BOISE, Idaho – Idaho Power just finished drafting its 20-year energy resource plan. It will help the company determine the energy needs in most of Idaho and part of eastern Oregon.
Without such a plan, power prices will be driven up and the risk of rolling brownouts and blackouts will plague those who live and work in the utility’s service area.
That’s the message in the 2011 Integrated Resource Plan also known as the IRP. The report, developed earlier this year, is already finished but still needs to be accepted by the Idaho and Oregon Public Utilities Commissions.
Mark Stokes is the Idaho Power energy-planning manager. His utility company will use the plan to determine the future energy needs. From there, Idaho Power can decide if building more power generation is necessary and cost effective for customers.
Stokes says his utility has used the IRP to start thinking about building a solar project near Boise and a small hydroelectric dam somewhere in Idaho.
Stokes says the plan also looks at conservation.
“It’s actually a better solution to pay people not to use electricity versus building new resources,” he says.
That means giving incentives to people who use energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances. It could also mean encouraging people to power things down during times of the day when electricity is in high demand.
1 Megawatt is = to 1000 kilowatts
1 Megawatt can power 750 homes
The average home in Idaho uses 1,000 kilowatts or 1 megawatt a month.
The average home in the U.S. uses 8,900 kilowatts per year.
Stokes says one of the big decisions resulting from the new long-term plan is to meet growing power demands by building a major power line that runs from Idaho into Oregon. It’s called the Boardman-Hemmingway transmission line.
That will allow the utility to purchase more electricity from the power grid in the Pacific Northwest, where energy is less expensive than other parts of the country. The Boardman-Hemmingway project will need to be online by 2016 to meet the growing power needs in Idaho and portions of Oregon, Stokes says.
The plan also takes into account the Langley-Gulch gas power plant near New Plymouth, Idaho. That plan, which has been approved is currently under construction, is expected to be online by 2012. Langley-Gulch will provide 300 megawatts of power once it’s up and running. Idaho Power also plans to upgrade the hydro-plant at Shoshone Falls to add 49 megawatts in 2015.
Stokes says these projects were determined necessary thanks to the current and previous IRP’s. That’s why it’s important that the public takes part in developing the forward-looking energy plan. It also determines what types of power projects will be considered.
Stokes says Idaho Power turns to coal or gas based power generation when the cost-to-production ratio makes the most sense. Wind is cleaner; a single wind turbine generates 2 to 5 megawatts while the 300-megawatt Langley-Gulch power plant. While wind is still viable, the cost to build and use it would mean higher rates for customers in the long run, says Stokes.
Highest cost of power:
Hawaii : 25.12 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Connecticut: 17.39 cents per kilowatt-hour.
New York: 16.31 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Lowest cost of power:
Wyoming: 6.20 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Idaho: 6.54 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Kentucky: 6.75 cents per kilowatt-hour.
*Idaho usually has the lowest cost mainly because of the availability of cheap hydroelectric power from federal dams.
_ Source: the U.S. Energy Information Administration._
Idaho farmer Sydney Erwin served on the council that drafted the long-range energy plan. He says he learned from the experience that green power isn’t always a viable option, since it can be available only intermittently — such as when the wind is not blowing and turbines aren’t producing electricity.
“Green power is nice but if you can’t get the lights to shine when you turn the switch on, what good is that?” he says.
Erwin is personally involved in a program that pays farmers money to stop using power on their farms during peak use times. Idaho Power considers peak use to be middle of day during the summer months when people start using their air conditioners. It gives them a chance to provide power to those who need it and avoid paying to expensive power from other parts of the country.
Idaho Power also has to take into consideration the potential of a new business moving into the area. Recently a company that planned to move to Idaho decided to go elsewhere because there wasn’t enough power to keep them running 24-hours a day. Stokes says “having to turn away some of these companies is not a good thing. We like to supply the power to them but we feel we are a little bit limited right now especially when we get a large request.” One example is when Hoku Materials moved into the Pocatello area. They signed a deal with Idaho Power so they didn’t exceed the power needed to supply the rest of Idaho.
There are still two chances to attend one of these public meetings: Thursday from 7-9 p.m. in Twin Falls and Tuesday at the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, Oregon.
The full Idaho Power 2011 IRP can be found below.
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