Idaho Power announced this week its intention to buy a pair of wind farms in Eastern Idaho. The two seven-turbine facilities, Burley Butte Wind Park and Golden Valley Wind Park, would be the second significant wind addition to the Idaho Power portfolio this year, after the Public Utilities Commission approved a 28-turbine proposal near Hagerman in April.
Under normal conditions, the 14 windmills are not expected to generate more than 10 average megawatts a month, or about enough to power 8500 homes. It's a drop in the bucket, Gene Fadness of the PUC said, but he also said that applications for wind farms to the PUC are on the rise. "Wind technology has advanced to where now it is cost effective and competitive with sources like natural gas," he said. "We're seeing a lot more of it, and we have received, in the last six months, several wind applications."
In April, the PUC praised Idaho Power's most recent biennial integrated resource plan for an increased focus on renewable energy sources like wind and geothermal sources, but said the company still relies too heavily on gas-fired generation. Promptly, Idaho Power announced in May a plan to raise base rates by 6.3 percent to cover the construction of a $54 million peak-demand, natural gas-fired plant near Mountain Home.
Also in May, the other most significant contribution to Idaho's wind energy landscape was also announced, when PacifiCorp purchased a 43-turbine farm near Idaho Falls. When in operation, possibly by December 2005, the plant could produce enough power to supply over 21,000 homes annually.
The PUC is accepting comments about the proposed Idaho Power wind farm purchases online at www.puc.state.id.us. Comments can also be faxed to 334-3784 or mailed to P.O Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720.