Montana Project Seeks to Supply Energy, Strengthen Industry and Forests

September 22, 2009 – Greenville, SC — Tough Times Drive Innovation and Unique Partnerships to Retain Manufacturing Jobs, Enhance Forest Health and Produce Renewable Energy

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) today announced a grant to Montana Community Development Corporation (MCDC). The grant is in support of an exciting proposal to link energy producers, forest products manufacturers and public and private forest landowners to advance the cause of domestically-produced renewable energy while strengthening the competitive capability of one of the nation’s traditional rural-based industries and enhancing forest health.

The Endowment’s grant will be used to leverage funding that NorthWestern Energy (NorthWestern) obtained under a Montana Department of Commerce grant authorized by the Montana Reinvestment Act (MRI). In that act the legislature appropriated $475,000 to study and promote expansion of biomass energy production in western Montana. NorthWestern will use its grant to create a business plan to purchase up to 200 megawatts of biomass power from eight Montana sawmills. NorthWestern’s proposal, submitted in partnership with MCDC, was one of only two projects funded.

“We at the Endowment find the MCDC/NorthWestern approach right in line with the work we’ve been doing to identify ways to promote the multiple benefits of woody biomass as a renewable energy source with potential to enhance the health and retention of working forests. At the same time it provides new markets for low value wood, offers the potential for new family-supporting jobs and under girds traditional wood products producers,” said Endowment President and CEO Carlton Owen. The Endowment’s $50,000 grant to MCDC recognizes the relevance and importance this project holds for forests, wood products manufacturing and domestically-produced energy across the nation. Owen continued, “The forward thinking collaborative approach to addressing problems in broad- based partnerships is just the type of thing that the Endowment believes holds great promise for a new era of quality green jobs in America.”


“Endowment funding will allow us to enhance the business plan for biomass power generation in Montana funded by the Montana Department of Commerce,” said Rosalie Cates, President of MCDC. “Perhaps more important, working with the Endowment will give Montana access to a larger, national conversation about the future of the timber industry and the role of energy in the industry.”

In its submission to the Montana Department of Commerce seeking funding for a regional study of the potential of sustained woody biomass production to meet energy needs in western Montana and beyond, NorthWestern wrote, “Montana is at a unique point in history. There is a confluence of community concern about the health of the state’s forests being devastated by insect infestation; a growing recognition of the importance that the forest products industry plays in the health of forests and the economic viability of Montana communities; state and federal initiatives promoting the development of renewable energy sources; and, a utility company which needs to obtain additional supplies of baseload energy, preferably from renewable resources.”

Partnership between and among a regional utility (NorthWestern), eight existing forest products facilities, forest landowners (both public and private) and a community development entity (MCDC) is a rare and exciting partnership that promises an approach to renewable energy production that is spot on with the views of the Endowment. Rather than building large, centrally-located independent standing biomass-powered plants, this project is founded on the proven concept of combined heat & power systems co-located at existing sawmills. A distributed approach to power generation from biomass has the added benefits of supplying heat/steam and energy to existing facilities, making them more globally competitive, while providing excess power to the grid all while spreading the demand on raw material.



Background About the Collaborative

A broad collaborative of partners led by the non-profit Montana Community Development Corporation (MCDC) and including NorthWestern Energy, seven Montana-based forest products companies (RY Timber; Eagle Stud; Sun Mountain Lumber; Tricon Timber; FH Stoltze Land and Timber; Plum Creek Timber; and Pyramid Mountain Lumber) along with landowner cooperators (USDA Forest Service; Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation; Stimson Lumber; The Nature Conservancy and Plum Creek).

The project will assess three critical topics:


2. 3.

The supply and availability of forest biomass generally in association with existing forest products manufacturing facilities;
The cost of biomass to produce electricity; and

A business model for sustainable biomass electric generation capacity.

The MCDC/NorthWestern Energy initiative is part of an overall plan to determine the feasibility of adding as much as 200 MW of electric capacity to the energy producer’s portfolio via renewable energy.

For more information about the collaborative contact:

Craig Rawlings, MCDC: 406-728-9234 ext. 203 crawlings@mtcdc.orgJohn S. Fitzpatrick, NorthWestern Energy: 406-449-9819

For information about the U.S. Endowment:

Carlton Owen, 864-233-7646

About the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (The Endowment)

The Endowment is a not-for-profit public charity working collaborative with partners in the public and private sectors to advance systemic, transformative and sustainable change for the health and vitality of the nation’s working forests and forest-reliant communities.

About Montana Community Development Corporation (MCDC)

MCDC is a $14.2 million small business loan fund dedicated to reducing poverty in Montana through its business-building efforts. MCDC lends about $3 million per year to small businesses, and assists over 200 companies with effective business management. MCDC has placed $20 million in federal New Markets Tax Credits in Montana development projects in low income census tracts.

About NorthWestern Energy

NorthWestern Corporation, incorporated in Delaware in November 1923 and doing business as NorthWestern Energy, is publicly traded on the New York Exchange under the ticker symbol NWE. NorthWestern Energy and our nearly 1,400 employees provide electricity and natural gas to approximately 656,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. The Company has generated and distributed electricity in South Dakota and distributed natural gas in South Dakota and Nebraska since 1923 and has distributed electricity and natural gas in Montana since 2002.

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