The proposed settlement, now being finalized for submission to the utilities commission, allows the utilities a discount for wind power, calculated to reflect that "integration" cost. That includes the cost to come up with other power sources when the wind simply doesn't blow.
A final obstacle to a booming Idaho wind-energy industry may be close to cleared, the state's three major utility companies indicate.
Idaho Power Co., Avista Corp. and PacifiCorp say they're proposing a deal with wind developers that may lift a temporary restriction on the amount of energy Idaho wind farms can produce.
The deal could spawn a legitimate wind-energy industry in southern Idaho if the temporary restriction is lifted, said Gene Fadness, a spokesman for Idaho's Public Utilities Commission, the state's energy regulating agency. The restriction has blocked several wind producers from starting business......Under a federal law, utilities must accept alternative energy at a rate of about $64 per megawatt-hour. The utilities propose lifting the size restriction but cutting the rate by between $5 and $7.50 per megawatt-hour to pay for backup generation when the wind doesn't blow.
It looks like wind power is on the rise in eastern Idaho.
Idaho Power announced last week that it is close to settling a complaint filed last year by wind-power developer Jared Grover, who had been fighting a $60 million bill for upgrades to transmission lines. Under an agreement now before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, the cost of the upgrades will be reduced to $11 million and split between Grover, Idaho Power and other energy developers who connect to the power grid.
Idaho's three large regulated electric utilities have proposed a settlement with wind developers that they say could resolve cost issues that have slowed development of small wind projects in Idaho.
Idaho Power had asked the Public Utilities Commission to place a moratorium on rapidly increasing wind development projects within its territory while the company studied how much it would cost the utility to accept wind-generated power and to provide for backup generation when wind output is less than projected.
The commission denied the request, and it reduced the size of wind projects that could qualify for the commission-posted rates that utilities must pay generators of small renewable power projects. It lowered the size of wind projects that qualify for the posted rates from 10 megawatts to 100 kilowatts.
Having completed their studies, Idaho Power, Avista Corp. and PacifiCorp are recommending that the published rate for wind-generated power be discounted to allow for wind intermittency and that the size limit of projects that can qualify for the rate be brought back to 10 megawatts.
Boise, Idaho-based electric utility Idaho Power Co. and Jared Grover, the developer of the Cassia Gulch Wind Park and Cassia Wind Farm, are proposing to settle their dispute over who must pay for transmission upgrades to accommodate new generation in south-central Idaho.
HAGERMAN - After nine months of back and forth, Idaho Power Co. and a Magic Valley wind farmer have reached an agreement both say could launch a fledgling wind industry in southern Idaho.
The deal involves a case dating back to September. Hagerman wind farmer Jared Grover wanted to sell Idaho Power energy produced on his wind farm, but the power company wanted Grover to spend $60 million on transmission system upgrades it said was necessary to incorporate the wind energy.
The agreement reached this month cuts Grover's bill to less than $200,000, and Grover said it opens the door for more wind development because many potential wind farmers were waiting to see what happened in his case before starting their own wind farms.
The power company agrees. "We hope this will serve as a template for future contracts," said Dennis Lopez, a spokesman for Idaho Power.
NorthWestern announced plans Tuesday for a transmission line running from Montana to Idaho which it said could carry energy from developing wind power plants to power-hungry markets.
The company, which has previously hinted at such a project, said the power line would be operated outside of its regulated utility business and would have no effect on consumer electric rates.
A Montana Public Service Commission member, however, said the project could have an indirect effect on prices.
Two bills making it easier for landowners to set up wind power generation systems on farms, ranches or state lands were signed recently by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.
One became effective immediately. It is House Bill 189, which moves the taxes assessed on wind farm operations from the ad valorem property tax roles to the production tax list. Operators will be taxed on their output, rather than on the physical generation equipment.
This means more monies will go to the counties, and the amount should even increase a little from year to year, said Dar Olberding, lobbyist for the Idaho Grain Producers Association.
That's why the counties supported this bill, he said.
The Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the power from the four dams and 26 others, assumes it must replace the full capacity of the dams, more than three times the electricity the dams annually produce.
Its managers say they need the full capacity to ensure there is enough power for the rare but critical event that requires all the power the system currently has.
BPA predicts the annual cost to range from $400 million to $500 million.
It assumes it would have to replace the dams with 3,400 megawatts by building natural gas turbine generators.
It could use wind to produce some of that power, but the capital costs would be the same since it needs the gas turbines to back wind turbines up when the wind doesn't blow, said Kieran Connolly, BPA regional power manager.
Idaho Power Company explained Thursday its February study on the effects of integrating wind power into its system to about 50 energy company representatives, attorneys and wind developers, many of whom questioned the integrity of the power company's report.
Idaho Power's study focused on the effects wind would have on its hydroelectricity facilities, and some at the meeting criticized the company's lack of attention to other power sources - namely gas-powered turbines - as an alternative to offsetting wind costs.
The study found that the wind integration would affect hydropower, because the company might need to fall back on its system of dams when wind doesn't blow. Idaho Power says it will have to pass costs for the hydropower backup onto customers.
BOISE - The state Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would relieve commercial wind farms of paying property taxes and instead require a form of excise tax - a "production tax" - through 3 percent of their annual gross revenue.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, on behalf of Ridgeline Energy, a wind power company seeking to expand in Idaho, recently passed the House.
Supporters said the owners of the turbines rarely have enough money to pay property taxes immediately. The law would give them additional time by taxing their energy output, as well as offer investors a chance to make steadier payments and provide counties up to 10 percent more money for 20 years.
In three years, an entirely new industry to the state has found a home in Magic Valley: wind. It doesn’t employ many people. It doesn’t have a flashy corporate image. It doesn’t get talked about much.
But that’s all changing. A handful of low-key southern Idaho wind producers may be the state’s next energy pioneers - especially as Idaho works toward developing low-emission energy sources.
Idaho Power Co. finalized deals with two new wind producers last week, bringing the total amount of wind energy in its system to 400 megawatts. Three years ago, that number was zero.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved two wind power purchase agreements for the Idaho Power Co., a Boise, Idaho-based electric utility.
The first is a 20-year sales agreement with Houston-based Telocaset Wind Power Producers LLC for 100 MW of wind energy. According to the commission, Telocaset’s wind farm is scheduled to be complete by March 2008.
The second agreement the commission approved is between Idaho Power Co. and Idaho Winds LLC, which plans to build The Alkali Wind Farm six miles northwest of Glenns Ferry.
The project includes 12 turbines that will be operating by Dec. 31. Even though the maximum output of the project is 18 MW, it will not generate more than 10 MW on average on a monthly basis, the commission says. Energy delivered in excess of that amount may be accepted, but Idaho Power will not be obligated to pay for it under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act.
Wind turbines, those domineering and swooping machines of clean energy growing in both numbers and popularity, are being noticed by lawmakers.
Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, introduced legislation Tuesday that would relieve commercial wind farms of paying property taxes and instead require a form of excise tax - a “production tax,” he said - through 3 percent of their annual gross revenue.
Eskridge and energy lobbyists said the owners of the turbines rarely have enough capital to pay property taxes immediately. The law would give them additional time by taxing their energy output, as well as give investors a chance to make steadier payments and provide counties up to 10 percent more money for 20 years.
A similar measure passed in the House last year but stalled in the Senate.
Idaho Power Co. says it wants to let more small wind-power developers sell power to the utility — but only if they shoulder some of the costs of integrating wind into the company’s electricity supply.
Idaho Power’s assessment of those costs is already coming under fire from wind developers and wind-power organizations, who say it is more than twice what utilities in other states are charging
Idaho Power is asking the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to reduce the rate of $64 per megawatt hour Idaho Power is required to pay to small wind projects by $10.72 to cover “integration costs” of including wind power in the company’s energy portfolio.
In response, the Renewable Northwest Project, a Portland-based nonprofit that promotes renewable energy, sent a letter to the PUC asking that no action be taken until a peer review of Idaho Power’s study is completed.
It takes energy to maintain energy from small wind farms.
That was the conclusion of Idaho Power’s study on the impact of wind power, which was released Wednesday.
Among other findings, the Operational Impact report said that small wind farms - those which produce 10 megawatts or fewer - require the assistance of hydroelectric power to compensate for generating fluctuations caused by changes in wind speed.
Idaho Power uses its hydroelectric sources to provide additional energy when small wind farms are unable to stay at predetermined power levels.
The report estimates that it costs Idaho Power $10.72 per megawatt hour to offset such fluctuations. The utility wants wind farm operators to pay that expense.
The House Resources and Conservation Committee approved Wednesday a modified bill that allows businesses to lease state land for up to 49 years.
The bill, which was proposed on behalf of Ridgeline Energy, a wind turbine company looking to expand its operations in southern Idaho, would permit commercial leases on state land for up to 49 years. Currently, only leases for use of stone, coal, oil, gas or other minerals can be longer than 10 years.
The amended bill extends 10-year leases for businesses involved with the Conser-vation Reserve Enhancement Program, a joint state and federal plan that aims to conserve water by paying farmers not to irrigate. In exchange for keeping land dry, farmers collect about $130 per acre for 15 years, or about $150,000 total.
“This is a win-win-win-win situation,” said Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, who will sponsor the bill.
The proposal allows for decisions over public-land leases to be made on a case-by-case basis by the Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners, which consists of Gov. Butch Otter, State Controller Donna M. Jones, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Secretary to the Board George Bacon.
The state House Resources and Conservation Committee approved a bill Thursday that would allow the Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners to decide whether public land be used for commercial or business purposes.
The bill, which was proposed on behalf of Ridgeline Energy, a wind turbine company looking to expand its operations in southern Idaho, would allow commercial leases on state land for up to 49 years. Currently, only leases for use of stone, coal, oil, gas or other minerals can be longer than 10 years.
As a result, decisions would be determined on a case-by-case basis by the board, which consists of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, State Controller Donna M. Jones, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Secretary to the Board George Bacon.
The bill would not affect agricultural leases, grazing leases, oil and gas leases, mineral leases, geothermal leases, single-family, recreational cottage site and home site leases.
Idaho Power Co. is seeking regulatory approval of sales agreements with two proposed wind projects in Elmore County near Mountain Home.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission should decide soon whether or not it should approve Idaho Power’s request to buy power from the Bennett Creek Windfarm LLC and Hot Springs Windfarm LLC. The developer of both projects is Glenn Ikemoto of Energy Vision LLC, based in Piedmont, Calif.
According to information provided by Ikemoto, the windfarms will be located approximately 12 miles southeast of Mountain Home. Both projects will consist of 1.25 mile-long rows of 12 Vestas V82 wind turbines, rated at 1.65 megawatts each.
Windland’s conditional-use permit opens a seven-year window for the wind power company to build a transmission line linking its planned wind farm in the Cotterel Mountains between Malta and Albion to existing lines owned by Idaho Power Co. Construction of the wind farm itself is slated to take place during the same period. Both phases of the project are set to be completed by 2014.
Michael Heckler, director of marketing for Windland, said his company designed the transmission line’s route to cross as little private land in Cassia County as possible. Though the line will cross four privately owned lots, he said it will not interfere with areas of high traffic.