Who’d a thunk it – a company that makes solar panels is facing production problems because it can’t get enough electricity, according to the Idaho Business Review.

Pocatello is looking forward to Hoku Materials’ $390 million polysilicon plant to bring jobs, boost the tax base and spin off other companies.

The problem is that, once again, Idaho Power can’t ante up electricity, putting Hoku in a bind because it needs about as much energy as Micron (around 80 megawatts).

“Those sized customers come along seldom for us,” Ric Gale, Idaho Power’s vice president of regulatory affairs, told the IBR. “So they created some challenges.”

These sized customers come around every few years, actually. The Statesman reported that two large prospective employers in 2007 said no to the Treasure Valley and took with them more than 2,000 potential jobs, mainly because Idaho Power couldn’t supply power.

Idaho Power is looking at buying electricity out-of-state, but still has no plans for an in-state base load generation plant, instead hoping other producers can come up with 300 megawatts. To its credit, IP is also working on adding transmission capacity, which is in very short supply. Several wind and geothermal projects have gone up in Idaho recently, but that power is heading out-of-state.

Disclosure: one of my clients is Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. , which is proposing to build a large advanced nuclear reactor in Elmore County. I’m sure AEHI would be happy to sell affordable power for Idaho industries and we look forward to meeting that demand.

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