A Magic Valley wind farmer and Idaho Power Co. are close to reaching an agreement that could launch a small-farm wind industry near Hagerman.
The potential deal comes after months of wrangling between the power company and two Magic Valley wind farms that could generate 200 megawatts of zero-emission energy.
The battle began in September, when Jared Grover resisted paying the power company $60 million to upgrade its grid to accommodate two wind farms, Cassia Gulch Wind Park and Cassia Wind Farm. Grover has interests in both projects.
The power company said that incorporating wind farms from that area would require transmission system up-grades.
Grover said it’s up to the utility company to finance infrastructure improvements – wind farmers already pay to connect to the power system.
The power company said it’ll have to pass the costs on to customers if it pays for the upgrades.
The matter was reviewed last month by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, which asked the parties to attempt to reach an agreement. Now, both sides say they’re close to a deal that will make everyone happy, though neither party would talk about specifics.
“We’re continuing negotiations,” said Dennis Lopez, spokesman for Idaho Power, “and there’s been good cooperation. We’re optimistic we’ll reach an agreement that will satisfy everyone.”
Grover said the deal could be finalized by next week.
That’s good news to other wind farmers in the area who hope to start farms soon – farmers like Armand Eckert of Buhl, who wants to install eight wind turbines about eight miles north of the town.
He applied for an application to do business with Idaho Power early last month. Grover already has finalized his project’s rates with the company.
Under federal law, utilities must buy power from small alternative-energy producers, such as wind farmers. Rates are about $61 per megawatt-hour.
But financing system upgrades is still up in the air, and the Magic Valley farmers are holding off on construction until an agreement can be reached. Lopez said the dispute is unlikely to affect other wind farmers in the state because they aren’t located in areas that would require system upgrades. The power company announced Tuesday requests to bring on four other wind generators, including Alkali Wind Generation Facility near Glenns Ferry.
Reluctance to incorporate the Magic Valley farms has area wind farmers wondering if Idaho Power is as committed to alternative energy as it claims.
“This is new ground for everybody,” Lopez said. “But the question is: Who should pay for the improvement? The people who directly benefit or our customer base as a whole?”
The answer will come soon.
By Matt Christensen
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding