With high temperatures in the 100’s for the next few days, few things are more important than air conditioning, and to have air conditioning there must be a reliable power source.

KGVO News spoke with Jodi Black with Northwestern Energy and asked her how robust the power grid will be in the northwest as the entire region remains under a massive heat wave.

“We are anticipating the rise in temperatures that will be moving from the west coast inland, and are coming our way into Montana,” said Black. “Our energy marketing team uses forecasts among the tools that they use to prepare for this kind of demand that we're anticipating. Northwestern Energy is anticipating this and preparing for it. We work throughout the whole year so that our system will continue to provide reliable service when demand is high and we are anticipating very high demand.”

A surprising fact was revealed when Black said the energy to cool the west coast during the heat wave will come from Colstrip, Montana.

“For example, right now on the west coast, some of the energy providers there that are owners of Colstrip Units Three and Four, which are in eastern Montana, will use the grid’s transmission system to bring energy that's being generated in Colstrip right now to serve their customers on the west coast who have a high demand because of the very high temperatures there.”

Black said, looking at the Northwestern Energy website, she described where the power will come from to cool our own state during the heat wave.

“Right now today I can see that our wind is not producing much energy to meet our demand,” she said. “So we are relying on some market purchases, but also on our thermal generation (natural gas) which is generation that can be counted on no matter what the weather is, and then also our hydro-electric system in Montana which is a great generation resource and is carbon free.”

Black said that Northwestern Energy is concerned that its Montana customers will have to pay higher prices for energy, so they are asking for permission to build more ways to generate power.

“We are concerned with Northwestern Energy’s customers being more exposed to energy market prices than any of our peers in the Pacific Northwest,” she said. Tat is why we have an application right now before the Montana Public Service Commission to approve a plan to build the Laurel Generating Station near Laurel, Montana, and also for an agreement with a battery storage project. It'll be the first industrial sized battery storage project in Montana. And that's called Beartooth Battery.”

The Northwestern Energy website states:

‘Our electric portfolio is built on the carbon-free hydro system, along with wind, coal, gas and solar. Wind and solar are variable energy resources, meaning they don’t produce power if the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. Coal and natural gas are reliable and resilient energy sources that can start up quickly whenever we need them.’

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