Idaho Energy Update Oct. 25, 2010

I: Solar Farm Planned in Owyhee County

The Owyhee County Planning & Zoning Commission has set a Nov. 3 hearing to take testimony on a 40 megawatt solar farm proposed by Interconnect Solar Development LLC and Murphy Solar Development LLC. The project would be built about a half-mile from the Murphy Townsite.

Developers envision two 20MW solar arrays about one mile from each other on about 1,200 acres. Each site would cover about 250 acres. It would also include about 40 fireproof structures to house the inverters needed to feed the solar energy into the existing grid.

The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in the Owyhee County P&Z offices at the Owhyee County Courthouse annex in Murphy. Written statements are also welcome but must be notarized and should be submitted by Oct. 27 and sent to Owyhee County Annex Building, PO Box 128, Murphy, ID 83650. For more information, contact the Planning & Zoning office at 495-2095.

II: Owyhee Planning & Zoning Commission OK’s 60MW Wind Farm

The Owyhee County Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended approval of the county’s first utility-scale wind farm, a 60MW project near Murphy that will provide energy to Idaho Power. Assuming the project by American Wind Group is approved by the County Commission, the project will consist of three eight-turbine arrays located about mile from each other on 5,000 acres of agricultural land about 27 miles south of Nampa, about 10 miles from Idaho Power’s Swan Falls hydroelectric project on the Snake River and adjacent to the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. Developers also plan to build a wind research center to study wind forecasting, wildlife impacts from wind projects, energy storage technologies, and how to integrate wind power into existing power grids.

The $120 million project would generate about $9 million in revenues for Owyhee County over 20 years, or between $300,000 and $500,000 a year. The county’s total budget is about $7.3 million.

The turbine arrays would be situated on the perimeter of existing irrigation pivots, or crop circles, as well as parcels where pivots might be built in the future. American Wind principal Brian Jackson of Renaissance Engineering & Design said the project will be built in such a way as to not interfere with existing farm and ranch operations. While each of the three wind farms would have a generating capacity of about 20MW, they will actually generate an estimated 10 average megawatts of power that will in turn be sold to Idaho Power under three separate 20-year contracts.

The P&Z’s decision memorandum noted nobody testified in opposition to the proposal, and that the project will have minimal environmental impacts while boosting Owyhee County’s economy and providing needed renewable energy to Idaho’s electric grid. American Wind has also agreed to make improvements to existing county roads to accommodate heavy and large shipments of the turbines and their components. The company also agreed to remove the turbines after they are decommissioned.

III: Idaho Power Wants to Re-define “Large Load” Customers

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is taking public comments on a request by Idaho Power to lower the threshold that defines “large load” customers in a move the utility says may reduce the need for big new generation resources.

Idaho Power currently serves four “special contract” customers – Micron, JR Simplot Co., the Idaho National Laboratory, and Hoku Materials – that have their own negotiated contracts because they use an average of 25 megawatts of electricity. The state’s largest utility says it wants to lower that threshold from 25MW to 20MW, which it says would allow it to negotiate contracts with new large customers in ways that can reduce demand during peak periods. In the case of Hoku, the Pocatello polysilicon manufacturer has a deal with Idaho Power that calls for it to reduce demand during some peak periods by ramping down energy consumption to perform maintenance on its systems. Hoku also agreed to pay marginally more for its electricity through 2012, when Idaho Power expects to bring additional generation and transmission resources on line.

Other contract options besides reducing peak demand include customers paying for some of the electric distribution or transmission systems that wouldn’t otherwise be necessary. Idaho Power says it is looking at an estimated 75 new large irrigation or industrial customers that it might not be able to serve with existing transmission and generation resources. Lowering the minimum load required to negotiate these special contracts could give the company more leeway in negotiating energy-reducing contract terms.

The PUC is taking comments on the proposal through Nov. 12. To review documents in the case, visit and then click “File Room” and “Electric Cases” and scroll to IPC-E-10-23.

On The Agenda:

The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Oct. 26 and Nov. 1 and 9. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at The meetings typically start at 1:30 p.m.

The Idaho PUC will hold a public workshop on Nov. 3 to review a possible new mechanism to set the rates that utilities and their customers pay to certain small-power energy producers. The rate utilities pay these power producers is known as the “avoided cost” rate because it reflects the price a utility would otherwise incur if it generated the power itself. The workshop will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the PUC’s hearing room at 472 W. Washington Street in Boise. For more information or to review the case, visit and click on “Open Electric Cases” and scroll to GNR-E-09-03. The PUC is also taking public comments on the case through Nov. 23. They can be submitted from the PUC’s website or by mail to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID, 83720-0074 or by fax to (208) 334-3762.

The NW Energy Coalition’s fall Clean and Renewable Energy Conference is set for Nov. 12-13 in Portland. Check out NWEC’s impressive agenda at