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small brandlBig Sky Master Plan

Big Sky scenic 3

Big Sky is one of the fastest growing areas of Montana. The average electric demand growth rate in Big Sky over the past five years, 7.8% annually, is nearly eight times the amount of the Montana electric system’s growth. The mountainous region is one of the top ski resort destinations in North America and home to year-round recreation. Commercial and residential growth in Big Sky is under way and the demand for electricity to serve businesses, residents, and visitors is increasing significantly. NorthWestern Energy is working to keep abreast of the growth and anticipate future needs in this scenic portion of Montana.

The Big Sky Community: NorthWestern currently serves approximately 5,800 electric customers in the Big Sky area. Customers include single residential and multi-unit housing, light commercial, ski resorts, and several large, private residential and ski areas, including the Yellowstone Club, Moonlight, and Spanish Peaks developments. Based on current growth patterns and plans announced by a number of these entities, NorthWestern expects to see higher-than-average load growth in this area in the next decade and beyond.

The Big Sky area is currently served by two transmission lines, one stretching from the Jackrabbit Substation west of Bozeman to the Meadow Village area, the other reaching Big Sky from Ennis. During periods of heavy demand for electricity, typically in the winter months, an outage on either transmission line would leave the other unable to fully provide the electricity that Big Sky needs. In some conditions, extended outages, blackouts, safety issues and customer inconvenience could be the result.

Meadow Village Sub-1

Jackrabbit-Big Sky Upgrade: NorthWestern completed the $45 million transmission upgrade focused on the 69 kV line from Four Corners to Meadow Village in 2016. The line, along with the Meadow Village Substation has been upgraded to a 161 kV line, which more than doubles its capacity and will allow us to more reliably serve existing customers and allow for future demand growth.

System Upgrades: NorthWestern upgraded the substations at Mountain Village and Lone Mountain, along with the substation at Ennis to help meet Big Sky’s electricity needs. In addition, the transmission line from Ennis through Jack Creek to Mountain Village has been converted to a 161kV line. These upgrades will more than double the current capacity to serve Big Sky customers.

Midway renderingNew Substation Facility: While increasing the amount of electricity available in the area is straightforward, developing a distribution system capable of reliably delivering it to customers is not. The Big Sky area is now served by two substations, one in the Lone Mountain area and the other in Meadow Village. The substations operate at different voltage levels, which limits the ability of one to back up the other, creating the possibility of longer outages in the area. One way to address this lack of redundancy is constructing a third distribution substation that is capable of backing up both existing substations. This third substation is currently under construction in the mid-mountain area. NorthWestern underwent a multi-year, substantial, and successful community outreach program to determine siting and design for this facility.

Transmission Line Upgrades:
NorthWestern is planning upgrading existing electrical facilities in the Big Sky area. 2020 will see the upgrade of the transmission line from Meadow Village to the new substation, called "Midway" approximately half way up Lone Mountain Trail. The year after will be the completion of the project to the Lone Mountain area.

Lone Mountain to Meadow Village Phase 1 Map - 12-30-2019-01

A Long-Range Plan:
Along with a third substation and transmission line upgrades, Northwestern has developed an extensive list of upgrades to its electric transmission and distribution system in Big Sky. The timeline for projects on the list stretches beyond 2030. During this time frame, the demand for electricity is expected to grow to nearly four times its current level.

Investing in Growth & Reliability Today: NorthWestern continues to invest in the growth of Big Sky. Infrastructure upgrades will provide more reliable and capable electricity to serve the area, not only to the residents in Big Sky, but to their many visitors. NorthWestern’s current and future investments show our commitment to provide safe, reliable, and capable power to the entire Big Sky area.

Contact Info:

Community Contact:
Heather Bellamy
Manager, Community Relations

Project Contact:
Tom Pankratz
Director, Transmission Engineering

Operations Contact:
Pat Patterson
Manager, Operations – Bozeman Division

Big Sky Master Plan fact sheet

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