SUN VALLEY • After years of favoring wind for small renewable energy projects in Idaho, hydro projects now may be poised to take the lead.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission ruled last December that developers of small wind, solar and some other renewable energy projects would be limited to 100 kilowatts and would have to share valuable renewable energy credits (called “recs”) with utility companies.
By contrast, hydro projects would be limited to a far more generous 10 megawatts and would not have to share their recs.
So the ruling favors small hydro projects, said Tom Arkoosh, a Boise-based water attorney.
The IPUC made the ruling under the U.S. Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act, passed nearly 35 years ago to promote production of alternative energy in the wake of an oil crisis. Under the act, utilities must enter a contract with small renewable project developers for at least 20 years.
Yet after wind companies began splitting large renewable projects in order to get the federal act’s competitive rates and recs, utilities began fighting the act’s guidelines.
Hydro projects got the good end of the deal in the IPUC ruling, Arkoosh told the Idaho Water Users Association at its meeting yesterday.
Hydro project developers do not have to split their recs with utilities such as Idaho Power Co., he said, so canal companies and other developers have more economic incentive to pursue hydro projects under the federal act.
Now it’s up to the developers to determine whether Idaho will get more hydro projects, he said. Wind has been the popular option for so long, it might take awhile before hydro projects take off, he said.
“These are good rates for hydro. This is good for canal companies.“