Library from Idaho
After more than three hours of testimony Wednesday, the House Local Government Committee approved the measure on a 6-5 vote. The bill would also require lawmakers to undertake a two-year study of the wind power industry's overall impact in the state.
Idaho House Bill 527 would restrict local, county and state agencies from approving or issuing new licenses or permits for wind turbine construction or operation. Those turbines being targeted are those that exceed 100-feet high or produce more than 100-kilowatts of electricity.
The Bureau of Land Management wants local people's opinions on how to make itself more competitive when it comes to solar and wind energy projects. The BLM has started a 60-day comment period to figure out how to create a competitive bidding system for those projects.
"Most wind energy projects that are already in operation are in ongoing violation" of the act, since most birds killed at wind farms are protected, the petition says. The conservancy group alleges a "systemic failure" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to enforce the law. The conflict highlights an ongoing tension between conservationists and a rapidly expanding industry seen as the linchpin of a clean energy future.
Simpson, who serves on the Environment, Energy and Technology Committee, says wind energy isn't a fiscally responsible source of power, as it cannot be produced 100 percent of the time.
Based on that data, he said, the company has recently concluded the wind there "isn't of commercial grade." "It blows, but not often or hard enough to justify the investment," said Walsh, a business developer based in Iberdrola's Portland, Ore., office.
What ultimately happens to the wind projects remains to be seen, but the Idaho commission and staff are trying to be fair to developers and ratepayers, said Ben Otto, an energy analyst for the Idaho Conservation League. "I think what I've seen is they're really worried about customers paying too much," he said.
"This is a blatant attempt to manipulate and avoid the Idaho commission's rates, rules and regulations that are designed to implement PURPA and protect Idaho Power's customers," the company states in its petition to the PUC. The developers argue that the PUC is prohibited by federal law from regulating qualifying PURPA projects.
Currently, the state commission is trying to figure out how best to determine just how much solar developers should be paid by utilities for their electricity. That's to the chagrin of at least one developer, Interconnect Solar of Boise, which fears a delay ordered last week so the state could get a handle on things could doom its project.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission today issued four orders declining reconsideration of its June 8 orders that said contracts for 14 wind projects were not completed in time to be eligible for the commission's published rate.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission's decision will change how a handful of south-central Idaho developments move forward. Instead of operating on earnings projections noted below, they'll have to negotiate rates with Idaho Power Co.
"I can hardly imagine what the government is thinking. Whooping cranes are the rarest of all the cranes, the rarest of American birds," said Paul Johnsgard, author of several books on the cranes and professor emeritus of ornithology at the University of Nebraska.
The PUC agreed with Idaho Power, Rocky Mountain Power and Avista that there was no practical way to stop large-scale wind operations from bending the rules by forming lots of smaller wind farms that qualified for the published rate when they should all be considered one big project.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday announced it won't reinstate for now a larger cap on the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act rates that created a favorable climate for the development of wind energy in Idaho.
On Wednesday, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission announced it will hear oral arguments between the developer of four proposed Cassia County wind projects and Rocky Mountain Power on June 9. Exergy Development Group, of Boise, is asking for oral arguments in response to Rocky Mountain Power's request to dismiss Exergy's complaint against the utility.
Rocky Mountain Power filed a motion to have the complaint dismissed, alleging Exergy did not - and still does not - have the necessary interconnection and wheeling agreements with Raft River Electric Cooperative and the Bonneville Power Administration needed to deliver the wind projects' output to Rocky Mountain Power territory.
Idaho Power, a utility in the State of Idaho, is raising concerns over the impacts of wind generation on electricity costs and grid reliability. The utility ran this advertisement recently in an effort to educate the public on how integration of too much wind can degrade the power system and raise costs.
The PUC will hear from developers, utilities, their customers on how the projects can be regulated to prevent them from overwhelming the utilities with unwanted electricity. Wind is especially troublesome, utilities say, because it's too intermittent and unreliable to make up a major piece of the power picture.
But while Exergy does not speak for the entire Idaho wind industry, the company's abrupt about-face undermines the developers' case for rebates. Not to mention undermining one company's credibility at the Statehouse.
Hawkins insists the proliferation of tall, white turbines is driving up utility customers' rates and encroaching on private property rights of neighbors who live in their shadow. "This is creating a wealth machine for risk takers that foists the risk on ratepayers and taxpayers," he told the AP. "Tax avoidance, essentially, that's what this is all about."