By KIKI TIDWELL
Oh, if this proposed $21 million Idaho Power transmission line actually did anything for our community.
If there is no power getting to the Hailey sub-station, like it was not on the Christmas power outage, then no power will be transmitted, no matter how many redundant lines there are. If a fire threatens, and the entire Heatherlands subdivision is evacuated like it was several years ago, a transmission line on the west side of the subdivision is just as in danger of being wiped out as the existing line on the east side.
The question is not whether or not to build this line—the question is how do Sun Valley and Ketchum achieve energy security in their communities? Do they invest $14 million—$230 per $100,000 of property value for these residents—in a line that keeps them, as a fringe of the grid location, dependent largely on coal-fired generation (traditionally 50 percent) in Oregon and Montana and at the mercy of a power company that finally admits in their latest Integrated Resource Planning document that despite their frantic efforts to cloud seed, and buy up water rights to put more water through the hydro dams, water flows are continuing to decline and that they are experiencing shortfalls in hydropower production. “Idaho Power’s existing and committed resources are insufficient to meet the project peak-hour growth and the company’s customers in Oregon and Idaho face significant capacity deficits in the summer months if additional resources are not added,” the report states. And this report was finished before the president’s pledge to reduce coal-fired emissions—a further reduction in coal power was not anticipated.
Idaho Power’s report goes on to note that they are already using all available transmission capacity to buy additional power from Pacific Northwest as well, and that they are required to, and are very ready to, shed load through rolling blackouts and brownouts, if load exceeds capacity. Sun Valley Co. has chosen to provide its own energy security by installing a diesel-fired generator for its resort. They are not stupid. They realized that they needed to provide for their own backup power through distributed generation—at the source where they need it, when they need it. The cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley can take the same $14 million and accomplish a lot more towards energy security for their communities through distributed generation (including solar) and battery storage. This technology has rapidly evolved over the past five years to real solutions being used today by other communities, such as the entire country of Monaco. Folks also don’t realize that, over the past few years, Idaho Power installed a basic smart grid in all of Idaho with huge dollars from federal programs.With the ability now for meters and substations to two-way communicate and execute immediate load shifting, we have an amazing base on which to build technological solutions for our own micro-grid and energy security.
At this critical point in time, Sun Valley and Ketchum residents and Idaho ratepayers have a clear choice: They can flush money down a rat-hole on the transmission line to nowhere, or provide for their own energy security with tools available now today.