Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The ‪#‎KochBrothers‬ plan to spend $900 million in 2016 to deregulate environmental safeguards

Via New York Times

Koch Brothers’ Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par With Both Parties’ Spending

Charles Koch in 2012. The Kochs and their advisers have built a robust array of political organizations.CreditBo Rader/The Wichita Eagle, via Associated Press

The political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalleled effort by coordinated outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history.

The spending goal, revealed Monday at the Kochs’ annual winter donor retreat near Palm Springs, Calif., would allow their political organization to operate at the same financial scale as the Democratic and Republican Parties. It would require a significant financial commitment from the Kochs and roughly 300 other donors they have recruited over the years, and covers both the presidential and congressional races. In the last presidential election, the Republican National Committee and the party’s two congressional campaign committees spent a total of $657 million.

Hundreds of conservative donors recruited by the Kochs gathered over the weekend for three days of issue seminars, strategy sessions and mingling with rising elected officials. These donors represent the largest concentration of political money outside the party establishment, one that has achieved enormous power in Republican circles in recent years.

David Koch in June. The brothers' financial goal, announced on Monday at the annual Koch winter donor retreat in Palm Springs, Calif., effectively transforms the Koch organization into a third major political party. CreditTravis Heying/The Wichita Eagle, via Associated Press

Now the Kochs’ network will embark on its largest drive ever to influence legislation and campaigns across the country, leveraging Republican control of Congress and the party’s dominance of state capitols to push for deregulation, tax cuts and smaller government. In 2012, the Kochs’ network spent just under $400 million, an astonishing sum at the time. The $889 million spending goal for 2016 would put it on track to spend nearly as much as the campaigns of each party’s presidential nominee.

The Kochs’ efforts will put enormous fund-raising pressure on Democrats and liberal outside groups. Allies of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who appears to be preparing for a likely presidential campaign in 2016, expect that she will need to bring in more money than President Obama, the most successful fund-raiser in presidential history, and a “super PAC” supporting her is seeking to raise as much as $300 million in the coming months.

“It’s no wonder the candidates show up when the Koch brothers call,” said David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “That’s exponentially more money than any party organization will spend. In many ways, they have superseded the party.”

The group’s budget, disclosed by a conference attendee, reflects the rising ambition and expanded reach of the Koch operation, which has sought to distinguish itself from other outside groups by emphasizing the role of donors over consultants and political operatives.

While the Koch’s expansive network houses groups with discretely political functions — a data and analytics firm, a state-focused issue-advocacy group and affinity groups aimed at young voters and Hispanics — it also includes groups like Freedom Partners, a trade organization overseen by Koch advisers that plans the retreat and helps corral contributions; Americans for Prosperity, a national grass-roots group; and Concerned Veterans for America, which organizes conservative veterans

While almost no Republican Party leaders were invited to the Koch event, it has become a coveted invitation for the party’s rising stars, for whom the gathered billionaires and multimillionaires are a potential source of financing for campaigns and super PACs. Officials said this year’s conference was the largest ever.

At least five potential presidential candidates were invited this year, and four attended, including Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. On Sunday evening, three of them — Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas — took part in a candidate forum on economic issues.

The Kochs are longtime opponents of campaign disclosure laws. Unlike the parties, their network is constructed chiefly of nonprofit groups that are not required to reveal donors. That makes it almost impossible to tell how much of the money is provided by the Kochs — among the wealthiest men in the country — and how much by other donors.

The two brothers and their aides have begun to take steps to relax the strict secrecy that has long surrounded much of their political efforts. After spending the 2012 campaign as the Democrats’ favored punching bags, Charles and David Koch have each granted a series of interviews to explain their views and philosophy. Their privately held firm, Koch Industries, has mounted a soft-focus advertising campaign called “We Are Koch,” featuring the company’s employees.

Last summer, Freedom Partners established the network’s first super PAC, allowing it to run more openly political advertising in the run-up to the 2014 midterm election. The move also required disclosing some of the network’s other donors. Trusts controlled by the Kochs provided about $4 million of the super PAC’s $25 million budget.

This year, Koch aides also provided — for the first time — limited access to the winter conference events and allowed reporters to view live video of the candidate forum on Sunday night.

As the three senators addressed the audience of rich donors — effectively an audition for the 2016 primary — they dismissed a question about whether the wealthy had too much influence in politics. At times they seemed to be addressing an audience of two: the Kochs themselves, now among the country’s most influential conservative power brokers.

Mr. Cruz gave an impassioned defense of his hosts as job creators and the victims of unfair attacks by Democrats, while Mr. Rubio suggested that only liberals supported campaign finance restrictions, so as to empower what he said were their allies in Hollywood and the news media.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Desalination Plant Abengoa

 (NASDAQ: ABGB), the international company that applies technology solutions for sustainability in the energy and environment sectors, has been selected by Advanced Water Technology () to jointly develop the world’s first large-scale  to be powered by solar energy, in . AWT is a newly formed company based in Riyadh whose mission is to bring affordable water solutions through innovation and sustainability. It is the commercial arm of KACST (King Abdulaziz City Science and Technology) and is owned by Taqnia. The plant will produce 60,000 m3 of water a day to supply Al Khafji City in North Eastern Saudi Arabia, ensuring a constant water supply throughout the year.

This is a global pioneering project since it incorporates a photovoltaic plant that will be capable of supplying the power required by the desalination process, significantly reducing the operational costs. It will also have a system to optimize power consumption and a pre-treatment phase to reduce the high level of salinity and the oils and fats that are present in the region’s seawater.
Al Khafji desalination plant will ensure the stable supply of drinking water, contributing to the country’s socio-economic development. As in other cities in Saudi Arabia, water is a scarce resource. Abengoa and AWT will supply the local population with water needs in a sustainable and reliable way.
This latest contract will further consolidate Abengoa’s leadership position in the water sector, increasing its total desalination capacity to nearly 1,500,000 m3/day, enough to supply 8.5 million people around the world. It will also strengthen its position in the Middle Eastwhere it has already been awarded major projects in the water sector, such as the Barka desalination plant in Oman, and in the energy sector, such as the region’s largest solar plant, in Abu Dhabi.
For AWT, this represents its initial foray into the upstream activities of desalination water production. It plans to expand its activities in the near future to include downstream activities such as water reuse and water management.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

WA State Community Solar Project Offers Interesting Investment Opportunity

Community Solar Project In Washington Is Investment Opportunity

A 74.8 kW solar array using 272 ground-mounted solar panels in Washington state is also an investment opportunity for residents of the Vancouver, WA area. Clark Public Utilities is offering 3,264 shares in the project so local people can buy them in exchange for credits on their utility bills, which will power their power costs. It…

The end of the charger? Wi-Fi powered phones could one day make plug-in powering obsolete

VIA dailymail.co.uk
  • Engineering students have created a device that captures wave signals
  • The energy from these waves are then converted to an electric current 
  • Students claim the voltage produced is higher than in USB chargers
  • The invention could one day be used to charge phones using Wi-Fi signals

Forget wireless or portable phone chargers, a pair of engineering students have created a device that could charge a phone’s battery using Wi-Fi.
The device uses so-called metamaterials that can capture energy waves and convert them into an electric current.
The amount of voltage the device creates is also said to be more powerful than that produced through current USB chargers. 
Students from Duke University have created a device, pictured, that converts microwaves into an electric current.
Students from Duke University have created a device, pictured, that converts microwaves into an electric current. Having successfully tested their energy harvester, the researchers claim it could be modified, and one day, fitted to phones to charge batteries using Wi-Fi signals

It was created by Allen Hawkes and Alexander Katko from Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering with help from professor of electrical and computer engineering, Steven Cummer.
The team used five fibreglass and copper energy conductors wired together on a circuit board to create what's called a metamaterial array.


Metamaterials are engineering structures capable of harvesting various forms of wave energy.

By arranging certain materials, including copper and fibreglass but also gold, in a particular shape and pattern, the properties of those materials can combine to become an almost ‘super’ material.

Duke University's David Smith explained: ‘Imagine a fabric woven of thread. In this fabric, light is only allowed to flow over the threads.

‘If you punch a hole in the fabric with a pin, light will go around the hole and resume its original course of travel, since light can only travel over the thread. ‘

He continued that because light waves can only travel in this way, the hole is practically ‘invisible’.

Metamaterial arrays work in the same way to control how waves move around the structure, making it possible to capture and harvest them, and their energy

The team used five fibreglass and copper energy conductors wired together on a circuit board, pictured, to create a metamaterial array.
The team used five fibreglass and copper energy conductors wired together on a circuit board, pictured, to create a metamaterial array. By arranging certain materials, including copper and fibreglass but also gold, in a particular shape and pattern, this array can control how waves behave.

Hawkes and Katko’s device was designed to harvest the energy from microwaves.
They claim their five-cell metamaterial can convert these waves into 7.3 volts with an efficiency of 36.8 per cent.
By comparison, USB chargers for phones and other small devices provide around 5 volts.
The five-cell metamaterial converts these waves into 7.3 volts of electricity.
The five-cell metamaterial converts waves into 7.3 volts of electricity. By comparison, USB chargers, pictured, provide around 5 volts
Having successfully tested their energy harvester with microwaves, the researchers claim it could be used to harvest the signal from other sources such as satellite signals, sound waves or Wi-Fi signals.
‘It’s possible to use this design for a lot of different frequencies and types of energy, including vibration and sound energy harvesting’ said Katko.
‘Until now, a lot of work with metamaterials has been theoretical. We are showing that with a little work, these materials can be useful for consumer applications.’
Katko continued that a metamaterial coating could also be applied to the ceiling of a room and used to redirect lost or dropped Wi-Fi signals.
The researchers added that a similar device could one day be fitted to phones and other small electronic devices.
This could make it possible to charge phones by connecting it to a Wi-Fi network, without the need for a charger or power point. 
‘Our work demonstrates a simple and inexpensive approach to electromagnetic power harvesting,’ said Cummer. 
‘The beauty of the design is that the basic building blocks are self-contained and additive. One can simply assemble more blocks to increase the scavenged power.’

Obama Rumored To Challenge Unethical Koch Brothers With Citizens United Executive Order

more from Jason Easley

By Jason Easley

VIA Politicususa

It is being reported that one of President Obama’s surprises at the State Of The Union will be an announcement of an executive order that will take on the Koch Brothers and Citizens United.
Wednesday is the fifth anniversary of Citizens United, and reformers have been told that the president may announce executive action in his SOTU speech that would require businesses contracting with the government to disclose political contributions after contracts have been awarded. This would ensure that the contracting process is blind, but also give the public (and the media) the information needed to connect the dots to look for backroom deals or conflicts of interest.
Guess who happens to multi-million dollar contracts with the Department of Defense? The federal government hating Koch Brothers have tens of millions of dollars in defense contracts with the federal government. Rush Limbaugh also has a federal government contract that allows his showed to be broadcast on the American Forces Network.
It is possible that the president will announce this executive order tonight, but he may also decide to wait and make a separate announcement. When/if the president does decide to make this announcement it will be a huge boost to transparency. The Koch brothers have a web of secret organizations that they route their money through, so most of their campaign spending will remain a secret, but it will become a bit easier to connect the dots and figure how much direct influence campaign donations are having on public policy decisions.
A constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court decision will be required to kill Citizens United, but it appears that the president is planning to take action. Any executive order issued by the president would be the first positive step towards increased transparency in the last five years. President Obama can’t undo Citizens United alone, but he can take steps to give the American people access to information that is currently hidden.
The Koch brothers have chosen their puppets for the 2016 presidential election, but the days of having their cake and eating it too could come to an abrupt end with a stroke of President Obama’s pen.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A 16-Year Old Programmer Just Made a Plugin That Shows Where Politicians Get Their Funding


Nicholas Rubin is a 16-year old self-taught computer programmer from Seattle, Washington. He is also the inventor of Greenhouse, a new browser plugin that let’s you know exactly where politicians get their campaign funding from.
When the plugin is active, the names of House or Senate members on any given webpage are highlighted. All you have to do is hover your mouse over the name of a politician, and a box will pop up showing all the industries and groups that contributed funds to their campaign, as well as how much the politician got from each sector.
What the plugin looks like in action. Click to enlarge
The box also shows you what percentage of their contributions came from small donors (contributions of less than $200), and let’s you know whether or not they are in favor of reforming our relatively seedy campaign finance system.
Here’s the statement that Nicholas released with the plugin:
“It is my hope that providing increased transparency around the amount and source of funding of our elected representatives may play a small role in educating citizens and promoting change. If you use the extension when reading about a Congressional vote on energy policy, for example, maybe you’ll discover that a sponsor of a bill has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry. Or maybe you’ll learn that the top donors to a member of Congress who opposes tort reform are lawyers and law firms. I use data from the last full election cycle (2012) and plan to update it as more relevant data becomes available. Special thanks to OpenSecrets.org for providing access to that data.
The motto of Greenhouse is: “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” What it signifies is that the influence of money on our government isn’t a partisan issue. Whether Democrat or Republican, we should all want a political system that is independent of the influence of big money and not dependent on endless cycles of fundraising from special interests. The United States of America was founded to serve individuals, not big interests or big industries. Yet every year we seem to move farther and farther away from our Founders’ vision.”
I must say this is one of the best ideas I have personally ever seen to combat against the influence of special interest groups on our political system.
For years, politicians have pretended to personally care about issues when, more often than not, the truth is that they were bribed by that industry (through campaign finance) to make decisions that  would help the industry.
I don’t think this will make politicians At the very least, it will make politicians think twice about where they get their contributions from.
You can download the Greenhouse plugin for free here. (NOTE: because of the plugins popularity, Greenhouse’s homepage was down when this story was published, but I’m sure they will have it back up and running soon.)
(h/t Represent.Us)

Future looks green as cost of renewables falls

The UAE delegation participating in the fifth International Renewable Energy assembly on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. — KT photos by Nezar 

Costs of renewable energy have fallen by as much as 75 per cent in the last five years, especially for solar and wind energy.
 Over 1,000 delegates, including ministers and government officials, have gathered at the fifth International Renewable Energy (Irena) assembly taking place in Abu Dhabi on January 17-18 to discuss ways to help the 1.3 billion energy poor people around the world with clean energy. The assembly also discussed ways to tackle global warming.
A positive trend recorded in this regard is the "massive drop" in costs of renewables. Costs of renewable energy have fallen by as much as 75 per cent in the last five years, especially for solar and wind energy. "Onshore wind power witnessed most price drops in 2014, and it is now available in over 100 countries," said Adnan Amin, director-general of Irena.
As a result of low costs, investment in renewable energy is on the rise. Last year alone, investments in renewables and clean energy worldwide created 6.5 million jobs.
Green bonds (tax-exempt bonds that are issued by federally qualified organisations and/or municipalities for the development of brownfield sites) have reached $40 billion and by the end of 2015, they are expected to reach $100 billion. "Increasing renewable energy is a viable weapon against climate change," said Amin, adding that 80 per cent of the global carbon emissions comes from fossil fuels.
"Climate change has become the driving force for deployment of renewable energy," he said.
One of Irena's priorities is to see more green and efficient energy replacing the conventional sources.
For this purpose, the agency has started working on its ‘Re-map 2030' project, which involves changing the energy habits of the world's 26 biggest energy consumers - including the UAE - which account for 75 per cent of the global energy consumption.
According to Re-map 2030, the US could more than triple its share of renewable energy by 2030, from 14 per cent to almost 50 per cent and thus become the world' largest renewable energy user after China.
To achieve this, the US needs to invest annually - from now until 2030 - $86 billion, but the investment would pay off not only in reducing carbon emissions and improving public health, but also in saving $30 billion to $140 billion by 2030.
Europe has already pledged to reduce consumption of fossil fuels by 40 per cent by 2030, while increasing renewables by 30 per cent and energy efficiency by 27 per cent.
The UAE reiterated its earlier commitment of seven per cent renewable energy replacing fossil fuels by 2020 in Abu Dhabi and five per cent by 2030 in Dubai.
UAE's green pledge
The UAE continues to support the work of Irena in helping communities in need of clean energy, Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar, said at the Irena assembly.
"Since 2009, the UAE has spent over $700 million to support energy projects in developing countries," he pointed out.
In 2013, he said, the Abu Dhabi Fund Development (ADFD) created a $350 million fund to be distributed over seven years to communities planning on setting up renewable energy projects that would have a meaningful impact, but lack the required funds.
The funds, distributed by Irena annually, are low-interest ones, with a maximum of two per cent interest payable over seven years.
"We are happy to announce today that five new projects have been awarded with ADFD funds in 2014," said Al Jaber.
The $100 million spent so far is meant to improve the lives of 300,000 people.

The Solar Project So Cheap It Will Revolutionize Energy

VIA The Motley Fuel

SunPower is building the largest solar power plant in the world, but could it compete with new industry prices? Image source: SunPower.
How expensive is solar energy? How does it compare to what you pay for electricity?
The answers to those questions might surprise you, as utilities around the world are learning. Late last year, Dubai's state utility asked project developers to put their best foot forward in a bid to build 100 megawatts of photovoltaic projects just south of Dubai. The results were shocking.  
A record low solar bid
The lowest offer came from Saudi Arabia's Acwa Power, which bid $0.0598 per kilowatt hour for a 25-year fixed contract without any government subsidies. That's less than electricity costs in every state in the U.S. and well below the price of electricity in the Middle East, where oil still provides a large percentage of the grid's energy.  
The chart below lists the Dubai project bid compared to electricity rates in October 2014 in the U.S. overall, California, and Hawaii. The domestic numbers are end-user costs that also include distribution and transmission, but they give some context as to how solar costs compare today.  
Electricity Rate
Dubai Solar Bid
5.98 cents/kW-hr
U.S. Average
10.50 cents/kW-hr
California Average
15.31 cents/kW-hr
Hawaii Average
33.94 cents/kW-hr
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.
What's shocking is how cheap Acwa Power must be building this system for. Depending on whether the Dubai system has tracking that increases electricity production per day, the capacity factor of the project will be 20% to 25%. Capacity factor is the percentage of time a system will produce its rated capacity, so a 100 MW system with a 25% percent capacity factor would produce 219 million kW-hrs per year (100,000 kW * 365 days * 24 hours * .25). 
This will lead to total possible revenue, not including system degradation, of between $261.9 million and $327.4 million over the 25-year contract..
Even if we assume a 25% capacity factor, no degradation, and zero maintenance cost, which there won't be, the plant would have to be built for less than $167.4 million to return 6% on the investment. That's $1.67 per watt, well below the $1.88 per watt GTM Research said it would cost to build a single-axis tracking system, which is the most common and least expensive tracking design. These are incredibly low costs and low rates of return for solar assets.
First Solar's projects are installed for low costs but also come with lower efficiency modules. Image source: First Solar.
The bar has been set
That low cost and low return on capital might work in today's low interest rate environment, but they also set a high bar for cost reductions in future plants.
As SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR    ) , First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR    ) , and SunEdison(NYSE: SUNE    ) decide on expansion plans, these are the kind of projects they will have to compete against. SunPower in particular has expressed interest in entering the Middle East market, but I'm not sure it can build projects that cheaply today.
SunEdison has its sights on India and more competitive bids, which could come in near the same price as the Dubai project. If it keeps projects like this on the balance sheet the returns could be low, something for investors to keep in mind.
First Solar's challenge will be to compete with this price given its efficiency deficit versus its peers. Fleet efficiency was just 14.2% last quarter, while First Solar's commodity panels are 14%-16% efficient and SunPower's best panel is 21.5% efficient. So, others can pack more power into the same amount of space.  
Falling costs for solar projects are a good thing for the growth of solar because it makes the industry more competitive with fossil fuels, but the next thing to worry about will be returns on those projects. If solar projects continue to be built for $0.06 per kW-hr it doesn't leave much profit for investors, whether they own a company that makes panels, builds systems, or owns the assets. 
The number of profitable companies in the solar industry is small and with solar power purchase agreements now falling to $0.06 per kW-hr the pricing pressure in all parts of the business will continue. Solar panel makers will need to differentiate themselves on more than cost, building in electronics and increasing efficiency to make installation easier. Project builders will have to improve efficiency by automating installations and cutting maintenance costs. And financing costs must continue to fall. 
One reason I think SunPower is at an advantage is its higher efficiency and innovations with products like C7 and C12 that magnify the sun's light on a solar cell, lowering the number of cells needed to produce the same amount of electricity. The company is also starting to build electronics into solar panels, which lowers installation costs. 

What's certain is that the race to cut costs hasn't slowed down and whether you're looking at SunPower, First Solar, or SunEdison. Every penny matters today in solar. 

Solar power heating up in Idaho

FILE - In this July 29, 2011, file photo, Mark Stokes, manager of Idaho Power's power supply planning, poses for a photo on the roof of the agency's downtown Boise, Idaho building where a solar array has been gathering energy from the sun since the early 90s. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission in the last several months has approved agreements with 13 solar power projects. A combination of federal regulations, tax incentives, cheaper solar panels and a rate-calculating method developed by the commission itself has made solar power economically attractive. Photo: Joe Jaszewski, AP / The Idaho Statesman
Photo: Joe Jaszewski, AP

FILE - In this July 29, 2011, file photo, Mark Stokes, manager of Idaho Power's power supply planning, poses for a photo on the roof of the agency's downtown Boise, Idaho building where a solar array has been gathering energy from the sun since the early 90s. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission in the last several months has approved agreements with 13 solar power projects. A combination of federal regulations, tax incentives, cheaper solar panels and a rate-calculating method developed by the commission itself has made solar power economically attractive.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho is going green whether it wants to or not.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission in the last several months has approved agreements with 13 solar power projects.
A combination of federal regulations, tax incentives, cheaper solar panels and a rate-calculating method developed by the commission itself has made solar power economically attractive.
But commissioners and Idaho Power Co. officials say the projects could end up costing ratepayers more because utilities will face uncertainties by being forced by federal rules to integrate power from a source that fluctuates with the sun.
"There's a point where we can't continue to take intermittent power without harming our customers," said Idaho Power spokesman Brad Bowlin.
The 13 projects spread across southern Idaho add up to about 400 megawatts. That's enough to power up to 400,000 homes.
The Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, or PURPA, created in 1978 is intended to promote alternative resources. It requires power companies to buy electricity at a state commission-approved rate from qualifying small power production facilities.
The Idaho commission in a 69-page decision in December 2012 set those rates based on a methodology that paid more during peak demand times and when other power producing sources, mainly hydro, lagged.
That shifted the renewable energy field in Idaho away from wind power toward solar power. That's because, experts say, Idaho is windy in the spring and fall. In the spring, hydro projects produce plenty of energy for the region, and in the fall energy demands are reduced.
Solar power hits its peak in the summer, a time when Idaho residents turn on air conditioners.
"It wasn't too long after that (2012) case that solar power companies began enquiring," said commission spokesman Gene Fadness. "It gave some developers some certainty as to how much they would be paid."
Another factor is a tax break for solar power worth up to 30 percent of the cost of a project. That tax break is set to expire at the end of 2016, and companies must have at least part of their projects up and running before the deadline if they want the tax credit.
"Creating a profit incentive to produce clean energy is not a bad thing," said Joe Miller, an attorney and former Idaho Public Utilities Commission member from 1987 to 1995 who now represents Ketchum-based Intermountain Energy Partners.
The company has seven of the solar projects. Miller said that the price Idaho Power will pay for solar power is based on the 2012 decision and is equal to the price the utility would pay if it produced the power itself.
Idaho Power under federal regulations has to buy that solar power. Currently, the company produces about 1,700 megawatts from hydro projects, 1,100 megawatts from coal plants, and 750 megawatts from natural gas. It has a smattering of smaller power sources as well, including biomass projects and geothermal.
Wind power generates about 675 megawatts, with about 580 of that from PURPA projects.
The company said the problem with wind and solar power is its intermittent nature and how the new projects disrupt the company's 20-year planning process.
Phil DeVol, the company's resource planning leader, said the company doesn't need to add more power producing sources until 2021, yet it will have to accommodate a burst of solar power if the projects are built.
"That's a real challenge predicting what that market value is 10 years down the road," DeVol said. "That's one of the concerns that we have."
The falling price of solar panels is another driving factor in the solar project increase, experts said. The solar panels are about the size of a desk top, and one of the projects calls for 380,000 of them about 20 miles southwest of Mountain Home. The enormous size of the projects even causes concern for conservation groups who prefer solar to coal.
"That's a lot of land that's going to be covered in solar panels," said Ben Otto of the Idaho Conservation League. But he said the planned projects so far are on private land in areas without significant wildlife value.
"We have to balance this desire for clean energy with protecting the wildlife habitat that we care about," he said. "These solar projects strike the right balance."
Southern Idaho is considered a resource rich area for solar developers, so much so there's concern that solar power could ultimately produce more energy than Idaho can use or Idaho Power can absorb. That's why the Idaho Conservation League is backing two proposed transmission lines in southern Idaho to export power to surrounding states.
"From our perspective — we're an environmental group — we need to find a way to produce power that reduces pollution," Otto said.