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One Idaho farmer's wind turbine up and running, but two others file complaints against Idaho Power Co.

(Wednesday, July 7, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Chip Thompson, Times-News, 06/26/04:
BURLEY, Idaho -- LeRoy Jarolimek began creating electricity out of thin air last week.

Jarolimek isn't a magician. He's just a farmer with a passion for wind power who has spent the last two years conducting research, obtaining grant money and installing a 120-foot, power-generating wind turbine on his Burley Butte farm.

Tuesday Jarolimek held an open house for the public to see the new turbine and for representatives of state and federal agencies to address questions regarding development of wind-generated power in Idaho.

"If we can get one project like this, then we can show it's possible throughout the state," Jarolimek said, indicating his desire to promote wind energy as a way to help Idaho's struggling farms survive.

While he plans six more turbines more than twice the height of the current 20-kilowatt generator, Jarolimek is already realizing the fruits of his labor through a net-metering arrangement with Idaho Power Co. Under the arrangement, producers are credited for any power they create beyond what they use.

Jarolimek's son, Ronnie, said the turbine has generated about 360 kilowatts of power since being hooked up June 2 despite relatively light winds.

"It's been running pretty consistently," Ronnie said. "We're actually turning the meter back already."

Scott Gates of Idaho Power said Jarolimek is the first wind generator, but there are about three small hydroelectric and 10 solar producers taking advantage of the net-metering program. Some have reduced their electric bills, while others receive monthly checks for their power overages, he said.

"The wind resources in the state are actually greater than the hydro resources," said Engineer Brian Jackson of Renaissance Engineering and Design, who worked with Jarolimek on obtaining USDA grants made available by the 2002 farm bill.

Jackson is involved in projects around the state, including Val Schwendiman's $2 million, 1.5-megawatt project under way in Newdale, just east Rexburg.

Jarolimek and his family invested $30,000 for the current turbine and received a $10,000 USDA grant, according to USDA State Director Mike Field. Schwendiman has received $500,000, and Jarolimek was presented with a $20,000 grant check for research into the next phase of his project.

"The grants are a national competition," Field said, "so we feel lucky to get three."

Jackson pointed out that Jarolimek's income from the turbine is expected to repay his investment in about eight years, but suggested that an increase in energy costs would shorten that term.

Research is under way for Jarolimek's $11 million, 10-megawatt expansion of the wind farm, and he joked that he could already see the six additional turbines in his mind.

An uneasy public speaker, Jarolimek relies on his enthusiasm to get the message out about wind power and how it can benefit struggling farmers. He travels regularly around the state meeting with farmers and engineers, educating himself and sharing what he has learned.

"Keeping that knowledge in my head and saying it's mine doesn't do me any good," Jarolimek said.

And there's no better place than Idaho for prospective wind farmers, according to Gerry Galinato, an energy specialist with the Idaho Department of Water Resources. He pointed out that there are 18,000 megawatts of untapped wind power in Idaho, making it the premier state in the Northwest for wind power development.


Small-power producers file complaints against Idaho Power

BOISE -- Two operators of wind power projects and another operator a geothermal project in Cassia County have filed complaints with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission alleging the company is not following federal PURPA contract terms.

The energy crisis of the late 1970s prompted Congress to pass the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA. Its purpose is to encourage the promotion and development of renewable energy technologies as alternatives to burning fossil fuels or the construction of new power plants.

PURPA requires electric utilities like Idaho Power to buy electricity generated by small-power producers who obtain Qualifying Facility (QF) status. The rate utilities must pay qualifying facilities is a posted rate, set by the state commission. The rate, sometimes called avoided-cost rate, is to be equal to the cost the electric utility avoids if it would have had to generate the power itself or purchase it from another source.

Bob Lewandowski, who operates a wind project east of Boise, and Mark Schroeder, who is developing a wind project in the Hagerman-Bliss area, claim the company wants to pay other than posted rates when the output from the complainants' wind projects is less than 90 percent or more than 110 percent of projected output. Lewandowski and Schroeder also object to Idaho Power's proposal that they pay for the electricity Idaho Power must acquire when output from their wind projects is less than expected. The complainants also object to an Idaho Power provision that allows the utility to terminate the contract if retail electric deregulation is enacted in Idaho.

U.S. Geothermal, owner of the 15-megawatt Raft River Geothermal Power Plant now being built in Cassia County, filed a complaint with the commission listing many of the same objections cited by Lewandowski and Schroeder. In addition, U.S. Geothermal claims Idaho Power is refusing to purchase an annual average of 10 MW per year, but, instead, will purchase only a maximum of 10 MW in any given hour at PURPA rates. U.S. Geothermal maintains there is no basis in law for such a limitation.

Because of the similarity of the complaints among the three projects, the commission issued an order Tuesday consolidating the complaints into one case.

The commission has scheduled a Sept. 2 public hearing at 9:30 a.m. in the commission hearing room, 472 W. Washington St. in Boise. The hearing may continue to Sept. 3 if necessary.

U.S. Geothermal, as well as Lewandowski and Schroeder, must file direct testimony by July 9. Idaho Power has until July 15 to file its direct testimony. Commission staff and intervenors will file their direct testimony by Aug. 5 and rebuttal testimony must be filed by Aug. 19.

Documents related to this case can be accessed on the commission?s Web site at http://www.puc.state.id.us . Click on "File Room," then "Electric Cases," and scroll down to Case Nos. IPC-E-04-8 and IPC-E-04-10. Copies of the testimony by the parties will also be available as they come in. Documents are also available for public inspection at the commission?s offices at 472 W. Washington St. in Boise.

Case No. IPC-E-04-8, Case No. IPC-E-04-10
June 9, 2004
Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339
Web site: http://www.puc.state.id.us