Northwestern Energy announced on Thursday, September 26, that an agreement has been reached with PPL Montana to purchase 11 of their hydroelectric facilities for a price of nearly $900 million dollars.

Northwestern Energy spokesman Butch Larcombe said the electricity generating facilities are located throughout the state.

"We have reached an agreement with PPL to buy their hydro assets in Montana, which consist of 11 hydroelectric generating dams and one storage reservoir on the Missouri and Madison and Clark Fork and Flathead rivers, so it is exciting news," Larcombe said.

Northwestern Energy has been primarily in the power distribution business, however Larcombe said this was a golden opportunity for the company to purchase electric generating facilities, such as the Kerr Dam located on the Flathead River near Polson.

"This was a real good opportunity for us to buy some clean, sustainable generating facilities that we think will serve our customers for decades to come," Larcombe said. "PPL is the major owner of the Colstrip plants in Eastern Montana, and they sell electricity to big customers. We have bought electricity from PPL, but they're a totally different operation, and they're part of a company out of Pennsylvania."

Larcombe said the $900 million price tag for the dams and facilities was high, but explained why the investment was worthwhile.

"It's important to remember that PPL has been a good owner of these properties," Larcombe said. "They've invested more that $400 million in the dams in recent years. We think they're in a position to be very solid performers for years to come."

Larcombe said Northwestern Energy would be seeking approval for the acquisition from several state and federal agencies.

"The key piece of approval will come from the Montana Public Service Commission," Larcombe said. "We like this deal, and we're optimistic about our chances to convince the commissioners that it's a good deal for Montana consumers, as well."

Larcombe said the approval process will begin in December, and he expects the entire process to be wrapped up in nine months to a year.

Northwestern Energy Spokesman Butch Larcombe: