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Utah municipal power alliance to harness Idaho wind

Published November 24, 2010 7:38 am

Wind farm • UAMPS facility to generate power for five states.
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A consortium of municipally owned power systems in Utah and several other western states is building an expansive wind farm in southern Idaho that will generate enough electricity to power more than 43,000 homes.

The $250 million project is being developed by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) for 23 of that organization's 51 members.

"We've had a power purchase agreement with the Pleasant Valley wind farm outside of Evanston for the past seven years," said UAMPS spokeswoman Jackie Coombs. "But this new project will be the first wind farm that we have developed on our own."

Of the 23 UAMPS member municipalities that will be participating in Horse Butte Wind Project, 19 are in Utah. They are: Beaver, Blanding, Brigham City, Eagle Mountain, Ephraim, Enterprise, Fillmore, Hurricane, Hyrum, Kaysville, Lehi, Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Price, Santa Clara, Springville and Washington. Also, the town of Paragonah and Heber Light and Power have signed on to get power from the wind farm.

The other municipally owned utilities participating are in Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and California.

Located on 17,600 acres about 15 miles east of Idaho Falls, the Horse Butte Wind Project is expected to be completed in late fall 2011. Once operational, the project's 32 wind turbines will generate 58 megawatts of electricity.

UAMPS worked for more than a year to gain the necessary regulatory approval and finalize the power purchase agreements that would allow it to move forward with the wind farm's construction.

Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy, said UAMPS has chosen to develop its Horse Butte project at an opportune time. The cost of developing wind farms, which includes financing and equipment expenses, has fallen dramatically in the past 12 months.

"They will be delivering a renewable-energy project that makes a lot of economic sense," Wright said. "And their cost of production will be one of the lowest that I've ever seen."

The project will produce electricity for 6.5 cents to 7 cents per kilowatt hour, a price that rivals that of many natural-gas fired power plants.

According to UAMPS, a recent Dan Jones poll found that more than 80 percent of customers living in UAMPS service areas reported they wanted their utility to use more renewable resources.

"Our members take their responsibility of planning for the long-term energy needs of their cities and towns very seriously," UAMPS General Manager Doug Hunter said in a statement announcing the project. "Adding an additional wind resource to our power supply portfolio is a smart choice."

steve@sltrib.com