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Futures Thinker Report: Kristie Smith - MSU-Northern Alumnus Attends Montana's 'Energy From The Farm' Bus Tour

Futures Thinker Bio: Kristie Smith

NARFI Future Thinker Kristie Smith

Kristie Smith, a 22-year-old recent graduate of MSU-Northern is a NARFI Futures Thinker. With a mini-grant from NARFI, Kristie spent three days learning about wind energy and deepening her interest in biodiesel fuels.

Farm wind energy, then and future...

A December 2002 graduate in business and agriculture now working at US Bank in Havre, Kristie's senior project at MSU-N was an in-depth study to recommend location of a biodiesel plant on the Hi-Line. Taking into account prime growing conditions and best locations for oil seed crops in the area, potential support for and from the local community, transportation costs and transport hub location, Kristie's group identified Shelby, Montana as an ideal location for a biodiesel plant.

Her project on biodiesel fuel piqued her interest in wind energy and the Secretary of State's "Energy from the Farm" Bus Tour and NARFI's mini-grant gave her the opportunity to think about both for rural sustainability. "US Bank has a department that specializes in biodiesel,..maybe I'll be able to refer business to them."

Kristie hails from a family ranch in Lewistown, Montana that was founded in 1882 by her great, great grandfather. Today, with her parents, younger sister and brother, the Smith's have 300 head of cattle, raise their own hay and have some grain. "I think that my brother will continue with the ranch. He'd make a great rancher!"

Kristie Smith's Bus Tour Report

Havre and the Hi-Line have excellent untapped wind energy resources...

Wind is a very powerful energy resource. So powerful, it can help generate one megawatt of electricity in one hour. It is also a clean renewable resource. As anyone who lives along the Hi-Line knows, it does not look like we will run out of wind any time soon.

Wind Farms, as these wind-generating facilities are called, have numerous turbines to produce power. The wind farm located in Carbon County Wyoming has turbines that produce from 650 kilowatts to 1 megawatt. There are 183 turbines in all. One might think that having that many turbines in an area would cause problems, like chasing wildlife and cattle away, or being very noisy. In fact, there are antelope and cattle around the base of the turbines and the turbines are actually quiet. They basically sound like the wind.

Kristie Smith reviews Montana Wind Map with NARFI's Director Timlynn Babitsky...
Futures Thinker Kristie Smith reviews Montana Wind Map with NARFI Director Timlynn Babitsky following Kristie's return from the Energy From the Farm Bus Tour hosted by Montana Secretary of State Bob Brown.

Developing wind farms brings many economic development opportunities and rural development possibilities. Montana has excellent wind harvesting potential, it is just a matter of getting everything in order to start harvesting this natural resource. Even though it would take some time and energy, Montana could really benefit from having a wind farm located within its borders.

Another renewable resource that Montana could benefit from is biodiesel. Biodiesel is make from oil, which could come from crops grown in Montana and could benefit the area farmers. Ethanol is also a great alternative fuel. Both of these fuels are cleaner burning so they are better for both the environment and for anyone that is around exhaust. Yellowstone National Park has the largest tank of biodiesel in the area. All of their diesel engines run on biodiesel and they try to use ethanol in as many of their gas engine vehicles as possible.

After being on a tour that Secretary of State Bob Brown sponsored, I am a believer in wind energy and biodiesel.

The tour originated in Helena. We traveled to Bozeman and heard a speech from Dr. Charles Flynn from the Eastern Montana Agricultural Research Center located in Sidney. Dr. Flynn spoke about how they are working to develop the best oil seed crop varieties to produce the best biodiesel.

We traveled on to Gardiner and on the way, we heard a speech from Terry Goerger from the National Biodiesel Board. Mr. Goerger told us of the marketing that is going on for biodiesel and of all the benefits. He said that he runs biodiesel in all the diesel engines on his farm and is impressed by the effects. He has not lost power and his fuel systems are much cleaner. Once in Gardiner, we saw the fuel tank that Yellowstone National Park uses to store their biodiesel and we watched a demonstration of how they fuel their vehicles with the biodiesel. We even traveled on a bus that ran on biodiesel, which is noticeably cleaner burning and it smelled much better than regular diesel fuel.

To round out our learning of biodiesel, we heard from Howard Haines from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Mr. Haines spoke about the most common misconceptions associated with biodiesel, from losing power to it being harmful for the environment. Neither of these are true, in fact, there is no noticeable power loss and it is actually better for the environment than regular diesel fuel. Shirley Ball, from the Ethanol Producers and Consumers, also gave a presentation about the benefits of ethanol. All new cars on the road today are approved for 10% ethanol blends and some are approved for 85% ethanol blends.

On our trip, we also learned about wind generating facilities. Larry Flowers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory gave a great presentation about wind power. He listed the many benefits and told us that his company is interested in developing a wind farm in Montana. Some of the determining factors that are needed for a wind farm are wind resources, which Montana has plenty of, tax incentives, and transmission lines. Mr. Flowers spoke of the benefits of wind power as we traveled to Arlington Wyoming to tour the wind farm in Carbon County Wyoming.

All in all, the tour sponsored by Secretary of State Bob Brown was very informative and it was very interesting to learn all the new information about wind and biodiesel. I believe that developing wind energy resources should be a high priority for Montana.

--Kristie Smith--
NARFI Futures Thinker
MSU-Northern Graduate, 2002

Montana's 'Energy From The Farm' Bus Tour Background

On May 1-3, 2003, Montana Secretary of State Bob Brown hosted the Energy from the Farm Bus Tour for about 40 futures thinkers from across Montana.

The Bus Tour - May 1, 2003

Beginning with a Press Conference on the steps of the State Capitol in Helena, the bus tour traveled to Bozeman for a presentation by Paul Miller on the Pikes to Prairie Cooperative and some background and basics on biodiesel. At the MSU Ag-Biosciences building, Drs. Jerald Berman and Charles Flynn of the Montana Eastern Agriculture Center, covered oilseed crop research in Montana with information on crop yields, oil contents, economics and industrial infrastructure for biodiesel production from oil seed crops.

Following lunch the bus tour moved on to Gardiner and a presentation by Terry Goerger of the National Biodiesel Board, on biodiesel markets and future directions, critical factors for industry growth, and benefits to growers. A biodiesel refueling demonstration was followed by travel to Mammoth Hot Springs and a tour of the Yellowstone National Park Maintenance Facilities with presentation by Jim Evanoff on the use of biodiesel fuels in Yellowstone.

Travel continued on to Cooke City and then to Cody Wyoming with a presentation by Howard Haines, Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Mr. Haines addressed common misconceptions about biodiesel and the environmental and air qualtiy benefits of biodiesel. Shirley Ball, of Ethanol Producers and Consumers (EPAC) added more on the synergies between ethanol production/use and biodiesel and covered the Great Falls ethanol plant and information about the EPAC.

The Bus Tour - May 2, 2003

During the morning travel to Arlington Wyoming, Larry Flowers of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory provided deep information on wind power. He covered everything from the background and basics through assessing wind resource availability and the anemometer loan program through "green" pricing, "green" tags, and net metering.

Following lunch, Larry continued his presentation with detailed information on large-scale, medium-scale and small-scale wind development opportunities. Dave Kelley, of SeaWest WindPower, Inc., hosted a tour of Foote Creek Wind Production Facility and the tour then traveled on to Rawlins, Wyoming.

The Bus Tour - May 3, 2003

During the return trip to Helena, information was presented on Farm Bill provisions to promote renewable energy. Lots of informal discussion followed on how to capitalize on wind and biofuels opportunities in Montana. Following lunch and a bit more travel, a stop in Bozeman found Zoot Enterprises presenting the Bozeman Fuel Cell Project. A late return to the State Capitol sent each of these Futures Thinkers back home to help lay the seeds for change in their respective homes and communities.

A huge thank you to Montana Secretary of State, Bob Brown, for setting up this excellent learning event and for taking the Energy from the Farm Bus Tour on the road!