Idaho Power wants temporary delay in new commercial solar contracts

Idaho Power is asking state regulators to delay requiring them to sign new contracts with commercial-scale solar power developers.

The utility wants to complete its ongoing study of the costs of integrating large solar projects into the electrical grid before entering into any new solar agreements. The study is expected to be completed as early as mid-June.

“Idaho Power supports renewable energy development that provides reliable, fair-priced energy to our customers,” said Lisa Grow, Idaho Power’s senior vice president of power supply. “Making sure those prices are fair is what this study is all about.”

If you have rooftop solar on your home or business this won’t impact you but the integration study might have an impact in the longer term. Idaho Power is required to enter into contracts with independent power producers at rates competitive with new natural gas plants under terms of the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978.

It wants to make sure the integration costs are included and are accurate. Intermittent resources require Idaho Power at this moment in time to maintain reserve power on stand-by to make up for minute-to-minute changes in output from solar facilities.

Determining these added costs is the purpose of the solar integration study. Idaho Power said it has dozens of solar projects "either already under contract or attempting to obligate Idaho Power to purchase their output," which represent 501 megawatts of electrical capacity – roughly equal to Idaho Power’s Langley Gulch and Bennett Mountain natural gas-fired power plants.

Since Idaho Power went through a long fight to ensure that renewable energy was priced right from 2010 through 2012 that suggests that solar power is increasingly competitive if not for the integration issues.