Wednesday, August 20, 2014

There are options to redundant line

    We are deeply concerned that Friday’s article (“Power outage caused by lightning”) and opinion on our energy reliability (“Pretty v. practical”) are misleading readers as to our options. Both imply that we have only one way to increase the reliability of our north valley electricity: build a second power line. And if we don’t want to pay the $14 million undergrounding price that would cost each property owner $230 per $100,000 of property value, then we can just put the power line above-ground with its view impacts—and spread the cost across all Idaho ratepayers.
    Before we decide to make this intrusive and expensive choice, let’s ensure we have complete information. First, prior to last week’s lightning strike, the only sustained outage in 20 years was 58 minutes in 2005 due to equipment failure. The Christmas 2009 outage resulted from the failure of both the southern lines that feed the Hailey-to-Ketchum line. A second line is not always a sure bet. Second, the last in-depth analysis of the redundant line was undertaken in 2007, yet today there are very real potential alternatives to ensure reliability and bring other benefits such as local jobs and reduced risk of increased power prices.
    To that end, the city of Ketchum has asked Idaho Power for an alternatives analysis for options in addition to a redundant line including timeline and costs. At the first energy town hall last month, we asked Idaho Power to collaboratively evaluate our options including possible alternatives such as local generation combined with storage and a mini-grid for backup power. The Ketchum Energy Advisory Committee is also independently evaluating the line alongside alternatives for efficacy, costs and local economic benefits. There are models in communities across the country and around the world, from Bainbridge Island, Wash., to Feldheim, Germany, to Rutland, Vt., (building a solar/battery storage/mini-grid system for its security facing regular outages from storms). Depending on cost and practicality, the Rutland approach may be a strong contender for us.
    It is imperative that our community educates itself to find the best option for our security. We look forward to future energy town hall meetings where together we can make an informed decision on a cost, risk and local economic impact basis.
Deb Bohrer
Aimee Christensen
Molly Goodyear
Wendolyn Holland
Rick LeFaivre
Billy Mann
Kerrin McCall
Alan Richardson
Josh Solly

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