If you’ve taken a drive south of Boise on Cloverdale Road in Ada County recently, you may have happened upon what seems to be a desert mirage. But sure enough, that squat, sprawling, shiny, and one-of-a-kind project popping up on the east side of South Cloverdale Road just south of Kuna-Mora Road and the Union Pacific railroad tracks is in fact a utility-scale solar electricity array that’s under construction and that’s expected to begin turning solar energy into Idaho Power electricity next month.
A lot of electricity, in fact – some 40 megawatts, which is more electricity than from the typical Idaho wind farm and roughly enough generation to power somewhere around 28,000 average homes, give or take a few thousand and based on a number of factors. In this part of Idaho, we often figure an average megawatt or so of electricity can power an estimated 700 homes. Either way, that’s a lot of homes even for southern Idaho. Most importantly, and as you can see from these photos, this is a long-overdue sign Idaho clean energy advocates have been waiting for: Evidence that utility-sized solar power is the real deal, it’s here now, and it is already providing valuable new clean energy jobs and also clean energy dollars for local governments.
This is Idaho Solar 1, one of a handful of utility-sized solar generation projects (as opposed to rooftop solar installations on homes and businesses) that have Public Utility Commission-approved contracts with Idaho Power or other utilities. The electricity that will soon flow from these solar panels will flow into Idaho Power’s grid and to our homes and businesses.
Idaho Solar 1, is one of a handful of good-sized solar electricity projects that received PUC approval before the Commission agreed to utility requests to radically shorten the contract terms for future solar projects, something that the solar industry says essentially shuts the door to new projects like this in the near future. Other projects are in the works elsewhere in Idaho, including in the Pocatello and Mountain Home areas.
Despite Idaho’s lackluster regulatory and utility support of solar energy, however, projects like this that do survive the regulatory and utility gantlets will continue to show Idaho’s solar electricity can flourish and deliver jobs and economic stimulus if the state and its power companies allow it.
According to a March 2015 Idaho Statesman article by reporter Rocky Barker, the PUC-approved solar projects “valued at $1.4 billion, totaling 400 megawatts of power” is “enough capacity to power more than 100,000 homes. If all the projects are built, they are forecast to create 9,000 temporary jobs – including 3,860 in local construction – plus 65 long-term jobs during operation.” And up to $600 million would be invested in Idaho communities.
So if you’re in the Boise area any time soon, hop on your bikes or take a short ride straight south on Cloverdale Road. Idaho’s electricity future is right there on the left – you can’t miss it!