Idaho Power did not take all of the power produced by a wind plant last spring at times of low power use, an executive testified before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission Tuesday
Tessia Park, Idaho Power director of load-serving operations, acknowledged that the utility 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 PUC is holding three days of hearings on how much alternative energy Idaho utilities should have to purchase, and how much they should have to pay for the power.
Idaho Power is asking the commission to approve a policy for managing power from wind projects beyond emergencies. It says it’s necessary to manage its system in periods of light demand. The utility would do this to improve efficiency and protect its customers from having to pay higher costs from back-up power.
But wind developers argue that Idaho Power could shut off coal plants and use its new Langley Gulch gas plant and other gas plants to balance the wind and other renewable power during these periods. Attorney Joe Miller, who represents wind developers, suggested the curtailment 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 is about 5 percent of the time but would go up if too much new renewable power came on line.
Commissioner Paul Kjellander asked if the renewable power already in the company’s queue would require curtailment longer than 5 percent. Park answered that it could.
Wind developers say an expanded curtailment policy would break existing contracts.
Later, Robert Looper, who testified for Dynamis Energy, said Idaho Power had 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.
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