Posted: Friday, May 04, 2012 11:11 AM
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
HEYBURN, Idaho -- The Bonneville Power Administration, United Electric Co-op and the Southwest Irrigation District are teaming up to recharge the aquifer and balance electricity loads.
A year ago, the irrigation district asked United Electric if it could sell the district power at reduced rates to recharge the aquifer from its pumping station, said Jo Elg, general manager of United Electric, Heyburn, Idaho.
Because United buys its power from BPA, Elg approached BPA with the request, and it approved the reduced rates because it would help the administration balance its electricity loads, she said.
Electricity demand has to equal the generating resource, otherwise the system crashes causing outages, she said
Under the pilot program, the irrigation district will pump earlier than the irrigation season and at night when electricity use is lower to recharge the aquifer and increase electricity usage. In return, BPA will provide free power for the project to United Electric, which in turn, will pass it onto the irrigation district.
BPA has spilled Snake River water in the spring when power demand is down in the shoulder season between heating and air conditioning use and irrigation pumping. It also asks coal, gas and wind generation systems to stop generating in return for free electricity.
BPA is a huge utility, and balancing the load is a big issue, Elg said.
The pilot is small scale, only 1.8 megawatts, but if successful, BPA could offer the program to other irrigation systems throughout Idaho, Oregon and Washington, she said.
The electricity need for the recharge is small but it's part of the solution for the aquifer and balancing electricity loads, Elg said.
""It's really exciting, and it's here locally," she added.