic fertilizer.

The proposed AACT project involves growing algae in a 5,500 square-foot greenhouse at the Stolze Lumber yards. A two-stage anaerobic digester process is planned to produce methane gas, which will be burned along with wood waste for mechanical power in the mill. Biochar from wood waste combustion and waste from the algal processes will be used to make an organic fertilizer co-product.

Opportunity Link, a Hi-Line area local economic development agency, was awarded $125,000 to develop railroad markets for biodiesel. The agency, based in Havre, has organized a partnership between BNSF and the MSU-Northern Bioenergy Center to demonstrate the use of a 20 percent biodiesel blend (B-20)in a locomotive switch engine. BNSF has agreed to use B-20 in a switch engine for one year.

Part of the grant will be used by Opportunity Link to coordinate emissions testing and to analyze filters and engine components at the end of the operating period. The test data will be compared to an identical engine operating on conventional fuels over the same period of time.

Earl Fisher, a Chester-based oilseed processor and biodiesel refinery, was awarded $25,000 to provide more efficient oilseed crushing capacity. The grant will be used to purchase additional oilseed crushing equipment to expand capacity of the plant. The object of the grant is to lower the cost of biodiesel for the Opportunity Link project and to tie into a regional market for biodiesel.