Idaho Power Co., the state’s largest utility, has told the Idaho Public Utilities Commission that wind farmers should pay the millions of dollars for upgrades needed to connect them to the power grid.
Wind farmers say Idaho Power should pay for the upgrades, as required by a 1978 law.
The commission is hearing arguments over the dispute.
The 1978 Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act requires regulated electric utilities to buy renewable power from small power producers at a fixed price.
But in June 2005, swamped with requests by wind farmers to join the grid, Idaho Power filed a petition with the commission asking that it not be obligated to accept electricity generated by wind farmers.
Some wind farmers got in ahead of that request, including Jared Grover, who wants to build two wind farms and connect them to Idaho Power’s grid. The commission in January ordered Idaho Power to buy the electricity Grover wants to produce at his two planned wind farms.
But Idaho Power told Grover and other wind farmers that they’d have to pay $60 million for upgrades to the system that would be required with the extra electricity.
The wind farmers said they couldn’t afford the $60 million, and now the commission is to decide who will pay to upgrade the power grid.
“If we’re required to pay even a portion of it, say 10 percent, it just doesn’t pencil out,” Grover told The Times-News. “We can’t make those kind of payments. It’ll totally kill our project.”
Dennis Lopez, a spokesman for Idaho Power, said the company’s customers will end up paying for the upgrades if the wind farmers don’t have to pay for them.
He said Idaho Power told wind farmers that they could pay for the upgrades up front and that Idaho Power would repay them over time.
He said wind farmers rejected the offer because they didn’t have the $60 million.
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