New Jersey...Big Sky Country? Well, no, but a Wall Township energy company's investment in a Montana wind power project forms a bond between east and 'way out west.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Kumaravel

For the first time, New Jersey Resources Clean Energy Ventures breaks away from its solar-energy portfolio to invest $22,000,000 in the Two Dot project that's expected to power some 3,000 homes in Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota.

According to NJR spokesman Michael Kinney, the onshore project offers ground-floor entry into a portion of the energy sector that has yet to fully develop. Most of the subsidiary's investments are in home and commercial solar initiatives in the Garden State. Wind turbines are still in their infancy in densely-populated New Jersey.

"This project better fits NJR Clean Energy Ventures investment profile," Kinney explains. "It also came about because of our ownership stake in OwnEnergy, which develops onshore wind projects."

NJRCEV bought 19 percent interest in OwnEnergy in 2012, with an option to buy suitable projects. The Two Dot farm - named for the nearest town -  is the first purchase under the agreement.

Minnesota-based Mortensen Construction is building the installation on 176 rural farm acres about 93 miles from Helena, the state capitol. When it's done, six GE 1.62-megawatt, 87-meter rotor diameter turbines are expected to generate a total capacity of 9.72 megawatts.

Site of the future Two Dot Wind Farm, Montana (NJ Resources)

The energy will be sold to NorthWestern Energy for distribution as part of a 25-year agreeement. NorthWestern serves about 673,000 customers in the region.

So, what does it mean for New Jersey? Not much in general, except that is illustrates a willingness to take on the investment risk that will turn the company into visionaries if wind power grows in stature in years to come. But NJR's 39,000 or so shareholders can expect it to generate revenue through the power-purchase deal and federal production tax credits, which NJR retains.

Clean Energy Ventures oversees the sprawling solar array in East Windsor in collaboration with McGraw-Hill, and also engages homeowners in 20-year solar panel lease agreements.

Learn more about this and other initiatives at the New Jersey Resources web site.