Commission taking comments on PacifiCorp bid to buy wind
An application by PacifiCorp to buy power from a proposed southeast Idaho wind farm is now before state regulators.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission will take comments through Sept. 13 on PacifiCorp’s proposal to enter into a 20-year contract to buy power generated from Schwendiman Wind LLC. PacifiCorp, which does business in southeast Idaho as Utah Power, has about 60,000 Idaho customers.
The wind farm, proposed for 11 miles northeast of Idaho Falls, is scheduled to be operating by July 15, 2006.
Schwendiman intends to operate the wind farm as a small power production facility that qualifies for rates published under the provisions for the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA. Passed by Congress during the energy crisis of the late 1970s, the act requires utilities to buy power produced by small power producers or cogenerators who produce renewable energy as an alternative to utilities’ burning fossil fuels or constructing new power plants. The rate utilities must pay project developers is published by state commissions and must 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 Schwendiman project will consist of seven 2.5-megawatt turbines, giving the entire project a capacity of 17.5 MW. Under the proposed agreement, PacifiCorp will not pay for any more than 10 average megawatts on a monthly basis, though it will accept any surplus energy produced beyond the 10 average MW. Under a previous commission order, projects can be no larger than 10 average MW to qualify for published PURPA rates. That upper limit has since been lowered by the commission to 100 kilowatts for intermittent (non-firm) wind projects. However, the Schwendiman project, according to its developers, was far along in its development when the commission lowered the limit. Therefore, the developers maintain, the project should be included under grandfathering provisions the commission approved in a recent order.
The commission takes public comment on sales agreements between regulated utilities and power providers because the costs the utility incurs purchasing energy are recoverable from customers. The commission’s job is to determine if the purchase is prudent and beneficial to customers.
The commission will proceed under a modified procedure that allows the case to be handled through written public comments rather than by public hearing. Those wishing to submit comments must do so by no later than Sept. 13. Comments are accepted via e-mail by accessing the commission’s homepage at www.puc.idaho.gov and clicking on "Comments & Questions." Fill in the case number (PAC-E-05-09) and enter your comments. Comments can also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to (208) 334-3762.
A full text of the commission’s order, along with other documents related to this case, are available on the commission’s Web site. Click on “File Room” and then on “Electric Cases” and scroll down to the above case number.