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Idaho Power is keeping up with customer demand this Summer

The company set a record for energy delivered to customers on each of the final three days of June
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 9:01 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) —With the severe heat and drought conditions, Idaho’s power grid has been tested, leaving some to wonder if the Gem State will see any power reductions or outages this Summer.

Back in June, Idaho Power asked customers to conserve energy during evening hours but the company set a record for energy delivered to customers on each of the final three days of June. According to the company. On June 30, customers used 3,745 megawatts (MW) of electricity during the 6 p.m. hour. The peak load eclipsed the previous high of 3,422 MW, set July 7, 2017, by more than 9.4%. When the old mark was set, Idaho Power served about 540,000 customers. The company now has more than 590,000 customers. Idaho Power COO Adam Richins said he wasn’t shocked by the record use of energy.

“In a lot of ways, it was a perfect storm for us. Obviously, there were near-record temperatures but there is also a lot of growth going around. Of course, we have a drought across the Western United States,” Richins said.

University Distinguished Professor Brian Johnson of the University of Idaho said the power grid is not only tested by customers but the severe heat and drought conditions also put pressure on it. The lower water levels impact the hydroelectric plants, and transformers and transmission lines are affected by the heat.

“If it is hot out they (transformers) don’t self-cool themselves as well, " said Johnson.”For overhead lines, they sag more when it’s hot, and there is more potential for them to short circuit in trees.”

When the overhead lines sag, he said there is the potential for them to catch fire if a power company hasn’t kept up with tree trimming in those areas.

“If you have windstorms that are blowing derbies around, and if you have derbies that are going up into the line that is causing an arc, then that flash can also cause a fire,” Johnson said.

Richins said they have been able to keep up with demand and take the pressure off the grid through a diverse set of resources, including its 17 hydroelectric plants, three natural gas-powered plants, two coal-fired plants, and energy purchased from wind, solar, and other small independent energy producers

The power company is also adding new resources such as a 120-MW solar project south of Twin Falls that is scheduled to come online at the end of next year, and Idaho Power recently issued a request for proposals to add another 80 MW by summer 2023 and several hundred more MW by 2025.

The Boardman to Hemingway transmission line, which the company hopes to bring online as soon as 2026, is a 500-kilovolt line that will allow Idaho Power to import up to 500 MW for more than 175,000 homes, to meet customers’ peak Summer demand.

Idaho Power is still asking customers to conserve energy when possible, and hopefully, there are no service interruptions this Summer.

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