Wind departs: Notably, one of the Idaho Department of Commerce's biggest marketing coups of 2008, a turbine-manufacturing factory of California-based Nordic Windpower lured to a vacant military building in Pocatello, wasn't featured in that magazine. The reason? Nordic decided Idaho was too far from its customers in the Midwest so it moved to Kansas.
The 2011 Department of Commerce magazine, entitled “Energy Opportunities are ON,” predicted a renewables renaissance in Idaho. Things haven’t worked out as well as many of the companies featured had hoped. Here’s a partial list of projects that have faltered.
— Solar declines: In the 2011 magazine, the Department of Commerce announced Hoku Corp. was putting the “final touches” on its $400 million polysilicon manufacturing plant in Pocatello to supply the solar panel industry. The plant hasn’t been completed and its employees have been laid off. Meanwhile, Hawaiian-based, Chinese-owned Hoku fights for its survival.
And Transform Solar, the joint venture between Idaho-based Micron Technologies Inc. and Australia’s Origin Energy, were just preparing to hire hundreds at the time it was lauded by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter in the 2011 publication. Earlier this year, the company announced it was shutting down, laying off its workers and closing the Nampa factory’s doors.
— Turbine trouble: The agency publication predicted that Utah-based Pavilion Energy Resources would be building a new wind turbine manufacturing facility in Idaho to mass produce low-wind turbines, to fulfill an initial $100 million turbine order. Last month, the company’s leader, Rick Wood, said from his offices in Salt Lake City, “If Idaho doesn’t get its act together, there’s a real chance we’re not going to go ahead.”
— Geothermal fizzle: The Department of Commerce touted Idaho’s 855 megawatts of marketable, reasonably priced geothermal power as putting the state in third place behind California and Nevada. Though one utility-scale project has been built – U.S. Geothermal revamped a former U.S. Department of Energy demonstration site in Malta and began commercial production in 2008 – others haven’t materialized. Consequently, plans by the Idaho’s Office of Energy Resources to fund itself through expected royalties from geothermal projects have been thwarted, forcing the agency to seek money elsewhere to help it survive.
— Biomass bust: Yellowstone Power, a company developing a $28.5 million biomass facility at a proposed sawmill in Emmett Idaho, won a 15-year electricity purchase agreement from Idaho Power that got attention in the magazine. Last week, Montana-based Yellowstone agreed to pay Idaho Power $200,000 in a non-performance damage settlement because the project failed and it couldn’t deliver promised electricity.
—Wind departs: Notably, one of the Idaho Department of Commerce’s biggest marketing coups of 2008, a turbine-manufacturing factory of California-based Nordic Windpower lured to a vacant military building in Pocatello, wasn’t featured in that magazine. The reason? Nordic decided Idaho was too far from its customers in the Midwest so it moved to Kansas.
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