Generation Resources Overview
The equipment that makes electricity is often very complex, although the theory behind electricity is quite simple. Electricity is made by spinning a magnet inside a coil of wire. This is called a generator. It’s connected to a power source, which turns a shaft that’s connected to the generator. This power source can be one of many types of prime movers including hydro turbines, wind turbines, steam or natural gas turbines.
Idaho Power is one of the few investor-owned electric utilities with a predominantly hydroelectric generating base, which helps to keep your rates low. We own and operate 17 hydroelectric plants on the Snake River and its tributaries. The plants vary in size and production capacity. The largest plants, and the ones producing the most electricity, are located in Hells Canyon, along the border of Idaho and Oregon. There are three hydroelectric plants in Hells Canyon—Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon. Together they are called the “Hells Canyon Complex.”
Idaho Power’s hydroelectric system on the Snake River uses water pressure to spin the turbine blades. The turbine looks much like a large ship propeller. Falling water has tremendous power and our existing hydroelectric resources provide the most inexpensive method of generating electricity.
We also deliver power to our customers through one diesel-powered generator and share ownership in three coal-fired generating plants; we do not operate any of them.
Idaho Power owns and operates three natural gas-fired plants. In gas turbines, natural gas is burned and the hot gas produced is directed at turbine blades. This process is like a turbo-prop aircraft engine, but in generation applications, the turbine turns the generator, rather than a propeller.
Our newest natural gas-fired plant, the Langley Gulch Power Plant is a combined-cycle combustion turbine that uses both natural gas and steam to create energy. The addition of this dispatchable resource is a key component in our generation portfolio that balances reliability, costs and environmental impacts. This clean, highly efficient plant improves electric service reliability and helps us integrate intermittent alternative resources into the electrical grid serving all Idaho Power customers.
Idaho Power views alternative resources such as wind and geothermal as important parts of its resource portfolio, we expect these resources to take on increased importance in a carbon-constrained future.