As Idaho Power presents its plans for a new, 138,000-volt transmission line from Hailey to Ketchum, it is imperative that government officials and valley residents fully understand the scope, need and available alternatives.
The Wood River Electrical Plan prepared and completed in 2007 has recommended an imposing power line to run directly up Highway 75. The pole height for this line could be as high as 90 feet, substantially higher than the small "distribution lines" we now see. This is a major power line structure. The cost to bury this line is $3 million per mile, only $200,000 of which would be paid for by Idaho Power. We currently have a 138,000-volt line that runs east and north out of Hailey, crossing Ohio Gulch Road and East Fork Road into Elkhorn and Sun Valley to the Ketchum substation. The new line is designed to provide redundancy if the existing line fails. There is state-of-the-art technology not being used by Idaho Power to place new, more efficient lines on the existing poles.
Throughout the plan it is written that there are alternatives that could displace the need for new utility infrastructure. Estimates are that energy efficiency, weatherization and improved building standards could reduce need by 20 to 30 percent. The report discusses small-scale, residential photovoltaics (electricity-producing solar panels) and wind turbines as additional ways to reduce need. The plan does not mention reduction by means of energy conservation, smart meters, smart grids and local renewable energy-generating facilities.
As a community we have the opportunity to explore the abundant renewable energy possibilities here in our valley and dismiss the need to bring power over long distances from dirty, coal-fired plants. An existing study indicates we can receive 110 megawatts from 45 wind turbines east and west of Hailey. Biomass (for example, sewage sludge from Ohio Gulch) can be converted to electricity. We have incredible solar potential as well as untapped geothermal resources. We have federal government stimulus to assist communities to act responsibly for the planet. Localized energy production is resistant to disruption, terrorism and large-scale grid failure, resulting in energy security and independence, sustainability and jobs. The Wood River Valley would like to work with Idaho Power in a progressive way to satisfy our future electricity needs.