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Idaho Power defends proposal to curtail wind in times of low demand

Idaho Power did not take all of the power produced by a wind plant last spring in times of low power use on its system, an executive testified before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission Tuesday

Tessia Park, Idaho Power director of load-serving operations, acknowledged that Idaho Power curtailed the power from Rockland Wind’s turbines for more than 35 hours, which reduced the amount of revenue the wind farm made. This was done under a provision in federal law that allows the utility to take such steps in times of emergency, when the utility’s system is in jeopardy.

The utility is asking the commission to approve a policy for managing power from wind projects beyond emergency circumstances. It says it’s necessary to manage its system in periods of light loads. The utility would do this to protect its customers from having to pay higher costs from other power plants it would need for back up.

Attorney Joe Miller, who represents wind developers, suggested the policy that would harm his clients was put together without input from the developers themselves.

“Did Idaho power initiate any informal process to address light loading in a collaborative way with the Idaho renewable industry?” Miller asked Park.

“Not specifically, no,” she answered.

A major issue raised is how long renewable projects could be curtailed under the proposal. Idaho Power said the light load period when it might need to curtil is about 5 percent of the time, but would go up if it had too much new renewable power come on line.

Commissioner Paul Kjellander asked if the renewable power already in the company’s queue constitutes a perfect storm that would require curtailment longer than 5 percent; Park answered that it could.

Later, Robert Looper, who testified for Dynamis Energy, said Idaho Power had many more opportunities to integrate its wind power with its gas plants than it is using.

“A project like Langley Gulch has the capability to integrate hundreds and hundreds of megawatts of wind when they are on line,” Looper said.