Wind Farmer Close to
by Matt Christensen
The potential deal would help launch a small-farm wind industry near Hagerman
HAGERMAN -- A Magic Valley wind farmer and Idaho Power Co. are close to an agreement that could launch a small-farm wind industry near Hagerman.
The potential deal comes after months of wrangling between the power company and two Magic Valley wind farms that could generate 200 megawatts of zero-emission energy.
The battle began in September, when Jared Grover resisted paying Idaho Power $60 million to upgrade its grid to accommodate two wind farms, Cassia Gulch Wind Park and Cassia Wind Farm. Grover has interests in both projects. The power company said incorporating wind farms from that area would require transmission system upgrades.
Grover said it's up to the utility company to finance infrastructure improvements -- wind farmers already pay to connect to the power system. The power company said it would have to pass the costs to customers if it pays for the upgrades.
The matter was reviewed last month by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, which asked the parties to attempt to reach an agreement. Now, both sides say they're close to a deal.
"We're continuing negotiations," said Dennis Lopez, spokesman for Idaho Power, "and there's been good cooperation. We're optimistic we'll reach an agreement that will satisfy everyone."
Grover said the deal could be ready by next week.
That's good news to other wind farmers in the area who hope to start farms soon -- farmers like Armand Eckert of Buhl, who wants to install eight wind turbines about eight miles north of the town.
He applied for an application to do business with Idaho Power early last month. Grover already has agreed with Idaho Power on his project's rates.
Idaho Power is asking the commission to approve sales agreements with two other proposed wind projects near Mountain Home. A wind developer from California plans to have two wind farms up and running there by Dec. 31, if the commission approves.
Under federal law, utilities must buy power from small alternative-energy producers, such as wind farmers. Rates are about $61 per megawatt-hour. But financing system upgrades is still up in the air.
Lopez said the dispute is unlikely to affect other wind farmers in Idaho because they aren't located in areas that would require system upgrades. The power company announced Tuesday requests to bring on four other wind generators, including Alkali Wind Generation Facility near Glenns Ferry.
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