Several renewable energy projects are proposed in the Magic Valley
A wind farm proposed for the Magic Valley would be Idaho’s largest, but it's not the only renewable energy project developers want to build in the region. In the past year and a half, the Bureau of Land Management has received several proposals to capture solar and wind energy in the Twin Falls District, which includes all of south central Idaho.
"The cluster of projects is unique to the Twin Falls district," said Mike Courtney, the BLM's Twin Falls district manager. "There's been some interest expressed in other offices in the state, but just not near as many as we're getting right now."
Lava Ridge is one proposed wind farm that is now making its way through BLM’s review process. It would include about 400 turbines that could produce 1,000 megawatts of power.
There are also at least two more wind and two solar projects on the table for the Magic Valley, as well as a battery unit to store energy and a right-of-way proposal associated with a biodigester on private land.
There’s also a major transmission line planned that would expand the connection to Nevada and would open up another route to bring clean energy to regions where there's a heightened demand for it.
Courtney said, in some cases, companies have landed on the Magic Valley because they have determined there's enough wind or solar resources to make a profit. Other companies plan to test how much energy they could produce in a given spot.
The Magic Valley location is also significant because it's well-connected to the western power grid through the Midpoint substation, an intersection of big transmission lines located north of Jerome.
“Midpoint’s pretty critical to the western grid, so they can go a lot of ways once they get the power on the grid there," Courtney said.
And companies looking to develop energy projects in southern Idaho have to navigate around priority sage grouse habitat. It means large swaths of Jarbidge, Burley and Shoshone field offices are off-limits. But some of the few areas in the region that are not designated as protected habitat happen to be very close to the substation.
Courtney said these projects are popping up now largely because of the Biden administration's goal to develop more renewable energy on public land.
"The environment's right to propose these kinds of projects," he said.
The public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed developments, Courtney said. Lava Ridge is the furthest along of the wind and solar projects. The transmission line that would connect to Nevada already went through the environmental review process and there are just a few more steps the company has to take before construction can begin.
As for where the renewable energy will go, the BLM said the developers have been upfront. It’ll go to the highest bidder.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
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