BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The developer of a proposed $180 million southern Idaho solar energy project hopes to be delivering electricity within months, despite past rejections by regulators.
Peter Richardson, a Boise energy lawyer and one of the project's developers, said a decision from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission expected within weeks may resolve a fight with Idaho Power Co. over whether it must buy electricity from three 20-megawatt solar farms planned near Grandview, 40 miles from Boise.
"We'll be on by the spring of 2014, if we get a favorable order from the commission," Richardson said. "It will not take long."
Construction of large renewable energy projects has all but stalled in Idaho. Numerous wind and solar projects, including a similar Grandview project, have been scuttled over the last three years amid the loss of tax credits and changes in regulatory rules that made such developments unattractive to financiers.
Brad Bowlin, an Idaho Power spokesman, said Thursday it's premature to predict just what the regulators will decide on Richardson's project, which would be Idaho's first utility-scale solar installation.
Idaho Power has scant solar resources. The utility has 287 tiny photovoltaic systems — largely mounted on people's homes — supplying about 2 megawatts of power.
Among other things, Idaho Power contends projects such as Richardson's, which rely on federal laws requiring regulated utilities to buy their electricity, drive up costs for its more than 500,000 customers.
"We just want the price that we pay for energy from these projects to be fair for our customers," Bowlin said, of the upcoming regulators' decision. "If we end up with a contract that's approved by the Public Utilities Commission, then certainly we'll purchase the power as required."
The state's biggest utility has been fighting with Richardson over his project since 2011.
Among other things, Idaho Power maintains it's entitled to a share of renewable energy credits that accompany such projects and can be worth millions of dollars.