Idaho PUC Approves Solar PURPA Project

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved a sales agreement between Idaho Power Co. and Grand View Solar PV One, the utility's first Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) agreement with a solar power project.

The project, 16 miles west of Mountain Home, is a qualifying facility under the provisions of PURPA, which requires electric utilities to offer to buy power produced by qualifying small-power producers or cogenerators.

The rate to be paid PURPA project developers, called an ‘avoided-cost rate,’ is determined and published by state commissions. The avoided cost rate is to be equal to the cost the electric utility avoids if it would have had to generate the power itself or purchase it from another source.

Idaho caps the size of projects that can qualify for the published avoided-cost rate at 10 MW. Even though the Grand View Solar project's capacity is 20 MW, the project is not expected to exceed 10 average megawatts on a monthly basis, given that solar power cannot be generated around the clock, the PUC says. Should the project exceed 10 average MW, Idaho Power will accept the energy but will not be required to pay for it.

The sales agreement is for 20 years, with a scheduled online date of Jan. 1, 2011. The agreement is non-levelized, meaning the price for the electricity generated gradually increases through the life of the contract. The rate is $77.77/MWh in 201, escalating to $128.31/MWh in 2031. That rate is adjusted for heavy- and light-load seasons as well as heavy- and light-load hours. The planned monthly output for the project varies from 1,326 MWh in January to 4,816 MWh in July.

Idaho Power has a number of net-metering agreements with customers who own small, primarily residential solar projects, but this project is the first solar sales agreement with a larger provider, the PUC says.

SOURCE: Idaho Public Utilities Commission

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