Idaho Energy Update
September 11, 2009
Scientists will soon gather at the Raft River geothermal site in southeast Utah for an ambitious five-year study on whether they can inject water into “dry holes” far below the Earth’s surface to greatly expand our geothermal power resources. Also, Idaho Power will resume its long-delayed Integrated Resource Plan process in the coming week. And Idaho Power is also asking the PUC for approval of another wind purchase contract – the fifth in less than two months. Plus, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council will hold its first Idaho hearing on its draft 6th Power Plan from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the JR Williams Building in Boise. Details on the Oct. 14 Idaho Falls meeting still to come.
For more on these developments and others, please read on.
Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them along!
Clean Energy Program Director
Snake River Alliance
I: Enhanced Geothermal Exploration Research Planned at Raft River
Researchers from the University of Utah will be heading to Idaho’s Raft River geothermal site to begin an ambitious effort to determine whether they can squeeze geothermal power even from wells that currently contain little or no water – but very high temperatures.
Boise-based U.S. Geothermal’s Raft River complex is the first in the West to produce utility scale geothermal-powered electricity, selling about 10MW to Idaho Power and signing another contract to sell slightly more than that to Oregon’s Eugene Water and Electric Board when the next phase of Raft River is completed.
What is exciting geothermal researchers, however, is this new five-year, $10.2 million study to determine whether existing hot rock far below Earth’s surface can produce sufficient geothermal energy once water is introduced from about a mile above.
A University of Utah news release at http://unews.utah.edu/p/?r=072209-1 reports that the project is a study –not an attempt to establish a permanent new energy production at the Raft River site in southeast Idaho near Malta and the City of Rocks. The U.S. Department of Energy is providing about $7.4 million of the project’s cost, with the University of Utah providing $1.1 million and U.S. Geothermal and Apex HiPoint of Littleton, Colo., providing another $1.7 million in in-kind donations.
“We’re going to take a geothermal field and improve its productivity,” said Joe Moore, a geologist at the Energy & Geoscience Institute, which is part of the University of Utah’s College of Engineering. “We’re going to test the techniques on one well at Raft River. We’re testing methods to take wells that are not productive and make them productive.”
While U.S. Geothermal’s Raft River complex has been proven successful at producing geothermal energy, there are many places in the United States, particularly in the West, where significant heat exists underground but without the water needed to be heated to drive electricity generators. To take advantage of that heat, scientists are looking to inject water into the hot rocks and accomplish much the same thing as is happening at Raft River.
II: Idaho Power’s Resource Planning Process Resumes Sept. 17
Idaho Power Co. will resume its Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Committee meetings on Sept. 17 at the company’s Boise headquarters. The meetings, which are open to the public, are designed to advise the company as it plans for future energy efficiency and conservation efforts as well as generation and transmission needs looking out 20 years.
Idaho Power’s “IRPAC” process ground to a halt earlier this year when it became clear that the company’s much-publicized high-capacity transmission line from the proposed Hemingway substation in Canyon County to Boardman, Oregon, would be delayed and when it also became clear that the sales and load forecasts for coming years needed to be updated to reflect the economic downturn.
In the meantime, Idaho Power has secured Idaho Public Utilities Commission approval to build a $427 million natural gas turbine near New Plymouth in Payette County with the assurance that the utility’s customers will pay at least $396 million of that cost.
Idaho Power asked for and was granted an extension from the PUC to file its 2009 Integrated Resource Plan from June to the end of this year, so there will likely be just three more meetings of this Committee. Once the IRP is submitted to the PUC, it will be made available for public review and comment.
While the IRP is not binding on Idaho Power, which like other regulated electric utilities must file an IRP every two years, it is viewed as the roadmap for how the company plans to meet its future energy needs through a combination of energy savings or building new generation.
Thursday’s meeting is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. For more information about Idaho Power’s IRP process (including meeting agendas and times) and to review materials from previous meetings, go to: http://www.idahopower.com/AboutUs/PlanningForFuture/irp/default.cfm
III: Idaho Power Applies to PUC for Another Wind Project
Idaho Power Co. today filed an application to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission for approval of yet another “PURPA” wind project, this one on sugar beet farmland near Glenns Ferry in Elmore County and the fifth contract application the utility has filed in the past two months.
Idaho Power plans to buy about 10 megawatts from the Idaho Winds LLC Sawtooth Wind Project, which will consist of 14 1.5MW General Electric wind turbines with a “nameplate” rating of 21MW. The 10MW the company plans to buy from the project is a result of the turbines’ average output, which over time is less than half of the total the turbines could produce if spinning constantly. It’s roughly enough energy to power about 10,000 homes, depending on the time of year.
Idaho Winds is a subsidiary of Pacific Winds LLC, which has offices in Tracey, Calif., and in Boise. Both companies say the first energy from the new wind farm will be delivered to Idaho Power by Oct. 31, 2012, with Dec. 31, 2012 as the full operation date for the project.
This contract is filed under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”) which was written to encourage development of smaller renewable energy projects. Utilities are obligated to accept the power from PURPA projects so long as they meet specific guidelines set by the state.
To review Idaho Power’s application to the PUC, go to www.puc.state.id.us and then “File Room” and then “Electric Cases” and scroll down to IPC-E-09-25.
On The Agenda:
► The Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Sept. 14, 21, and 28. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at www.puc.state.id.us. The meetings typically start at 1:30 p.m.
►Idaho Power will resume its Integrated Resource Plan development process with a meeting of the Integrated Resource Plan Advisory Committee on Sept. 17. The planning process was recessed last spring and the Public Utilities Commission granted Idaho Power an extension until the end of the year in light of delays on a key Idaho-Oregon transmission line and the need to update the company’s forecasts in light of the current recession. The meetings are open to the public and are held at Idaho Power’s Boise’s headquarters. For more information on the IRP, visit: http://www.idahopower.com/AboutUs/PlanningForFuture/irp/2009/default.cfm
► The Idaho Council on Industry and the Environment and Idaho National Laboratory will hold a conference, “Practical Paths to Reliable Electricity” Sept. 29-30 at the Airport Holiday Inn in Boise. Sessions cover such issues as future regulatory frameworks; the use of traditional resources; the use of renewable resources; transmission; federal reliability standards; and a look at how they all come together.
The event is $50 for pre-registration (before Sept. 23), or $75 at the door. For more information, visit www.icie.org
► The Northwest Power and Conservation Council continues to firm up its public hearing schedule for its recently released draft 6th Power Plan, which is intended to serve as a roadmap for the Pacific Northwest’s electric energy needs over the next two decades. The Council will hold a public hearing in Boise on Oct. 13 at the JR Williams Building (the Hall of Mirrors) at 700 W. State Street from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will also hold a meeting in Idaho Falls on Oct. 14, but the time and location had not been announced as of tonight. For more information about the Power Council and to review the draft 6th Power Plan, visit www.nwppc.org