Tech companies look to set example by providing clean energy to Idaho Power’s grid

Micron, Meta invest in renewable energy facilities in Idaho to offset energy demand

By: - August 7, 2023 4:30 am

Micron’s solar facility, built by Black Mesa Energy, came online near Glenns Ferry offering up to 40 megawatts of electricity. (Courtesy of Idaho Power)

Some state governments set their own ambitious clean energy goals far into the future, but Idaho typically defers its energy goals to the private sector.

While the Gem State is a leading figure in the U.S. in renewable energy because of its hydropower production Idaho is one of the only Western states that does not have legislation that establishes a renewable energy goal.  In lieu of government direction, Idaho Power, the state’s largest electricity provider, works with companies to incentivize renewable energy usage. 

Most Western states have legislation in place with clean energy goals:

  • Washington: 100% carbon-free by 2045
  • Oregon: 50% renewable energy supply by 2040
  • Utah: 20% renewable energy supply by 2025
  • Nevada: 50% renewable energy supply by 2030
  • California: 100% zero-carbon supply by 2045

Population and business growth are also forcing Idaho utility providers to increase energy costs to prepare for greater demand, but some energy-intensive workplaces with high-capacity cooling needs for storage systems are looking to offset their demand while also promoting renewable energy.

In a partnership modeled after Idaho Power’s proposed program called Clean Energy Your Way, Meta and Micron have plans underway to sell energy from new solar facilities to Idaho Power in sync with the development of a data center and fab for computer memory manufacturing.

Idaho Power spokesperson Brad Bowlin told the Idaho Capital Sun that the Micron and Meta projects will become part of the Idaho Power grid to offset some of their demand, and the power company has long-term contracts with both projects to purchase power from them over the next two decades.

Micron and Meta install solar facilities to add to Idaho Power grid

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has approved Idaho Power’s individual applications to purchase power from Micron and Meta’s solar facilities, and Idaho Power now seeks approval from the commission to officially approve the company’s Clean Energy Your Way program that would give businesses multiple options to sell renewable energy back to Idaho Power . 

Once approved by the utilities commission, Idaho Power can offer other large customers credit for clean energy installments while also meeting the business’s sustainability goals and adding renewable resources to Idaho Power’s system.

Bowlin said that the Clean Energy Your Way program was inspired by customer requests and feedback to its Green Power program. 

“We designed a menu of clean energy offerings that would appeal to customers of all sizes and serve a variety of clean-energy objectives,” he said. “It’s really up to individual customers to determine if the options offered under Clean Energy Your Way will fulfill their particular business objectives.”

Micron was one of Idaho Power’s first partners to use a model of the program, according to a press release announcing Micron’s plans for a solar facility. 

Bowlin said earlier this summer, Micron’s Black Mesa Energy solar facility came online near Glenns Ferry, adding up to 40 megawatts of electricity. 

Micron’s Idaho solar facility built by Black Mesa Energy addresses the company’s goal to reach 100% renewable energy in the U.S. by the end of 2025. Micron was one of Idaho Power’s first partners to use a model of the company’s Clean Energy Your Way program, a program that would give businesses multiple options to sell renewable energy back to utilities company. (Courtesy of Idaho Power)

“Micron is taking a step toward our goal of reaching 100% renewable energy in the U.S. in 2025 by supporting solar development in our home state,” Micron executive vice president of global operations Manish Bhatia said in the release. “This highlights our commitments to both our communities and the environment. We’re pleased to partner with Idaho Power and bring our efforts one step closer to meeting our sustainability goals.”

According to Micron’s 2023 Sustainability Report, the company’s solar facility in Idaho is meant to mitigate a significant amount of greenhouse emissions from its Boise headquarters. 

Idaho Power CEO and president Lisa Grow said the partnership with Micron is an example of “innovative thinking” needed for a clean energy future. 

“We are excited to be a part of Micron’s goal of sourcing 100% renewable energy for their U.S. operations, and we’re proud that they are starting that journey with us, right here in Idaho, where they have been an important part of our community for more than four decades,” Grow said in the original press release.

Following in Micron’s footsteps, rPlus Energies – a Utah-based renewable energy company –  announced in May its partnership with Meta and Idaho Power to build Pleasant Valley Solar  in east Ada County. 

Luigi Resta, rPlus Energies president and CEO, told the Sun that construction of the project is expected to begin later this year. 

The solar facility would have the potential to provide 200 megawatts, the equivalent to annual energy consumption of about 40,000 Idaho homes, he said. 

“The project will deliver energy to the Idaho Power system and contribute to Meta’s goal to support 100% of its operations with renewable energy,” Resta said in an email. “Specifically, output from the project will go into the same grid that supports Meta’s new data center in Kuna.”

Bringing sustainability goals to Idaho

Alongside Idaho Power — which has a goal to provide 100% renewable energy by 2045 — Micron and Meta have global and national sustainability goals that they are bringing to Idaho. 

Micron has a goal to reach 100% renewable energy in the U.S. by the end of 2025 and to globally achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. According to Micron’s 2023 Sustainability Report, the fab in Boise will have a focus on sustainability with green infrastructure, water reuse and recycling installments. 

Meta already reached its global goal for net zero emissions and 100% renewable energy usage by 2020, according to its website. This means Meta data centers and offices run on 100% renewable energy, and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the company is the same as the amount of greenhouse gasses removed from the atmosphere.

The company’s next goal is to reach net zero emissions across its manufacturing processes by 2030.

Urvi Parekh, the head of renewable energy at Meta, said in the release that Meta’s sustainability goals are part of why the companies chose to come to Idaho. 

“Meta is committed to minimizing our environmental footprint in the communities where we live and work, and central to this goal is creating, building and running energy-efficient data centers supported by renewable energy,” Parekh said. “One of the core factors in selecting Idaho for our new data center location in 2022 was access to renewable energy, and Meta is proud to partner with Idaho Power and rPlus Energies to help bring even more renewable energy to the Treasure Valley grid.”

While fulfilling renewable energy goals is one reason to bring a business to Idaho, University of Idaho professor and energy expert Brian Johnson told the Idaho Capital Sun that there is another reason tech companies come to the Gem State. 

“Energy-intensive businesses find Idaho attractive because we have some of the lowest electricity costs in the country,” he said.

Idaho is the state with the lowest cost of residential electricity, according to the latest Sunpower Solar Energy Report, with its costs set at approximately 46% less than the national average.

But the development of data centers, bitcoin mining and other computer intensive workplaces are impacting the need for new energy infrastructure, Johnson previously told the Sun, causing power utility companies to increase their rates. 

In March, Idaho Power submitted an application to the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to increase its rates by 8.6%. The utilities commission is holding workshops for customers about the application later this month to present an overview of the application and answer customer questions.

As the demand for energy increases in Idaho, hydroelectricity generation won’t increase, so additional renewable energy resources are effective and important to maintain the state’s renewable energy portfolio, Johnson said.

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Mia Maldonado
Mia Maldonado

Mia Maldonado joined the Idaho Capital Sun after working as a breaking news reporter at the Idaho Statesman covering stories related to crime, education, growth and politics. She previously interned at the Idaho Capital Sun through the Voces Internship of Idaho, an equity-driven program for young Latinos to work in Idaho news. Born and raised in Coeur d'Alene, Mia moved to the Treasure Valley for college where she graduated from the College of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in Spanish and international political economy.