Idaho Power is one of the few investor-owned electric utilities with a primarily hydroelectric generating base, which helps to keep your rates low. We own and operate 17 hydroelectric plants on the Snake River and its tributaries. 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’s commitment to green energy started with hydroelectric power, and we’ve relied on this clean, renewable energy resource since the company was founded in 1916.
Today we operate 17 hydroelectric projects located on the Snake River and its tributaries. Together, these projects make up Idaho Power’s largest source of generation.
The backbone of our hydroelectric system is the Hells Canyon Complex (HCC) in the Hells Canyon reach of the Snake River, along the border of Idaho and Oregon.
The HCC consists of Brownlee, Oxbow and Hells Canyon dams and their associated generation facilities. In a normal water year, the three plants provide approximately 70 percent of Idaho Power’s annual hydroelectric generation and approximately 30 percent of the total energy generated.
Hydroelectric power plants use water pressure to spin the turbine blades, which look like a large ship propeller. These plants are Idaho Power’s most inexpensive method of generating electricity.
The availability of hydroelectric power depends on several factors, like snowpack levels in the mountains, reservoir storage, water leases, water rights and other weather and stream flow considerations.
Idaho Power uses cloud seeding to increase mountain snowpack, and, in turn, the amount of power we can generate through our hydroelectric power plants.
Coal powers three plants Idaho Power co-owns: the Jim Bridger Power Plant in Wyoming, the Boardman Coal Plant in Oregon and the North Valmy Generating Station in Nevada. These facilities convert one of nature’s most plentiful energy sources into reliable, low-cost electricity while following some of the strictest standards for protecting the environment.
These plants meet all state and federal emission limits. Plant design features, fuel supply and plant operating practices play a role in controlling air pollutants that could be emitted. Idaho Power uses only low-sulfur coal, which reduces sulfur dioxide emissions. Additionally, at Bridger and North Valmy Unit 2, scrubbers remove sulfur dioxide after the coal is burned.
Electrostatic precipitators, or baghouses, prevent more than 99 percent of fly ash from reaching the atmosphere. Some recycled fly ash is used for concrete and road construction material and as fill to prevent soil erosion.
Comprehensive ecological programs monitor impact on soils, plants, waterfowl, birds of prey and fish in the area.
The Boardman plant is scheduled to cease coal-fired operations in 2020. Idaho Power owns 10 percent of this plant, and Portland General Electric owns the rest. Idaho Power’s share of the plant capacity is 57.5 megawatts (MW).
The Jim Bridger plant, near Rock Springs, Wyoming, is owned by Idaho Power (one-third) and PacifiCorp (two-thirds). Coal is delivered to the plant by an overland conveyer from the adjacent Bridger Mine or by train and truck.
Idaho Power’s share of the plant’s capacity is 704 MW. In its 2017 Integrated Resource Plan, Idaho Power announced it will work with PacifiCorp and state regulators to achieve early retirement dates in 2028 and 2032 for two of the plant’s four units.
The North Valmy Generating Station near Battle Mountain, Nevada, is co-owned by Idaho Power and NV Energy. Both companies own 50 percent of the plant; NV Energy is the operating partner. The plant generates up to 260 MW for Idaho Power customers.
Idaho Power has committed to work with NV Energy to end its participation in North Valmy unit 1 by 2019 and unit 2 by 2025.
Natural Gas and Diesel
Idaho Power operates three natural gas-fired power plants. When natural gas is burned, the hot, compressed exhaust gases expand through a turbine to generate electricity. We also have a 5-megawatt (MW) diesel electric generating plant near Salmon, Idaho, which is used primarily for backup in the event of a transmission outage.
In a combined-cycle natural gas plant like our Langley Gulch Power Plant, heat from the process is also used to make steam, which spins a separate turbine to generate additional electricity.
Langley Gulch, our newest power plant, came on-line in 2012. It’s a clean, quiet, highly-efficient, combined-cycle combustion turbine. 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.
The plant’s generating capacity ranges from 300 MW in the summer to 330 MW in the winter. Langley Gulch helps integrate intermittent resources, such as wind and solar from projects tied to our system. The plant is located on 137 acres in rural Payette County.
The 164-MW Bennett Mountain Power Plant in Mountain Home was completed in 2005.
Both Bennett Mountain and Danskin plants are “peaking” resources, used primarily for meeting short-duration demands for electricity during hot summer afternoons when air conditioning and irrigation loads reach their highest point.
The 261-MW Danskin Power Plant consists of three natural gas-fired simple cycle combustion turbines—one, 171-MW unit and two, 45-MW units.