Sprawling Solar Farm
by Joshua Palmer
South-central Idaho may soon commercially produce all five forms of renewable energy, after developers announced plans on Friday to build a sprawling solar farm in Jerome County.
Mid Point Energy, a Jerome-based LLC founded by Steve and Mary Marshall and outgoing Twin Falls County Commissioner Tom Mikesell, will ask the Jerome County Planning & Zoning Commission on Monday to approve a special use permit to build a solar panel farm south of Shoshone.
The company hopes to construct 150,000 solar panels on 405 acres near a swath of land that was previously a proposed site for the Sempra coal-fired power plant. The property is owned by Steve and Mary Marshall of Jerome.
"This new renewable energy solar project in Jerome will be the first commercial producing solar facility in southern Idaho," Mikesell said. "The Marshalls, as well as myself, believe that expanding southern Idaho's renewable energy sources with a Jerome solar plant will be an economic boost to this region."
If approved it would also complete the "full-house" of renewable energy -- namely, hydroelectric, wind, biomass, geothermal and solar.
Regional economic development officials say energy production using all five methods would be a first for Idaho.
"We're going to be the only region in the state and probably the nation that can make that claim," said Jan Rogers, executive director of the Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization, or SIEDO. "That's a big thing because it can help us attract other renewable energy producers and manufacturers."
She said SIEDO is in discussions with other renewable energy companies, including a manufacturer of parts for wind turbines. She did not provide further details, citing confidentiality agreements with the businesses.
Mikesell said Mid Point's facility will have the potential to produce up to 75 megawatts, which Idaho Power officials say is enough to power 45,000 homes. Mid Point is working with Boise-based Edgewood Green Technologies to develop the project.
The site of the proposed solar farm is located near Idaho Power's Mid Point substation, which the solar farm plans to use to connect to the power grid. Mid Point Energy plans to submit a connection request to Idaho Power after it receives approval for a special use permit. The next step would be for Idaho Power and Mid Point to determine the cost of connecting the project to the grid.
Dan Olmstead, public relations coordinator for Idaho Power, said Mid Point is one of five developers in Idaho that plans to sell solar energy to Idaho Power.
He added that solar energy is largely uncharted territory in Idaho.
"We certainly are encouraging renewable energy," Olmstead said. "But we have never worked with a solar project this size, so it is too soon to say what will happen. We will all be learning as we go -- both the developers and Idaho Power."
He said Idaho Power typically sees demand peak during the summer months, which is generally when solar provides its maximum output.
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