Wednesday, May 23, 2012

100 employees at Idaho plant laid off

HONOLULU -- Honolulu-based commercial solar power company Hoku Corp. says its subsidiary is laying off about 100 employees at an Idaho manufacturing plant. . .  The Pocatello plant was to have made silicon for solar panels. All contractors stopped construction work at the facility last month. Hoku says some lienholders have started foreclosure proceedings against the plant in Idaho courts. . .

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Area farmer fears power line alternative route could hurt operation

April 27 by Larry Meyer

JAMIESON —As Idaho Power continues to prepare a draft proposal for the routing of its 500-kilovolt transmission line between northeast Oregon and southwest Idaho, it is also proposing alternative routes, and one of those has a Malheur County farmer saying it will negatively impact his operation.

Kenneth Jensen, who farms just north of Jamieson, said depending on where the towers are installed, they could interfere with the operation of his center pivots and also restrict aerial spraying of his fields.

 Idaho Power’s proposed route goes west of Brogan and then heads east, north of Brogan. The Jamieson alternative route would head east sooner, cutting away from the proposed route several miles short of Brogan and would cross U.S. Highway 26 and irrigated farm ground about 1.5 miles north of Jamieson, Jensen said. About 1.5 miles of 2.5 miles of irrigated ground the line would cross would be on his farm, he added.

Farm operations would be limited in the proposed 250-foot right of way, Jensen said, as Occupational Safety and Health Agency rules say farm workers would not be allowed within 100 feet of the lines.

“It would make it impossible to do anything,” Jensen said of the line. He believes the line would also interfere with RTK GPS guidance tractors used in no-till farming, he said. “We, the farmers, would have to have our fields cut up by power lines,” Jensen said.

Also, one of the proposed towers for the Willow Creek Alternative would be at the end of his airstrip used by crop dusters and others, making it unusable, Jensen said.

Jensen said the Willow Creek alternative was offered because of concerns about a sage grouse lek the proposed route passes through near Huntington. A group of landowners have proposed their own alternative, which would cut off from the proposed route north of Brogan and skirt south around some leks, staying mostly on public land and joining the Jamieson alternative away from the irrigated farm ground.

In a letter to Jensen, which he shared, Keith Georgeson, Boardman to Hemingway Project leader, said “the proposed alternative route adds 8.1 miles to the 30-mile proposed route and 13.7 miles to the Willow Creek alternative route.” Noting that the landowners’ proposal would decrease the amount of irrigated crop land from 2 miles to 0.1 miles and reduce the amount of private land the line would cross in comparison to the proposed route and the Willow Creek alternative, Georgeson, said, “Idaho Power is not able to justify the proposed alternative because of the increased line length. The route increased the distance from the proposed route by almost 30 to 56 percent over the alternative route.”

Georgeson said Idaho Power continues to pursue the original route around Brogan as its proposed route, but, if permitting is denied, the company needs to have an alternative.

Ontario solar project set to move forward

Tuesday, April 3rd by Larry Meyer

ONTARIO —The Ontario City Council Monday approved ground lease agreements that will allow a solar power project, to be installed at several sites around the city, with generated power to be sold to Idaho Power.

Idaho Power’s Oregon Solar Photovoltaic Pilot program is a pilot mandated by the Oregon Legislature to encourage the development of solar energy in the state, according to information provided by the city. Electrical utilities operating in Oregon are required to purchase electricity at above-market rates from a limited number of non-commercial participants.

Assisted by Site Based Energy, a solar energy developer, Ontario officials applied to participate in the program and received preliminary approval from Idaho Power for installation of 10 solar panels, but two of the sites were pulled from consideration.

Under current plan, the SBE will own the solar panels for the first eight years of the program with the city then taking ownership. In Monday’s action, the council also approved the Idaho Power sales agreement. . . .