The Department of Energy's Wind Program and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published a new wind resource map for the state of Montana. This resource map shows wind speed estimates at 50 meters above the ground and depicts the resource that could be used for utility-scale wind development. Future plans are to provide wind speed estimates at 30 meters, which are useful for identifying small wind turbine opportunities.
As a renewable resource, wind is classified according to wind power classes, which are based on typical wind speeds. These classes range from Class 1 (the lowest) to Class 7 (the highest). In general, at 50 meters, wind power Class 4 or higher can be useful for generating wind power with large turbines. Class 4 and above are considered good resources. Particular locations in the Class 3 areas could have higher wind power class values at 80 meters than shown on the 50 meter map because of possible high wind shear. Given the advances in technology, a number of locations in the Class 3 areas may suitable for utility-scale wind development.
This map indicates that Montana has wind resources consistent with utility-scale production. Good-to-excellent wind resource areas are distributed throughout the eastern two-thirds of Montana. The region just east of the Rocky Mountains in northern Montana has excellent-to-superb wind resource, with other outstanding resource areas being located on the hills and ridges between Great Falls and Havre. The region between Billings and Bozeman also has excellent wind resource areas. Ridge crest locations have the highest resource in the western one-third of Montana.
Before you plan to install your own wind turbine or wind farm, you must know if the wind resource in your location is adequate. From wind resource maps, you can determine if your area of interest should be further explored. Wind resource at a micro level can vary significantly; therefore, you should get a professional evaluation of your specific area of interest.
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