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Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky renewable energy program is celebrating 20 years of community impact, including some notable projects in the Preston area.

Idaho Blue Sky participants have helped support community-based projects and the growth of clean-energy resources across the state, including two in Franklin County: one for SIETec at Preston Junior High School and one for Consolidated Irrigation Company (CIC), located above Glendale Reservoir.

A few years ago, CIC undertook a major effort to pipe their irrigation ditch to correct seepage problems. As a part of the piping project, CIC installed a low-impact hydroelectric power system to capture the energy of water moving through the irrigation pipe.

In 2015, CIC completed installation of a 481-kilowatt generator, which feeds power directly into Rocky Mountain Power’s electric system and helps keep costs low for the nonprofit irrigation network. They received a Blue Sky community project grant of $46,922 to help construct the system.

The program also funded a solar installation for three Southeastern Idaho Technical Charter School campuses. Together, the schools received a $204,000 grant funded by Blue Sky participants to add individual 38.5-kilowatt solar array systems to West Side High School, Preston Junior High, and Malad High School. The project is expected to generate 66,356 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, allowing the schools to save money and divert more resources to serving local students.

The schools offer a focused curriculum designed to build important skills in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, the arts and math, and work with industry partners to inspire future careers in renewable energy and beyond.

“First, and obviously, there is a financial aspect to the project,” said Preston School District Superintendent Marc Gee.

”We invested limited dollars (about $10,000) for a project that will generate approximately $5,000 per year. The lifespan of the project, without replacement, is about 25 years, and so after two years our investment will be paid off” said Gee. In his estimation “$5000 a year, when compared with what we pay in our power bills is a modest amount, but as a school system, every little bit helps and can be used for other projects in our district,” he continued.

”Second, this provides an educational opportunity for our students to gain an understanding of solar power generation which has links to several of our science curriculums. Monitoring how weather patterns affect solar generation and the physics of a photovoltaic cell are just two examples of how we can apply specific learning goals to a system that is actively working within our district.

”As a district, we truly appreciate Rocky Mountain Power, the Blue Sky program and Blue Max Energy, for the part they each played in helping us develop this project,” he said.

West Side School District superintendent Spencer Barzee noted the ability the district now has to use green energy.

“The Blue Sky program makes it possible for our school district to have solar panels and utilize green energy. Without this program, we would not be able to have this access,” he said.

“Having solar here on our campuses not only helps our schools preserve critical educational funding for years to come, including this upcoming school year when we face some of our greatest challenges during the pandemic,” said Rich Moore, superintendent, Oneida School District. “These projects also provide a unique, hands-on opportunity for our students to learn how renewable energy can work for our communities.”

The premise is simple: when everyone takes a small step together, the impact can be momentous, states a press release from Rocky Mountain Power. “Twenty years ago, it was this idea that built Blue Sky — a customer-powered, opt-in program created by Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp, that helps local residents, small businesses, and municipalities support renewable energy and environmental stewardship in their communities and throughout the West.

Launched in the spring of 2000, Blue Sky allows customers to match their energy usage with the purchase of renewable energy credits (RECs). It’s a way for participants to support new renewable energy in the West, above and beyond Rocky Mountain Power’s use of renewables.

In Idaho, nearly 2,000 Rocky Mountain Power customers take part in Blue Sky, and the number continues to grow each year. To participate, customers select the amount of renewable energy they want to support, then pay that extra amount on their monthly bill, starting at $1.95 per month. In addition to supporting clean energy to offset their energy use at home or work, participants also support community-based renewable energy projects for local nonprofits, schools and civic groups, and the development of new utility-scale renewable energy facilities.

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