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Company proposing Lava Ridge says it will set aside some power for Idaho

Wild farm in Idaho.jpg
Douglas Barnes
U.S. Department of Energy
A file photo of a wind farm in Power County

The company proposing the Lava Ridge Wind Project in the Magic Valley said it will set aside some power for Idaho electric utilities to buy.

Lava Ridge has drummed up significant opposition from locals, the Japanese American community and Idaho politicians.

One objection has been that the power, produced on public lands in Idaho, would likely be sent out of state to places like California or Nevada where there are more people and more targeted renewable energy goals.

“A common theme that we often heard was, if we’re going to make this investment, utilize these resources in Idaho, there’s a preference that Idahoans have the benefit of receiving some of the power from this facility,” said Luke Papez, a senior director of project development at LS Power.

LS Power plans to set aside at least 100 megawatts through the end of 2024 specifically for an Idaho electric provider to buy. Papez described the move as giving Idaho utilities a first shot at this portion.

He said there’s lots of interest across the West from entities looking to procure power from Lava Ridge. The company doesn’t expect to sign contracts until after the Bureau of Land Management makes a final decision on the project, anticipated for this spring. The final environmental impact statement could be released this month.

Depending on the final design, 100 megawatts could amount to about 10% of the power from Lava Ridge and would be enough to fuel 30,000 homes. Papez did not say whether any Idaho utilities have expressed interest.

Idaho Power emphasized that it’s not involved with Lava Ridge and doesn’t have a contract to buy energy from the project.

In an email, spokesperson Brad Bowlin wrote that the company evaluates proposals for new resources based on several factors to ensure they are in the best interest of customers, including reliability, cost, risk and how long it will take for them to come online.

“It’s important to note that resource additions that impact customers are subject to review and approval by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission,” he wrote.

The utility has a goal of attaining 100% clean energy by 2045, and its most recent Integrated Resource Plan lays out a long-term need for additional renewable energy sources, including solar, wind and battery storage.

Southern Idaho also has a handful of small electric cooperatives. Brad Gammett is the CEO of Lost River Electric Cooperative based in Mackay. He said his co-op, like many others, has a contract to procure 100% of its power from the Bonneville Power Administration. He described the supply as cheap and reliable.

Idaho Falls Power, the largest municipal electric utility in the state, said it wouldn’t consider buying power from Lava Ridge.

“I don’t have any interest to buy wind from the Magic Valley right now,” said Bear Prairie, the general manager.

Prairie said his region is serviced by PacifiCorp transmission lines, whereas south-central Idaho is serviced by Idaho Power. To get the power to Idaho Falls, it would require added cost and complexity, he said. Idaho Falls Power is looking to expand one of its existing wind projects.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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