Idaho’s Diverse Power Sources Protect Against Extreme Weather

When Treasure Valley summer temperatures start to climb into the 100s, is Idaho’s power grid vulnerable to outages?

BOISE, Idaho-

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

When Treasure Valley summer temperatures start to climb into the 100s, is Idaho’s power grid vulnerable to outages?

Although the hot weather could tax the state’s energy resources, Idaho would not be vulnerable like Texas was in February 2021 when a rare winter storm reduced energy production there, said Benjamin Brandt. , director of load service operations for Idaho Power. Idaho has a more diverse set of energy sources than Texas, which relies heavily on natural gas, Brandt said.

Natural gas powers most power plants in Texas, according to information from the Texas Tribune. In February 2021, when a cold storm rolled through the state, natural gas wells froze, hampering power generation and causing a loss of 34 gigawatts of electricity, Brandt said.

Texas is in a unique position in that its energy grid operates somewhat independently from the rest of the country and is managed by an entity known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, according to the Dallas Morning News. If the state had imported more energy when it needed it, it could have coped better with the energy shortage, Brandt said.

“Texas’ problem was they weren’t going to get 34 gigawatts from anybody,” Brandt said.

On Sunday, ERCOT asked its customers to reduce electricity consumption due to above-normal July temperatures that are increasing demand on the grid and a lack of wind power generation, according to the Texas Grandstand.

The Idaho Power grid has several key differences from that of Texas. First, hydroelectricity is the largest energy source and provides reliability, Brandt said.

Second, Idaho Power officials have worked with utility commissions to build transmission lines that allow it to easily import and export power from other areas in the northwest, a- he declared. With the exception of last year’s heat dome event, areas such as Seattle and Portland typically experience peak energy demand in the winter, while Idaho’s demand peaks in the summer, a Brandt said. Transmission lines allow utilities to send power where and when needed, he said.

Finally, Idaho Power’s energy resources include wind, solar, geothermal and coal, he said.

“What caused problems (in Texas) was all the gas (generation) they lost; all of their solar and wind power didn’t produce either because of the weather,” Brandt said. “They don’t have the hydro or the driveline diversity that we have that would give them the ability to get through something like that a little bit better.”

That said, the Idaho network isn’t completely immune to challenges, Brandt said. Wind and solar power can be variable in how much power is generated and when it is generated, he said. This can be diversified by having different projects in locations from east to west that generate electricity at different times of the Earth’s rotation during the day, he said.

The loss of transmission lines could affect Idaho’s ability to move power to where it’s needed, and the company is working to make its system more resilient in times of extreme heat and as the region grows , did he declare. Often this will require funding infrastructure such as transmission lines or storage capacity, he said.

“Investing now and being able to get these items licensed and built is really critical…to meet the demands and challenges of life that will come to Idaho Power in the next 5-10 years, it takes time to build things,” he said. he said, adding that the company’s working relationship with public utility commissions and other agencies helps necessary projects move forward.

Idaho Power has appealed to customers to save during peak hours, usually between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., Brandt said. These efforts reflect the company’s interest in conserving energy and helping customers conserve and save money, he said.

Brad Bowlin, communications specialist at Idaho Power, said one of the company’s biggest conservation programs is its Irrigation Peak Rewards program. Irrigation systems are powered by electricity, and this is the biggest driver of local energy demand during the summer, he said.

The program pays irrigators not to irrigate during hot, late afternoons, Brandt said. Customers save money by not using power during this time, and the company can avoid having to build infrastructure to meet this level of demand, he said.

Two projects are underway to help the company meet future demand and to help the company achieve 100% renewable energy by 2045, Bowlin said via email. One project, the Boardman to Hemingway Transmission Line, will carry power from a substation in eastern Oregon to Owyhee County, Idaho, and vice versa. according to company website. A separate 120 megawatt battery storage project is expected to go live in 2023 and will help the company store energy until needed, including wind and solar power, Bowlin said via email.

This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press. Read more on IdahoPress.com

Check out the latest Treasure Valley and Gem State news in our YouTube Playlist:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Rosemary C. Kearney