Wednesday, July 17, 2013

New electrical line needed in valley


I’d like to take a few minutes to do two things: thank the community advisory committee (CAC) that has worked with us since 2006 to develop the Wood River Electrical Plan, and touch on the current state of the electrical system in the valley.
    Idaho Power appreciates the work of the CAC and valley residents to identify different options for improving the transmission system in the Wood River Valley. The projects identified in the Wood River Electrical Plan are a priority for us.
    This is a long-term plan for building electrical infrastructure, continuing demand-side management and other actions to meet electrical needs. The plan includes recommendations for the North and South valleys. In the plan, the CAC’s top-priority project is a back-up line between Hailey and Ketchum. That recommendation has been refined following many discussions with affected organizations, jurisdictions and property owners along the route.
    Idaho Power provides electric service to the Wood River Valley from Midpoint Substation, south of Shoshone, and King Substation, north of Hagerman (South Valley). These two lines meet just north of Hailey, and then a single transmission line proceeds north to Ketchum (North Valley). It’s important to note that all three of these existing lines are aging. The single line between Hailey and Ketchum is more than 50 years old.  
    Improved reliability in the North Valley is related to the condition of the system in the South Valley. Because Ketchum is served by only one transmission line from Hailey, an outage on the existing line results in no power to the North Valley area until the line is restored. Many residents recall the 2009 Christmas outage. That outage involved both transmission lines that serve Hailey. Those lines have seen more maintenance since that outage, and we have started the permitting process to rebuild one of them.  
    The Hailey-to-Ketchum transmission line will provide a second and redundant transmission source to the North Valley to minimize outage risk and improve the reliability of the system. The new redundant line will not require additional power to be acquired.   
    Actions that could be taken to address demand such as conservation, renewable and alternative generation will factor in to future growth, but these measures do not address the primary problem of electric service reliability. In fact, on July 2, when we hit an all-time peak of 3407 megawatts, that was met with a combination of hydro, thermal and other resources. While we have 675 megawatts of “potential” wind generation connected to our system, it produced only 57 megawatts on that hot, still day.
    Energy diversity means energy security. Our resource portfolio is currently among the most diverse—and therefore secure—in
the nation. We leverage hydropower and thermal plants to provide dependable “baseload” energy, as well as purchased renewable resources, and combine them all with a robust set of energy efficiency programs and incentives. It’s the same principle as an investment portfolio; a variety of resources minimizes risk.
    Idaho Power has been analyzing options and feasibility for both overhead and underground construction of the Hailey-to-Ketchum line. Costs to bury a transmission line are typically 10 times the cost of overhead construction. Per regulatory requirements from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, customers or communities requesting an underground transmission line must pay the increased cost of that line as compared with an overhead line. Idaho law allows cities and counties to form local improvement districts to pay for underground transmission lines through property assessments within a Local Improvement District area.
    We continue to have workshops and discussions with the cities, Blaine County and residents. We’ve received valuable input and made progress with engineering design and analysis. We plan to file our permit applications this winter.

Jim Bell, of Hailey, is the Idaho Power area manager for the Wood River Valley.

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