Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Electrical plan outlines projects for region


Daniel H. Olmstead is a representative of Idaho Power Co., based in Boise.

By DANIEL H. OLMSTEAD

The Wood River Valley is growing rapidly and so is its demand for electricity. The population of the valley is growing at a rate of over 2 percent per year with a projected population of over 76,000 at its maximum.

Idaho Power and a community advisory committee (CAC) worked throughout 2007 to create the Wood River Electrical Plan. It outlines improvements and additions to the high-voltage transmission and substation infrastructure to address the long-term needs of Blaine County.

The plan specifies locations for major electrical facilities serving the valley for many years to come and can be incorporated into city and county comprehensive plans. Individual projects resulting from this plan will still require jurisdictional approval and will go through a public siting process and public hearings.

Residents are invited to come to a community presentation tonight at the Community Campus in Hailey from 6 to 8 p.m. to learn about the plan and get involved. It's a perfect venue to find out more about it and to get involved in the development of future electrical facility planning and construction.

Some information already has come out through news stories; more information, photos and maps will be available tonight. People are also invited to check out the plan and background at www.idahopower.com/wrepreport.

We'd like to clarify several points regarding the plan, and additional information will be shared tonight:

- The overall cost of the plan is estimated to be $78 million in 2007 dollars (the cost of a transmission line between Hailey and Ketchum is part of the $78 million).

- The plan is a framework that will include numerous projects over decades.

- The first of those projects, adding redundant transmission capacity to create a more reliable system between Hailey and Ketchum, is expected to begin with a public process later this summer.

Idaho Power is depending on the public for suggestions and comments on that transmission capacity, and whether power lines be placed above or below ground. We are mandated by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to use overhead lines to provide the most cost-effective service to customers. Those costs are added to the rate base of all Idaho Power customers. Individual parties—or entire communities—can request lines be placed underground and make arrangements to cover those additional costs.

Many different types of power poles are available for overhead use. In some cases, particularly in visually sensitive areas, we are able to use low-profile single poles. For a 138,000-kilovolt line, we could utilize poles as low as 55 feet, considerably shorter than the standard 75-85 feet. No "towers" should be necessary for the contemplated Blaine County lines.

The CAC, which assisted in the preparation of the Wood River Electrical Plan, is a great cross-section of valley residents. They represented myriad interests in this effort—stakeholders from the environmental community, elected officials, to significant power users, to those deeply concerned about visual aesthetics.

We hope residents will come to tonight's community meeting. We welcome residents' involvement and constructive comments as these projects begin to take shape.




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