Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Power line alternatives being studied

    As a member of the city-appointed Ketchum Energy Advisory Committee, I am addressing Idaho Power’s proposed redundant 138kV sub-transmission line from Hailey to Ketchum.
    A redundant line is a power line built to carry the load if the first line fails.  The Christmas 2009 outage and last week’s were not the result of a failure of the existing and very reliable Hailey-to-Ketchum 138kV. The outages were failures of two southern lines that feed into the H-K line. This brings into question the value of redundancy in providing reliable power to our community.
    The proposed 47’ steel poles would carry the transmission line, replacing the lower voltage poles (constructed last year). The juncture at St. Luke’s would be a more complex structural design where the overhead line would go underground.
    Burying a 138kV line is extremely expensive, typically 10 times more than overhead. The 2013 cost of the buried section was estimated at $14 million, which is to be paid by the users of the line. Under the local improvement district structure, this would cost us upwards of $230 per $100,000 of property value, excluding properties over five acres. Construction for each city block would take two weeks.
    Aesthetic concerns are of critical interest to our community and our visitors.  Equally, choices about our energy future impact our tourist economy and ability to keep in our community some of the $35 million spent per year on electricity. Much of our current electricity is from out-of-state coal.
    The Ketchum Energy Advisory Committee is studying the proposed transmission line, meeting with Idaho Power and researching solutions to securing a reliable emergency power backup system, along with planning for local and distributed renewable energy systems that create jobs, reduce price risk and benefit our economy.
Kerrin McCall

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