Idaho Growers May Capitalize

Published online: Feb 14, 2001
Idaho's potato growers who pump/irrigate under Idaho Power Company may be able to capitalize on the West Coast's electrical power shortage, make money at the same time, and reduce the production of irrigation-intensive crops likes potatoes.

Idaho Power Company today filed a proposal with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission that would compensate irrigators for significantly reducing electrical consumption this summer.

With what is expected to be the first of several programs to be offered its customers, Idaho Power will buy back power in an open-bid process to change energy-use patterns and give cost-savings to everyone.

In the program, an open bid process would be offered to irrigation customers who can commit to an energy reduction of at least 100,000-kilowatt hours during the 2001 growing season. A 60-horsepower pump operated for 2,000 hours consumes about 100,000 kWh.

Once irrigators turn in a bid to Idaho Power specifying an amount of energy to be reduced and a price per kWh that they will accept as compensation for the reduced consumption, Idaho Power will look at the bids and make a comparison with other available options. The customer's average energy use over the past five years will be used as the basis for determining reduced-energy consumption.

There are nearly 1,700 irrigation customers who will quality for this program. If accepted they will be paid in monthly checks.

In addition, because much of Idaho Power's electricity is generated with hydro generators on the Snake River, any unused irrigation water would allow the company to maintain power-generation capacity. This would not work, however, for ground pumpers.

With the February snowpack barely 60 percent of normal, a water shortage this summer could not only hurt power generation but irrigators as well. With potato prices at all-time lows, many may be tempted to make bids.

Idaho Power may have enough surplus to make sales of electrical power to neighboring power company systems to help them supply their customers.