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An increasingly popular resource

Another electric utility in the western United States has included a big chunk of wind power in its plans for new resources. Idaho Power says it will need a little more than 900 MW in new generating resources over the next ten years and that 350 MW, about 38%, will be new wind generation feeding directly into its transmission grid.

The utility submitted its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which is developed every two years and looks out ten years, to both Idaho and Oregon regulators in late August for their acknowledgement. Once that occurs this autumn, says the utility's Dennis Lopez, it will release a solicitation for the first 200 MW, which it hopes to have online in 2006.

The utility, which does not include natural gas in its proposals for new generation, says renewables will add diversity to its resource base and that wind power's improvements in technology and its falling cost has made it more attractive. "In the event that sometime in the future the market or policy conditions change, having this sort of diverse resource portfolio provides our customers with protection," says Karl Bokenkamp, the company's manager of power supply planning. "We believe this is a strategy that overall is good for our customers and our company."

PacifiCorp of Portland, Oregon, also released an IRP this year calling for 1400 MW of renewable resources by 2014 out of a total 4000 MW it will need over the next ten years. A solicitation for 1100 MW of renewables by 2010 followed in February, the largest yet issued for green power by a US utility. In addition, Colorado utility Xcel received approval last month to add 500 MW of wind -- also an outgrowth of an IRP.

Hydro flexibility

Currently, 60% of Idaho Power's energy comes from its hydroelectric dams, which gives it greater flexibility to integrate the wind into its system. Lopez says that in the IRP process Idaho Power went through dozens of scenarios and that in most cases 350 MW was about the amount of variable wind energy supply that fit with the utility's other resources while retaining stability of supply. Idaho Power will release two more solicitations in 2006 and 2007 of 100 MW each.

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