Digester Applies to Sell Electricity to Idaho Power
By Nate Poppino, The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho
Jun. 19–A Magic Valley dairy may become the first in the state to sell electricity to Idaho Power Co. using an anaerobic digester.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is taking public comments through June 27 on an Idaho Power application to buy 1.5 megawatts from the Big Sky West Dairy Digester, planned for construction next to the Big Sky Dairy near Gooding.
The installation is one of a growing number of the devices, which convert dairy manure into methane gas that can then be turned into natural gas or burned for power. The technology is catching on with confined animal feeding operations as one way to cut down on methane emissions and harness a renewable energy source.
According to the application, Idaho Power would contract with the Gooding digester for 20 years, receiving about 789,000 kilowatt-hours a month in energy for its grid. Following approval of several conditions — including submittal of engineering data and proving it is licensed to operate — the digester would begin producing power on Nov. 21 and would be fully online by Feb. 14 of next year.
The facility wouldn’t be the first to provide power in some way — the Whitesides Dairy near Rupert sells gas to Intermountain Gas and a local industrial operation. But the Gooding digester would be the first to sell electricity directly to a utility such as Idaho Power after a deal with a Canyon County facility fell through last year, IPUC spokesman Gene Fadness said.
Idaho Power spokesman Dennis Lopez said digesters are one of many alternate-energy resources the company is looking at right now.
“I think more than anything else, we look forward to having another source of alternative energy on our system,” Lopez said.
Representatives of the Big Sky Dairy and DF-AP#1 LLC, the corporation and digester operator Idaho Power would contract with, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Digesters are expensive to install and operate, and dairy industry representatives have said the cost of generating electricity outweighs what operators can sell the power for. But small operators such as Big Sky West may have found a way around that. The digester qualifies as a small-power production facility under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, which means it follows a funding schedule set by IPUC, Fadness said.
The proposed funding schedule — equal to the cost the utility would have paid if it generated the power itself or purchased it from another source — stays close to $60 per megawatt-hour through 2013 and peaks at nearly $100 per megawatt-hour 20 years from now.
“The PURPA rate is typically more of an attractive rate than the typical sales contract negotiated with a utility,” Fadness said.
That’s a fact he expects many other CAFOs have realized. Several types of PURPA projects were suspended over the past couple of years while Idaho Power studied integrating wind farms into its grid, he said. Now that those projects are cleared to proceed, several other digester applications are expected within the next two months.
Fadness said the commission could issue a decision on the application by the end of July.
Nate Poppino may be reached at 208-735-3237 or email@example.com.
Comments on the digester proposal are accepted via e-mail by accessing the commission’s homepage at http://www.puc.idaho.gov and clicking on “Comments & Questions.”
Fill in the case number (IPC-E-08-09) and enter your comments. Comments may also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to 208-334-3762.
To see more of The Times-News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.magicvalley.com
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