Some 360-plus Idaho pump/irrigators will be able to idle their land, cut production costs, and reel in about $457 an acre for power they are willing to forego using this summer.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission issued an interim order March 14 to approve Idaho Power Company's request to pay irrigators 15 cents per kWh for not using power that will be in short supply this summer.
Volatility in the Western U.S. power market and projected below-normal stream flows has pushed the market price of power to unprecedented levels.
The 360 pumpers-including others who submitted higher bids but are willing to accept the 15-cent offer-will participate. This will idle about 136,300 acres this summer.
Growers were able to submit bids for defraying the use of power in blocks of 100,000 kWh. Elmore County in southwestern Idaho, with a large number of high-lift pumps, will have nearly 30 percent of its irrigated ground-or nearly 27,000 acres-taken out of production.
Other counties with large numbers to be fallowed or dry-farmed this summer include: Twin Falls County, 20,563 acres; Bingham County, 13,794 acres; Minidoka, 12,412 acres, and Owyhee, 12,277 acres.
The savings to be realized by Idaho Power will be 409 million kWh or about 25 percent of its summer irrigation load demand. The company will be short an estimated 400 megawatts of power to meet summertime demand.
It is unknown if it will affect potato production because most "potato ground" had been prepared for planting last fall. It costs about $2,000 to plant an acre of potatoes. Sugarbeet acres in Idaho will not be affected-except for some movement of production-because growers must meet a $250-an-acre charge whether they grow beets or not.