PROMO 660 x 440 Miscellaneous - Wind Turbine Farm - Chris Sorensen

Congress spending bill rider could slow down Idaho wind energy installation

Wind turbines in northern Lincoln County. © Chris Sorensen /
Eric Tegethoff

(Northern Rockies News Service) A spending bill in Washington, D.C. includes a provision to conduct further study of wind energy before its installation in Idaho. Critics say the provision could slow down wind power's rollout. 

A rider added to an appropriations bill in Congress stipulates that funds won't be available for wind energy in Idaho until the U.S. Comptroller General completes a study of its environmental impact. 

The report must identify potential adverse impacts to wildlife, cultural resources, hunting and other things. 

However, Brad Heusinkveld - energy policy associate with the Idaho Conservation League - said this is redundant.

"What this bill is doing is essentially duplicating a lot of that analysis - that's already existing and ongoing for a number of projects - into another office," said Heusinkveld. "So essentially adding more process that's duplicative and unnecessary for these projects."

Heusinkveld said the federal government already collects the same information under the National Environmental Policy Act when permitting new energy projects. He noted that the permitting stage is already lengthy. 

The rider is attached to an appropriations bill for the Interior and Energy departments and related agencies.

Heusinkveld said the grid in the West is evolving and we're likely on the leading edge of an emerging renewable energy economy.

"It's coming, and we hope to make wise and informed siting decisions," said Heusinkveld, "and we don't necessarily think that this bill adds to that process."

Wind is the third most used source of energy in Idaho's grid, accounting for 17 percent of the state's power supply in 2022.ll