Idaho’s first commercial solar power project won’t be operational this month as predicted. But one of the companies involved in the project says it should come online by the end of May.
The state’s first solar power farm is on about 500 acres just southwest of Boise. When the project, known as Boise City Solar, is finished it will produce enough megawatts to power 29,000 homes during good solar exposure. That’s more homes than a city the size of Idaho Falls.
Who owns it?
Boise City Solar is not associated with the city of Boise, though its genesis is in a previous effort to get a commercial solar project on city-owned land. Technically it belongs to a company created just to own it called Idaho Solar 1 LLC. That has traded hands a few times. According to state records, it was acquired in December by a North Carolina energy investment company called Entropy.
But Entropy managing partner Lewis Reynolds won’t confirm if his company owns or co-owns the project. Reynolds says he is not at liberty to discuss ownership details but notes that it is complex. Reynolds does say he thinks the project will be good for Idaho and Entropy.
“…we are a finance and construction company that provides construction funding to build utility-scale solar projects,” Reynolds says. “We have primarily focused historically in the southeast, but were very excited when this opportunity in Idaho emerged. We are expanding to a national footprint, and are actively seeking new opportunities in many markets across the U.S., but visiting Idaho has been one of the highlights. Boise and the surrounding areas really are beautiful.”
Entropy tends to be media shy. Reynolds says that’s in part because of a complex relationship with environmental groups.
“Oddly, we have found that many environmentalists tend to support solar in theory, but they very often oppose actual solar projects over reasons that pale in comparison to the environmental benefits,” Reynolds says.
But so far the project Reynolds refers to simply as “Idaho” seems to have some good will from the state’s environmental groups.
The Idaho Conservation League blog heralds the project.
“…Idaho will begin the long-awaited march toward a clean energy future,” writes the ICL’s Ben Otto. “This is terrific news for Idaho's economy and climate.”
The nuclear watchdog and clean energy advocate The Snake River Alliance is excited as well.
“…this is a long-overdue sign Idaho clean energy advocates have been waiting for: Evidence that utility-sized solar power is the real deal, it’s here now, and it is already providing valuable new clean energy jobs and also clean energy dollars for local governments,” writes the alliance’s Ken Miller.
And in a recent press release the Idaho Sierra Club includes it in a list of positive energy developments.
First but not last
Fourteen other solar projects are scheduled to come online before the end of this year. They’ll sell what they generate to Idaho power. Brad Bowlin, an Idaho Power spokesman, says even with all 15 projects operational, solar will still be a small fraction of the company’s power supply. But Bowlin says on summer days it could account for as much as 10 percent of energy use.
“And that would really just be for a brief time sort of at the middle of the day when you’re getting optimum solar exposure,” Bowlin says. “And that’s also assuming that all of those solar projects are getting full sunlight at the same time.”
Still, it’s a big increase in a single year. Bowlin says all these solar projects are coming online now because of fear that a federal tax credit would not be extended past 2016.
Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam
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