Our  sunny weather makes solar power a perfect energy source for Idaho. Peak sun brings peak  energy demands to serve air conditioners and irrigation pumps, and solar’s energy output matches up well. Going solar directly reduces carbon pollution by displacing the coal and gas that would otherwise be burnt. And by not burning out-of-state fossil fuels, going solar keeps Idaho’s energy dollars in our communities.

To realize these benefits while ensuring that we protect wildlife and  wild places, ICL spent the summer negotiating a new type of solar product for Idaho, community solar. We are excited with the resulting agreement among Idaho Power, Idaho Public Utilities Commission staff, and other stakeholders. This agreement gives many Idahoans a new opportunity to support clean energy.

Surmounting Solar Barriers

One unique feature of solar power is that it is flexible and scalable. At one end are large solar farms that resemble a traditional centralized power plant. A good example of this type, Idaho Solar 1 was built on private ag land, thereby avoiding wildlife habitat. But this style of solar requires a relatively large footprint and necessary transmission lines.

The other end of the spectrum, called “rooftop solar,” allows individuals to install systems on their homes or businesses. While this type avoids wildlife habitat, rooftop solar is not an option for many people because they have shaded roofs, rent their homes or businesses, live in apartments, or cannot afford the several thousand dollars to install rooftop solar. The new community solar project helps remove these barriers and enables more Idahoans to go solar.

The Community Solar Project

“Community solar” sits between large-scale and rooftop systems. Idaho’s first project will be a 500-kilowatt farm built by Idaho Power on the Boise bench. As an Idaho Power customer, you can now subscribe to portions of the project and get a 25-year stream of solar credits on your power bill. You can choose an amount of clean energy that matches your energy use and fits your budget.

For years, ICL and our allies have asked Idaho utilities to develop community solar projects. In June this year, Idaho Power submitted a proposal with many good features. ICL looked into the details and saw two major problems. After months of negotiations, we found solutions to 1) provide a monthly subscription fee instead of a lump-sum payment and 2) accurately value the solar credits that subscribers get on their power bills.

Combined, these solutions mean that the cost of a subscription went from $740 to $562. And under the payment plan, you can  go solar for 24 monthly payments of $26.31  (which includes financing fees) and receive 25 years of solar credits.

Once the Idaho Public Utilities Commission approves this deal, we look forward to getting the project fully subscribed and built.

In the meantime, stay tuned by signing up for ICL’s Energy News or registering your interest with Idaho Power.