For decades, wind power has been promoted as “clean” energy. But how much are wind farmers paid to harvest this renewable resource?
Wind turbines near Hagerman helped generate part of almost nine percent of Idaho Power’s electricity last year. But because it’s hard to predict when the wind will blow, and the fact that it can stop at any time. Wind power is much less dependable than hydropower, which produced almost half of Idaho Power’s energy last year.
Mark Stokes with Idaho Power says, “The 20 year levelized contract rate is around 8 cents a kilowatt-hour for those existing projects. Now with the new rules that the Idaho PUC has implemented, any new contracts would be roughly about half that amount.”
There are 12 wind farms in the northwestern corner of Twin Falls County west of Hagerman. That adds up to a total of 108 wind turbines. Just one of these turbines costs five million dollars to build, but many owners are tight lipped about how much the towers cost to operate.
Rick Dunn with Twin Falls County Planning and Zoning says, “Because it is a public process, you can’t just go out and say. I’m going out on Pole Line and put up wind towers. They actually have to go through a public hearing process.”
Rick Dunn explains that wind turbines like these are good for Twin Falls County’s economy. Last year the wind farms contributed almost $800,000 in taxes.
That money was split between the College of Southern Idaho, Buhl schools, the county’s Ambulance and Pest Abatement Districts, as well as the County Fire District, the Bliss School District, and the West End Cemetery.
Stokes says, “They don’t end up donating any power to the grid, they get paid a market index rate for any excess generation over that amount. Or if they fall short, they get paid that market index rate. Basically, what our costs would be to go out and buy energy on the market.”
Mark Stokes explains that the wind usually doesn’t blow during hot summer days. That’s why wind power isn’t a very good resource in terms of providing additional electricity when Idaho Power customers need it most to stay cool.
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