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City Discusses Generating Own Energy

by Associated Press
Idaho State Journal - December 12, 2003

POCATELLO -- Pocatello could be in the power generating business within a few years.

During a Thursday morning study session, the City Council discussed building municipal windmills or hydroelectric generators to fill the city's electric needs, and possibly to produce a small amount of electricity to sell to Idaho Power.

Proposals range from erecting a 50-megawatt plant, to producing just enough electricity to cover the city's power needs.

The project is being considered as a long-term cost-saving measure. City officials estimate it would take seven years before savings from the operation would exceed construction costs.

"We're trying to look at all kinds of issues as far as generating revenue for the city," said Councilman Gary Moore. "For the long-term health of the community we're just looking at some of those ideas."

The Idaho Department of Water Resources will make a presentation about wind energy to the City Council on Feb. 12.

City Environment and Floodway Engineer Dan Sharp said the windmills would be located on ridge lines.

"The nice thing about wind over water is wind is a renewable resource, and we don't have to worry about water rights or if it's a drought year," Sharp said.

He said Pocatello has an average wind speed of 15 mph and is located in a prime spot for wind power.

Each windmill has the capacity to produce one megawatt of electricity each day.

Windmills cost about $1 million each to build, and the city would also have to pay for infrastructure to deliver the power. Sharp said there is about $500,000 in available grants the city could apply for to defray the cost.

Moore said, "First and foremost, the city's not in a position to make a big capital investment. As we get more information, we'll look at funding sources."

Several Idaho communities, including Idaho Falls, produce their own power.

"At this point we're looking at a bunch of different scenarios, learning about it and trying to find if it's the way the city wants to go," Sharp said, adding he will conduct studies and talk to leaders from communities that produce their own power.

Sharp said it would take a few years to build the plant after getting the plan approved.

The city's November power bill was $105,000.

Councilman Ron Frasure said during the summer, the city pays up to $200,000 a month for electricity to pump water.

"It may or may not lead to anything," Frasure said. "We've just seen the start of (national) energy problems. It's something to at least look into."

Pocatello produced its own power in the early 1900s.

John O'Connell covers Pocatello city government and environmental issues for the Journal.
City Discusses Generating Own Energy
Idaho State Journal, December 12, 2003

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