Idaho puts online its first large solar project at 40 MW-AC

Image: Origis

Last Friday, representatives of Origis Energy, DEPCOM and local officials held a ceremony to dedicate a 40 MW-AC/55 MW-DC solar project a dozen or so miles Southeast of Boise, Idaho.

It is not known if members of the media were invited to this ceremony, because none of them appear to have written about it. Which is unfortunate, given that the ID Solar 1 is Idaho’s first utility-scale solar project larger than 3 MW to come online to date.

The sole mention of the ceremony on Google News is an op-ed in the Idaho State Journal, and neither developer Origis Energy nor construction contractor DEPCOM has a press release on their site for the event. In its page for the project Origis does note that ID Solar 1 (also called the Boise Solar Farm) was put online in mid-June, but there appears to be no press coverage of this development either.

What we do know is that ID Solar 1 holds a contract to sell power to utility Idaho Power, and comprises 175,000 JinkoSolar PV modules mounted on NEXTracker single-axis trackers, covering 324 acres. DEPCOM stated construction on the project in December 2015, and achieved mechanical completion in April.

GTM Research Solar Analyst Colin Rush says that ID Solar 1 was originally two projects, the Boise City Solar 1 and 2 projects. Additionally, he was able to verify that like essentially all the utility-scale solar projects under development in Idaho, it was able to secure a contract through the 1978 Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA).

PURPA mandates that utilities must buy power from independent power producers if they can provide it at a price at or below what the utility would otherwise pay for power on the wholesale market. PURPA has been used widely in by U.S. solar developers in recent years in states which have limited or no renewable energy mandate.

In the summer of 2015 Idaho put a stop to PURPA as a driver for solar markets by reducing contract lengths to 2 years. However, this was not before contracts for hundreds of MW of solar projects were approved, and GTM Research predicts that Idaho will install 312 MW of solar PV this year and next year before the market shrinks again in 2018.

Idaho has been such a small solar market that it was not until this year that GTM Research began tracking the state, placing Idaho as the 36th largest market among 40 for the year 2015.