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Community Solar Installation
Will Add to Customer Choices

by Staff
Connections, September 2016

We all like choices. Whether it's the clothes we wear, the food we eat or the way we use and purchase electricity, we like the freedom to choose.

That's one reason Idaho Power hopes to offer customers the option of purchasing solar power to supply a portion of their electricity needs.

Idaho Power has proposed a community solar pilot project. If the project is approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC), and there is sufficient customer interest, the company will build a 500-kilowatt (kW) solar array next to its Boise Bench substation in southeast Boise.

"Customers will have an opportunity to purchase subscriptions for a portion of the energy generated by the solar array," said Patti Best, an Idaho Power program specialist who helps implement many of the company's renewable offerings. "In recent years, customers have asked for a utility-owned, local solar option. is project will help us measure the extent of customer interest."

Community solar will join the Green Power Program and net metering as options for customers interested in supporting renewable energy.

The Community Solar Pilot Program will be funded by subscription fees from those who wish to participate, plus a contribution from Idaho Power shareholders. It is not designed to be paid for by non-participating customers.

How it works

Here's how the proposed program will work: Idaho Power will sell subscriptions to a 500-kW solar array. For a one-time subscription fee of $740, customers will be entitled to part of the electrical output from the project. They will get a credit on their bill depending on how much electricity the project generated that month.

The exact amount will depend on the customer's rate class, whether they are a residential, commercial or industrial customer, etc., the credit will be updated to reflect future rate changes, and customers will receive the credit for the 25-year life of the project.

"The program gives people a chance to support a local solar project, and it gives Idaho Power important information about operating a solar project of this size," Best said. "However, it is still a premium product and is expected to have a long payback."

A total of 1,563 subscriptions will be available. Of those, 470 subscriptions will be reserved for commercial customers, with the remaining 1,093 held for residential customers. After 60 days, Idaho Power may open up unsold subscriptions to any customer class.

Giving customers a choice

Although open to all Idaho customers, community solar provides a new option for people who want to support local solar production but can't participate in net metering for various reasons. Net metering involves a customer generating some of their own electricity and only paying for the energy they get from their utility. Usually that means putting solar panels on their roof or elsewhere on their property.

"Some people like the idea of installing their own rooftop solar panels, but can't. They may rent their home or apartment, have too much shade or be prohibited by neighborhood restrictions," Best said. "This project may be especially appealing to them."

At 500 kW, the Community Solar Pilot Program will be much larger than rooftop solar installations, which are typically around 5 kW. It will take up an area roughly the size of two football fields on land Idaho Power owns near a substation in southeast Boise.

How much power?

We measure electrical output in kilowatt-hours (kWh). One kWh will power a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours. The average home in Idaho Power's service area uses about 1,000 kWh per month. Any solar array in southern Idaho is going to produce more energy during the summer months, with our long sunny days and clear skies.

Idaho Power predicts the solar array will produce about a million kWh per year, which translates into about 55 kWh per month for each subscription.

If you're looking for comparisons, a 500-kW array has a capacity about one- fth the size of Idaho Power's smallest hydroelectric plant, the 2,500-kW Clear Lake plant near Buhl.

"Although the proposed array is relatively small, the project is a big step forward in terms of broadening our customers' green-energy options," Best said.

What's next?

The proposal is now in the hands of the IPUC. The regulatory process could result in the program being modified. If the IPUC grants approval, Idaho Power will begin enrolling subscribers.

Until then, you can receive email updates on the project by signing up at the link below (

The complete filing is available at Look for case IPC-E-16-14.

Considering Rooftop Solar?
Learn About Net Metering

Idaho Power's net metering tariff allows customers to install small-scale renewable generation projects on their property and connect to Idaho Power's electrical grid. When customers generate more electricity than they consume, they earn a kilowatt-hour credit for that energy.

Net metering customers currently pay the same rates for power they use from Idaho Power's system as Idaho Power's standard service customers. However, the net metering rates and credit amounts are subject to change, and pricing is not guaranteed or constant. The tariff is available for solar, wind, hydro, biomass, geothermal and fuel-cell technology.

Any net metering installation must comply with Idaho Power's interconnection guidelines. is helps maintain the safety of our employees and the electrical grid. Ask prospective installers if they are up to date on the latest net metering requirements. Visit our website, or call 208-388-2323 or 800-488-6151 outside the Treasure Valley.

Community Solar Installation Will Add to Customer Choices
Connections, September 2016

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