To deliver electricity from our power plants to customers, Idaho Power built thousands of miles of power lines. The electricity that lights a home in Twin Falls, for example, could have been produced at our Hells Canyon Complex. The electricity that powers an irrigation pump near Caldwell might have been generated at the Jim Bridger plant in Wyoming.
The power produced at each plant moves from generators to a transformer, which increases the voltage to 230,000 volts. Higher voltages are needed so the energy can travel long distances. The farther electricity travels, the higher the voltage must be. High-voltage power lines (called transmission lines) carry electricity throughout Idaho Power’s system.
Customers, however, can’t use electricity directly from these high-voltage lines because homes and businesses cannot handle such high voltages. Instead, the high-voltage electricity flows into transformers at substations, where the voltage is decreased to levels that can be used by customers. Smaller power lines (called distribution lines) deliver this electricity to homes and businesses. Transformers, frequently at the top of power poles, reduce the voltage again to 120 to 240 volts before the electricity enters a home.
Since electricity travels at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), it takes only a fraction of a second for it to get from where it’s generated to where it’s used. A customer in Pocatello can operate a vacuum cleaner on electricity produced less than a second earlier hundreds of miles away in Hells Canyon.