Wind Energy

Published on May 3rd, 2011 | by Susan Kraemer


Idaho Has More Wind Power Than it Can Use

May 3rd, 2011 by  

Despite being not one of the states with a renewable energy standard (RES), Idaho’s wind energy sector is flourishing. It is becoming an export market for the many states that do have an RES, and local utilities are taking issue with outside companies coming into the state and developing wind resources there.

Idaho’s three main utilities claim it is putting a strain on the Idaho grid, and have succeeded in getting the Public Utilities Commission to put an end to the legislation that helped put so much wind power on the Idaho grid.

According to the Boise Guardian one of the utilities in the state –  Idaho Power claims it could have 1,100 MW of wind generation on its system in the near term, which exceeds the amount of power used in Idaho Power’s total system on the lightest energy-use days.

As a result, in February, the PUC clamped down with new limits on the size of projects that can be permitted.

Prior to the decision, large wind farms were eligible to be paid at “avoided-cost rate” for power, based on the cost the utility avoids by buying power from the small-power producer and, thus, not having to build the generation itself or buy power from another source.

The PUC in February cut that down to a 100 KW limit, effectively eliminating the program. (Even just one typical US wind turbine has a capacity of 1.5 MW – 2.5 MW – more than ten times the 100 KW limit.) And tiny projects at the kilowatt scale would never be cost-effective enough to compete with wholesale utility power prices from power generation at the megawatt scale.

Originally, the limit was 10 MW, and the wind developers would aggregate farms in 10 MW increments to qualify. But the utilities claim that the rapid expansion of these projects is causing a strain on utility transmission systems which can affect electric reliability.

The Northwest & Intermountain Power Producers Coalition (NIPPC) – a coalition of companies developing over 6.5 GW of non-utility (independent power) capacity across three wind states including Idaho, expressed deep disappointment with the decision.

In the order, the PUC notes that the utilities have made a “convincing case,” to temporarily reduce the eligibility cap for wind and solar projects only until these issues can be resolved.

A meeting due to be held next week will air both sides.

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Image: Christian Wagner

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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  • Quartzacademy

    I am disappointed that the extra energy is not used to make our power bills lower and to help increase our state’s income.

    • @Quartzacademy: if only that were the case. Any money Idaho Power makes off surplus energy sales goes through what’s called the Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) mechanism and any profits (or costs) are shared with our customers. If the extra energy is sold at a profit, then it will help to lower our customers’ bills. Sadly, as it stands today, that excess energy must be sold on the open market, most times for far less than we originally paid for it. So instead of all this excess energy serving to reduce customer bills, it will likely increase them in the long run.

  • This restriction should be immediately scrapped. More wind power should mean less use of fossil and nuclear sources, not stupid state hedging on claims that the grid will be ‘destabilised’. Bring on the 5MW wind turbines! And leave the wolves alone!

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    An embarrassment of riches !

    • Anonymous

      Alabama is a somewhat backwards state, but it is part of what we are.

      How about we help it along rather than toss it away?

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  • Seamus Dubh

    Other then the typical legality issues I really see this as a problem it proved wind does work when properly deployed.
    If this is consistent and or has a recurring mappable pattern this can lead to the proper lessening of fossil generation off the grid.
    Hell the excess power will come in quite handy soon enough when summer hits.

    • Markcwhite

      Thats the problem, they would be cutting into the big profits. That the reason for the injunction.

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