Idaho Developers Ready
by Associated Press
Several firms await outcome of study
BOISE - Scientists rank Idaho 13th in the nation for wind energy potential, a prospect that has several small-scale renewable energy producers lining up to build windmills and other infrastructure even as state officials try to slow the rush.
"I think Idaho will take the lead in the renewables market," said James Carkulis, president of Exergy Development Group.
Exergy owns the state Fossil Gulch Wind Farm at Bell Rapids in the Hagerman area. And the company has 10 more projects on the drawing board.
Like many wind power producers, Carkulis is waiting for the upcoming release of a state utilities wind integration study to see just how friendly the state will be to wind power.
Last summer, the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, a three-member panel appointed by the governor, approved an open-ended moratorium on a policy that required utilities to buy small amounts of power from wind farms.
The indefinite ban came at the urging of Idaho Power Co., the state's largest utility, which serves the windy Southern Idaho deserts.
The utility pressed the moratorium after receiving a surge in sales agreement applications from small producers like Exergy. In the meantime, Idaho Power officials are studying the costs of integrating small amounts of wind electricity into the company's system.
"Integration problems are very real," Carkulis said.
Small renewable power projects qualify for certain reduced rates under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act. Congress passed the act during the energy crisis in the 1970s to encourage the development of renewable energy sources.
Idaho's wind integration study should be completed by mid- to late August, said Gene Fadness with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.
After release, a public comment period will occur before utilities commissioners set new rules for small wind power.
Currently, Idaho Power has contracts with wind producers for a total of 206.8 megawatts of electricity, though only three projects that generate 19.9 megawatts are online now, said Dennis Lopez, spokesman for the company.
Earlier this month, Idaho Power announced the award of a contract to Horizon Wind Energy to provide 66 new megawatts of wind power. Texas-based Horizon intends to build its wind farm in Union County, Ore.
For his part, Carkulis estimates that Exergy's 10 wind projects will be complete by the end of 2007. The company has signed contracts with Idaho Power, he said.
Since Carkulis began working on wind power projects in the state, he has noticed a real change in public attitude toward renewable resources. Sempra Generations coal-fired power plant proposed for Jerome County likely played a large role in that change, Carkulis said.
Strong public opposition to the plant led to increased knowledge of energy sources, opening the door for renewable projects like wind, solar and biomass.
"The more that we've gotten to know the Idaho public and governmental agencies, the more that we saw a realization that renewables are here to stay," Carkulis said.
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