Idaho Power to invest in coal to keep it in its resource portfolio

The 49-MW Shoshone Falls hydroelectric upgrade is the only committed resource in Idaho Power’s 2013 integrated resource plan (IRP), with planned power purchases off a new transmission line another key part of meeting its future resource needs.

The Shoshone Falls upgrade is expected to be in operation in July 2019, Idaho Power noted in the IRP, filed July 1 at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. In August 2006, Idaho Power filed a license amendment application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to upgrade Shoshone Falls from 12.5 MW to 61.5 MW. The project currently has three generator/turbine units with nameplate capacities of 11.5 MW, 0.6 MW, and 0.4 MW. The upgrade project involves replacing the two smaller units with a single 50-MW unit that will result in a net upgrade of 49 MW.

In July 2010, FERC issued a license amendment that allowed two years to begin construction and five years to complete the project. The company requested and received a two-year extension from FERC on May 1, 2012, that requires construction to commence by July 1, 2014. A project team was assembled in 2012 and has started project preparations, including completing a geotechnical investigation and a survey of the site. Currently, Idaho Power intends to request an additional two-year extension from FERC regarding the major segments of the expansion project while progressing with the replacement of the existing gated spillway, which will occur during the next two years. Construction of the main expansion project will start in 2016 and finish in 2019.

An additional transmission connection to the Pacific Northwest has been part of the Idaho Power preferred resource portfolio since the 2006 IRP. By the 2009 IRP, Idaho Power determined the approximate configuration and capacity of the transmission line and, since 2009, the addition has been called the Boardman-to-Hemingway transmission line. Idaho Power reevaluated the line in the 2013 resource plan to ensure the transmission addition remains a prudent resource acquisition.

Idaho Power analyzed the resource portfolios over the entire 20-year planning period in the 2013 IRP. It does not intend to add any resources until 2018, and Idaho Power determined it is practical to consider the 20-year planning period in total. For the 2011 IRP, the 20-year planning period was divided into two 10-year segments due to the anticipated near-term resource acquisition of the Langley Gulch combined-cycle combustion turbine (CCCT) facility.

The Boardman-to-Hemingway transmission line with associated market purchases is the major resource addition identified in the preferred resource portfolio. Idaho Power said it continues the efforts to acquire the necessary regulatory approvals and permits to begin construction. The construction of the Boardman-to-Hemingway line is expected to be substantially complete, and the line is expected to be operational, in 2018.

Two coal plants firmly in the utility’s future plans

The preferred resource portfolio includes continued operations at the Jim Bridger (in Wyoming) and North Valmy (Nevada) coal facilities, despite intense pressure from environmental groups to back out coal from the portfolio. Continued coal operations at Jim Bridger and North Valmy are expected to require the installation of additional emission-control systems. Idaho Power expects that the financial commitment to install these systems at Jim Bridger and North Valmy will be required approximately two years prior to the installation and operation of the additional emission-control systems.

The regional utility market is constantly changing, and Idaho Power said it anticipates the 2013 IRP action plan may be adjusted in the next IRP filed in 2015, in the 2013 IRP Update, or sooner if directed by the state regulators.

The current action plan, by year, is:

  • 2013–2018 – Boardman-to-Hemingway – Ongoing permitting, planning studies, and regulatory filings.
  • 2013 – Gateway West – Ongoing permitting, planning studies, and regulatory filings.
  • 2013 – North Valmy Unit 1 – Commit to the installation of dry sorbent injection emission-control technology.
  • 2013 – Jim Bridger Units 3 and 4 – Commit to the installation of selective catalytic reduction emission-control technology (Idaho Power filed with the Idaho commission on July 1 for approval of the SCRs).
  • 2016–2017 – Demand response – Have demand response capacity available to satisfy deficiencies up to approximately 150 MW.
  • 2018 – Boardman-to-Hemingway – Transmission line complete and in service.
  • 2019 – Shoshone Falls – Shoshone Falls upgrade complete and in service.
  • 2019 – Jim Bridger Unit 2 – Commit to the installation of SCR.
  • 2020 – Jim Bridger Unit 1 – Commit to the installation of SCR.
  • 2020 – Boardman plant in Oregon – Coal-fired operations at the Boardman plant are scheduled to end by year-end 2020 (Idaho Power owns only part of this plant).
  • 2024–2032 – Demand response – Have demand response capacity available to satisfy deficiencies up to approximately 370 MW.

Boardman coal plant is out of the mix as of the end of 2020

Idaho Power owns one-third, or 771 MW (generator nameplate rating), of the Jim Bridger coal plant located near Rock Springs, Wyo. The Jim Bridger plant consists of four units. PacifiCorp has two-thirds ownership and is the operator of the Jim Bridger facility.

Idaho Power owns 50%, or 284 MW (generator nameplate rating), of the North Valmy coal-fired plant located near Winnemucca, Nev. The North Valmy plant consists of two units. NV Energy has 50% ownership and is the operator of North Valmy.

Idaho Power owns 10%, or 64.2 MW (generator nameplate rating), of the Boardman coal plant located near Boardman, Ore. The plant consists of a single generating unit. Portland General Electric (PGE) has 65% ownership, Bank of America Leasing has 15% ownership, and Power Resources Cooperative has 10% ownership. As the majority owner of the plant, PGE is the operator of the Boardman facility. The 2013 IRP assumes Idaho Power’s share of Boardman plant will not be available after Dec. 31, 2020. The 2020 date is the result of an agreement reached between the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, PGE, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency related to compliance with regional haze rules. Additional emission controls are required to be installed to continue operating the Boardman plant through 2020.

Idaho Power owns and operates the Langley Gulch plant, a nominal 318-MW natural gas-fired combined cycle combustion turbine (CCCT). Langley Gulch is located south of New Plymouth in Payette County, Idaho. Construction commenced in 2010, and the plant became commercially available in June 2012.

“Idaho Power can develop and own generation assets, rely on [power purchase agreements] and market purchases to supply the electricity needs of its customers, or use a combination of the two ownership strategies,” the IRP said. “Idaho Power expects to continue participating in the regional power market and enter into mid-term and long-term PPAs. However, when pursuing PPAs, Idaho Power must be mindful of imputed debt and its potential impact on Idaho Power’s credit rating. In the long run, Idaho Power believes asset ownership results in lower costs for customers due to the capital and rate-of-return advantages inherent in a regulated electric utility.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.