Truckee PUD tries to go more green
In an effort to add more renewable energy to Truckee’s power portfolio and to reduce spending on the open power market, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District is moving forward with natural gas, geothermal and wind energy contracts.
After public outcry in late 2006 prompted directors to reject entering a 50-year coal power contract from a plant in Utah, the district has since been seeking a mix of energy sources.
On Wednesday, the board agreed to budget $50,000 to study a wind project in Idaho to determine whether the alternative energy source is a viable option for the district, said General Manager Michael Holley.
“The wind power project is in the infancy stage right now,” Holley said. “We will participate in the study to see what it’s going to take to develop that resource and get it online.
The wind power project would supplement the district’s renewable portfolio standard, which requires the district to utilize a minimum of 21 percent renewable resources by 2010.
“This project shows good value for a wind project,” said Assistant General Manager Steve Hollabaugh in the report.
In addition to wind energy, the district is seeking geothermal contracts to support the renewable power portfolio.
Last June, the district board agreed to a 10-year energy deal, which includes importing about 4 megawatts of geothermal power from a plant in northern Nevada called Rye Patch. The district provides between 20 and 25 megawatts of power per month to over 12,000 customers.
Despite ongoing repairs to the plant, district staff reported Wednesday they hope to receive the alternative energy source by the end of the year using Sierra Pacific Power Company’s transmission lines, Holley said.
“The Rye Patch plant is an older plant and they are working on the repairs,” Holley said. “This illustrates some of the challenges of bringing on new green resources.”
Since declining the coal power contract with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems in 2006, the district has been purchasing energy on the open market while looking elsewhere for power and cost savings, Holley said.
“The market price is so variable,” Holley said. “It always costs more.”
As a result, the district is exploring a natural gas power generation contract with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to broaden the district’s power supply.
“Having solar and wind power in the portfolio is not always firm. You don’t know when the wind will blow,” Holley said. “So we have to back them up with natural gas. The only other option would be coal.”
The natural gas project would cost between $60 and $90 per megawatt hour ” a lower price than the market power the district currently purchases, Holley said.
The board has until June to take action on the contract, but Holley said the power supply would also displace some of the coal power currently being used in the portfolio.
“We want a balanced portfolio that gives us power when we need it as well as gives us a greener portfolio,” Holley said.
In February, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District approved an agreement with the Northern California Power Agency to purchase approximately .38 megawatts from the Geysers geothermal field in Northern California.
The Western GeoPower Incorporated plans to develop the new geothermal power plant by 2010, with an expected capacity of 25 to 35 megawatts. The district’s proposed percentage share would be 1.5 percent, said Steve Hollabaugh, the district’s assistant general manager.
Because the district is not directly connected to the geothermal plant by transmission lines, the district is unsure how the geothermal power will be transferred back to Truckee.
“When we get to 2010, we will evaluate how to get the power back,” Hollabaugh said in a past interview with the Sun.
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