Brock and Phil Obendorf can now add a sizable investment in “peace of mind” to the list of inputs when they tally production costs for their Parma hops farm.
Since 2020, the brothers have rightfully claimed that their business uses 100% clean, renewable energy, having committed to purchase 3,000 megawatt hours of Idaho Power energy efficiency credits per year.
The credits are sold to businesses and individuals interested in demonstrating their commitment to environmental stewardship. They’re tied to Idaho Power’s investments in clean energy, such as solar and wind power and hydro-power production efficiency upgrades. Idaho Power estimates the Obendorf’s credits represent a benefit equal to planting 34,000 trees.
“In the future I think you’re going to have to figure out how to be sustainable in all aspects of farming. ... We as a company think it’s very important,” Brock Obendorf said.
Idaho Power launched its Large Renewable Energy Purchase Option program in 2017 but didn’t get its first takers until last year. The three current large business participants are the Obendorf’s, the Boise Co-op and Bogus Basin ski area. The minimum credit purchase to participate covers 750 megawatt hours per year.
Idaho Power has also offered a program for residential and small business customers since 2016, called Green Power. That program boasts 3,415 participants, including more than 80 small businesses, who also pay for the knowledge that the credits they buy are supporting green energy. Some of the revenue supports an educational program teaching school children about renewable energy, called Solar for our Schools.
Idaho Power spokesman Sven Berg explained participants seeking to make a 100% renewable energy claim can immediately count about half of their consumption as renewable because the company’s energy portfolio is about half renewable hydro-power. Credits can make up the difference.
“Obendorf Farms’ commitment to clean energy aligns with its history of reducing its environmental impact through measures like cover crops to stabilize the soil and energy efficiency upgrades to its current system,” Berg said. “It also aligns with Idaho Power’s own goal of providing 100% clean energy by 2045 without compromising their tradition of reliability and affordability.”
Berg produced a video available at youtube.com/idahopower featuring the Obendorfs. They’ve raised hops in Canyon County for more than 70 years, and their hops are used to make 3% percent of the world’s beer, according to the video.
They raise 15 hop varieties on 3,500 acres, and their farm consumes more electricity than 400 typical Idaho Power homes.
Brock Obendorf said participating in the program also “makes us look good on our selling side” as food and beverage manufacturers increasingly look to assure consumers that they’re sourcing sustainable ingredients. Sustainability is becoming a greater focus of farming audits, such as GLOBALG.A.P.
Brock Obendorf said participation in the Idaho Power program is just one of many ways his farm has sought to be a good environmental steward. The farm waters with an efficient drip irrigation system, and their pumps use variable-frequency drives. They haul hops with 70 clean-burning propane trucks. They feed hop tailings to cattle.
Within the next five years, they plan to add solar panels to rooftops of some of their buildings.
Phil Obendorf considers his participation in the program to be an investment in his son’s future.
“Mason he is the first of the fifth generation for the next generation to take over and our goal is to leave a sustainable operation for him so he can carry it on,” Phil Obendorf said.