San Francisco Wind Developer Sells Power to Idaho Utility

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The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved a sales contract drawn up between local utility Idaho Power and a San Francisco wind farm developer, Idaho Winds LLC. Idaho Power will buy a little under half the output from six small wind farms in the Mountain Home area of the state. Each farm has a nameplate capacity of 23 MW. Totally, they are expected to generate 303,648 megawatt hours each year, according to NAW.

Each of the projects has a nameplate capacity of 23 MW, but because wind is intermittent, the agreements call for delivery of an average 10 MW per project per month to Idaho Power. At times when the projects exceed an average 10 MW, Idaho Power may accept but will not pay for the excess, according to filings with the CPUC.

Idaho has great wind potential, but little local demand.

Under current law the utilities must accept the power generated from small wind projects for the same price they would buy electricity for on the open market, or at the cost to produce it themselves.

Under the contract, Idaho Power will pay $61.93/MWh (six cents a kilowatt hour) for the power in 2013, gradually rising to $121.76/MWh – twelve cents a kilowatt hour – by 2032, which is the expected comparable energy on the open market cost.

This rule governed the terms for this contract for the output from the six wind farms, Cold Springs, Hammett Hill, Mainline, Ryegrass, Two Ponds and Desert Meadow.

But now the utility is asking the PUC to set a moratorium on most future new small wind projects.

With 200 MW in wind power on the grid now, and 1,000 MW expected by 2013, once the six farms are running, this meets its minimum electricity load, at least during off seasons.

It is unfortunate that the states that are empty – partly because they are so windy – are the states with unused potential to generate wind power. It is hard to ask a state to make more wind power than it needs. And building the transmission to get that “stranded wind” out of there, to where it is needed is almost impossible, given the almost impossible to fix Balkanization of our transmission grid.

Perhaps that’s why, this week, the wind farm developer, Idaho Winds LLC,  asked California regulators if it would buy Renewable Energy Credits that could be generated by these six and two other wind farms in Idaho.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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