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Meridian's Energy Efficiency & Conservation Strategy

Article by Kendall Houlton

Photography by Charles Knowles, Idaho Power

Originally published in Meridian Lifestyle

People choose to live in the town of Meridian for many reasons: the ability to pursue professional opportunities, the outdoor accessibility, the clean air and the natural beauty of Ada County. Meridian with a smaller downtown that was, until twenty years ago, a farm to market center is now a growing community readying itself to lead a sustainable future. 

Residents have yet another good reason to work and play in Meridian - it is the clean energy vision by Ada county leaders that extends far beyond the parameters of our town. 

Nearly a decade ago, the City of Meridian produced an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (EECS) plan. This blueprint has been instrumental in identifying what energy-related projects, programs, policies would complement the City of Meridian’s long-range energy success. From tackling energy conservation issues; establishing a state-of-the-art Wastewater Resource Recovery Facility; to maintaining Environmental Programs within the Public Works Department, the city’s interest to create a sustainable environment is threaded throughout its mission.

In 2009, the Meridian City Hall achieved the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), Silver Certification. This three-story 100,000 square foot building was a notable example of building to maximize functional efficiencies while reducing environmental impact.

In October 2019, Ada County commissioners signed a clean energy resolution at the county’s annual Energy Plan Partnership, joining the list of local governments and private energy providers moving toward clean electricity and energy. The commissioners unanimously voted to power the county operations with 100% clean energy in 2020 — and, remarkably, the entire county by 2045.

The county plans to implement projects such as upgrading to LED lighting in county-owned buildings to developing a green fleet policy, utilizing electric-powered vehicles, to enacting newer technologies with renewable power projects at county buildings. Other noteworthy achievements are:

  • Building and maintaining high performance facilities;
  • Earning ENERGY STAR® certification of the Ada County Courthouse for the 12th time;
  • Operating nine LEED Certified Buildings including the first LEED Certified building in Idaho; 
  • Providing free bus passes for all Ada County employees to encourage alternative transportation.

“Sustainability and Environmental Awareness” is a stated priority issue of City leadership. The Meridian’s Strategic Plan 2016-2020 is a roadmap of how future service, programs and projects are understood, created and implemented.

The most significant measure is the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) generated at the Ada County Landfill. Yes, we are talking about our trash!  One of the star example of reducing energy costs is located right in the heart of the Ada County Landfill. (Although most homeowners and businesses use the Meridian Solid Waste Transfer Station on West Franklin Road, the City of Meridian contracts with Ada County for trash disposal). The Ada County landfill currently utilizes a methane-to-energy system, turns the gas into clean electricity for county buildings and generates a revenue stream of approximately $272,000 per year. (credit: https://adacounty.id.gov/). Imagine the material brought to the landfill each year produces enough energy to power nearly 2,400 homes!

The goals of Sustainability and Environmental Awareness are hallmarks of Ada County and the City of Meridian. To that end the local leadership further developed the Strategic Plan, involving all the requisite elements. This approach is guiding the township and will remain the driving force for sustainable development during the next several years

SWAN FALLS POWER PLAN SYMBOLIZES CLEAN ENERGY AND IDAHO HISTORY

Author - Brad Bowlin

Idaho Power’s Swan Falls Power Plant, just 20 miles south of Kuna, combines majestic Snake River scenery, recreational opportunities, clean energy and an important slice of Idaho history.

Built in 1901, Swan Falls was the first hydroelectric power plant built on the Snake River. Its original mission was to supply electricity to the mines at Silver City, 28 miles away. Idaho Power acquired the plant when the company was founded in 1916.

After the mines played out, electricity from Swan Falls provided energy to homes and farms in what would later be known as the Treasure Valley. The plant originally had 10 generators with a total capacity of 10.4 megawatts (MW). These units were decommissioned, along with the old powerhouse, in 1994 when Idaho Power built a new powerhouse. The low concrete building on the dam is the new powerhouse, which holds two generating units (called pit turbines) that can generate more than 27 MW — enough to power more than 20,000 average-sized homes.

The old powerhouse is now a museum that is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday between April 15 and Labor Day. Tours at other times may be arranged in advance by contacting Idaho Power.

Swan Falls is located in a spectacular stretch of the Snake River canyon, within the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. There is a day-use park with fishing docks, interpretive signs and a reservable picnic shelter. Geocaching is a popular activity at the park. Overnight camping is available downstream of the dam.

Visitors can walk across the face of the dam to reach the south side of the Snake River. Safety guidelines have prompted the installation of a gate that locks automatically at 9 p.m. Anyone on the south side of the river after 9 p.m. will still be able to return, however, the gate will open only in one direction.

An equestrian parking area is available below the dam, and there are boat ramps upstream and downstream of the dam. Swan Falls is one of 17 hydro plants that Idaho Power operates on the Snake River and its tributaries.

Headquartered in Boise, Idaho Power has been a locally operated energy company since 1916. Today, we serve a 24,000-square-mile area in Idaho and Oregon. The company’s goal to provide 100% clean energy by 2045 builds on our long history as a clean-energy leader that provides reliable service at affordable prices. With our low-cost hydroelectric projects at the core of our diverse energy mix, Idaho Power’s residential, business and agricultural customers pay among the nation’s lowest prices for electricity. Our 2,000 employees proudly serve more than 560,000 customers with a culture of safety first, integrity always and respect for all.

More information about the Swan Falls project is available under “Community & Recreation” at idahopower.com.

QUICK FACTS

-- In 2018, 81% of the electricity generated in Idaho at utility-scale power plants was produced from renewable energy sources, the second highest share of state renewable electricity after Vermont.

Hydroelectric power supplied 60% of Idaho's in-state electricity supply in 2018, which contributed to Idaho being among the 10 states with the lowest average electricity price.

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