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Video Recap: Idaho Power and Cloud Seeding

Mel Kunkel, a senior atmospheric scientist for the Idaho Power Company in Boise, discusses the use of data from high-performance computing systems. Idaho Power serves approximately 610,000 customers, which translates to around 2.5 million people when accounting for the individuals connected to each customer. The company operates 17 hydro dams and thermal units, including gas and coal plants. Notably, Idaho Power was among the first companies to adopt a clean energy mandate, aiming to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035.

Due to recent droughts, Idaho Power’s energy mix has been affected, with hydroelectricity accounting for over 30% instead of the desired 50%. In comparison, the national average for hydroelectricity is approximately 6%. The company heavily relies on water resources, particularly snow. Kunkel provides an overview of cloud seeding, a weather modification technique used to increase precipitation. Cloud seeding can apply to cold clouds, dependent on super-cooled liquid water, or warm clouds, involving the collision of droplets to form larger ones. Idaho Power’s focus is on snowpack enhancement to ensure sustained hydropower generation, prolong the presence of snow in the mountains, and maintain adequate river flows for ecological preservation.

The discussion touches on other cloud-seeding applications, such as reducing fog at airports, mitigating hailstorms to protect crops, and health depression programs in the Midwest and Canada aimed at reducing thunderstorm damages. Kunkel emphasizes the importance of snowpack enhancement for Idaho Power’s hydroelectric generation and its positive impact on maintaining river ecosystems and preventing adverse effects on fish and other species during summer.

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Idaho Power and Cloud Seeding Video Transcript