Montana, Western polls find strong wind energy support

In an op-ed in yesterday’s Helena (Mont.) Independent Reporter, Montana Public Service Commissioner Gail Gutsche reports on findings of two recent polls conducted by a bipartisan polling team–one in the Big Sky State and the other in six Western states–that both report strong support for renewable energy development and policies.

According to Ms. Gutsche:

The Montana poll found that three out of four Montana voters support increasing the amount of electricity we get from clean, renewable wind turbines, solar power and geothermal energy resources. Over 75 percent of voters support expanding and extending the state’s renewable energy standard from a 15 percent renewable energy target by 2015 to a 25 percent renewable energy target by 2025.

The poll conducted in Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana and Utah found that Western voters view renewable energy as a job creator and a way to improve their state’s economic situation. An overwhelming majority of Montana voters also view renewable energy as an important part of our energy future. Eighty-six percent of respondents supported increasing the use of wind and solar energy, compared to only 32 percent that would like to see the state increase its use of coal.

Ms. Gutsche notes the positive effect that support for development of wind power has had in Montana, where more than 300 MW of wind farm generating capacity (enough to power the equivalent of 80,000 average American homes) has been installed since 2005. The Public Service Commission recently signed off on Spion Kop, a new 40-MW wind farm that will deliver electricity to utility NorthWestern Energy (NWE) at a cost that, according to Ms. Gutsche, is lower than NWE is paying for electricity from the large Colstrip coal-fired power plant.

Wind farms, she adds, provide a long list of benefits: a dependable source of tax revenue and construction jobs, a supply of inexhaustible energy, and emissions-free electricity that helps keep air and water clean. She closes by urging readers who support wind power to let candidates running for office this fall know their views.

The Montana poll can be found at:

The Western states poll can be found at:

Tom Gray,