IPUC says Twin Falls County wind projects are exempt from size cap
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has ruled that two wind projects in Twin Falls County are exempt from a cap that the commission imposed on the size of projects that can qualify for a commission-set rate for renewable projects. The projects will now be able to proceed as planned as long the developer, Jared Grover of Hagerman, is able to secure financing and turbine commitment by no later Feb. 3.
A commission order issued last August temporarily reduced – from 10 average megawatts to 100 kilowatts – the size of projects that could qualify for a rate published by the commission for renewable projects under provisions of federal PURPA legislation. The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, passed during the energy crisis of the late 1970s, requires electric utilities to offer to buy power produced by small-power producers or co-generators who obtain Qualifying Facility (QF) status. The published rate to be paid project developers is set by state commissions and is to be equal to the cost the electric utility avoids if it would have had to generate the power itself or purchase it from another source.
The commission said that Grover’s projects were sufficiently far enough long in development before the August order that they should be exempt from the new limit. One of the projects has a capacity of 10.5 MW and the other 18.9 MW, but will deliver only up to an average 10 MW.
Idaho Power Company had asked that it be granted a six- to nine-month suspension from its obligation under PURPA to buy energy generated by qualifying wind-powered projects. Rather than granting the suspension, the commission temporarily set a lower limit to 100 kW of non-firm wind projects that could qualify for the PURPA rate. The 100 kW limit does not apply to all PURPA contracts, but only wind contracts that are not “firm,” meaning they cannot be backed up by an alternative energy source when wind fails to generate the amount of energy the wind developer commits to deliver to the power company.
Idaho Power sought the moratorium to address the growing number of intermittent wind proposals it is receiving, which, the company claims, could impact the reliability of its transmission grid. Later, Idaho’s two other major regulated utilities, Avista and PacifiCorp (Utah Power) joined the case, seeking to be included in the moratorium.
To ensure system reliability, Idaho Power stated that intermittent wind resources must be “firmed” by back-up power. A company analysis concluded that in order to safely integrate 1,000 MW of intermittent wind generation, it would be necessary to concurrently add 640 MW of combustion turbines to provide capacity when wind resources were not operating.
Idaho’s utilities asked the commission to put a moratorium on wind projects that can qualify for a PURPA rate until the utilities could better compute their costs of integrating wind into their transmission grid.
A complete copy of the commission’s order, as well as other documents related to this case, are available on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on “File Room,” then on “Electric Cases,” and scroll down to Case No. IPC-E-05-35.