Thirteen solar power projects have been approved for Idaho by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission. Combined, they have a capacity of about 400 megawatts.
If 164 homes can be powered by one megawatt of solar power, then the new solar projects in Idaho could power about 65,600 homes, when there is adequate sunlight. The population of the Boise area is about 600,000. If the average home has two residents, then about 130,000 people could their electricity from the thirteen solar projects, if they are completed. That would be enough power for about 21% of the Boise area population.
Solar power has not done so well in Idaho. Several years ago, it was reported that a big solar project had been approved there, but it was only 10 MW.
Adding 400 MW would be quite a surge for a state that seems more friendly to natural gas. However, Idaho Power doesn’t appear to be all that willing to adopt solar power, “On May 13th, Idaho Power, an investor-owned utility (IOU) serving most of Southern Idaho and parts of Eastern Oregon, filed a petition with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) to suspend Idaho Power’s requirement to enter into purchase agreements with solar power generators seeking to install capacity via the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA).”
A recent news article did a good job in covering in the range of opinions about the utility commission approval, but did not mention climate change at all. If the main Idaho public utility generates about 1100 MW of electricity by burning coal, such activity does contribute to climate change. The article only mentions reducing air pollution as one benefit of using solar power, but solar power also does not produce climate change emissions. For a state that uses fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, Idaho also has a very good renewable energy potential. Currently, the state generates quite a bit of its electricity from hydropower. Wind and solar have good potential, but there are also good geothermal resources.
One thing that tends to be overlooked in news articles about positive solar power developments is that new solar projects create jobs. New jobs help grow the economy. Also, solar jobs tended to be skilled, so they are not low-paying.