Some really fascinating solar developments are happening in Idaho.
The short story is this: PURPA requires utilities to buy renewable generation if the rates are lower than the avoided costs (i.e. the cost a utility would incur if it bought from another source). Recently, around 500 MW of solar projects sought to sell to Idaho Power at these avoided cost rates, and Idaho Power in turn petitioned the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to suspend the obligation to buy. The PUC denied the utility’s petition (PDF, and really worth a read).
We can now add Idaho to the list of states where solar is cheaper than the alternatives. Here’s why that’s so exciting. This isn’t sunny California, with its high rates, progressive policymakers, and enviro-centric citizenry. Or the island state of Hawaii, which depends on expensive fossil imports and is a supertanker accident away from becoming Amish. This is Idaho, which has, according to the latest EIA data, the lowest retail electricity prices in the country.
With Georgia adding 800 MW of solar below avoided cost, Minnesota choosing solar over natural gas, and Austin buying 150 MW below 5 cents kWh, the club of coal states where solar is making inroads is growing.