Powering Strong Communities

Idaho Falls City Council Clears Path for Idaho Falls Power 17.5-MW Peaking Plant

The Idaho Falls, Idaho, City Council recently voted to approve a construction contract with an Idaho-based company, ESI Construction, which will enable construction of a 17.5-megawatt peaking plant. Idaho Falls is served by Idaho Falls Power, a public power utility.

The plant will provide dispatchable, on-demand energy for the public power community during summer and winter peak energy usage periods, the City of Idaho Falls said on Feb. 14.

The City Council also serves as the utility’s governing board.

Idaho Falls Power currently operates five hydroelectric generation facilities on the Snake River that produce only about one-third of the city’s energy needs due to growing customer demand.

Since Idaho Falls Power last constructed a hydroelectric facility in the late 1980s, the city has experienced tremendous growth in population, including substantial commercial sector growth.

As Idaho Falls has invested in its own energy production, residential customers currently pay 6.9 cents per kilowatt hour, which is less than half of the national average of 14 cents per kilowatt hour. 

“This plant will double our local generation capacity in the winter when hydropower operates at lower levels due to decreased river flows,” said Bear Prairie, General Manager for Idaho Falls Power. “This presents a challenge as this is the same season where our energy demands are the highest. Constructing our own plant will allow us to offset this need and provide reliable electricity at the lowest possible cost.” 

Idaho Falls Power will be using natural gas fuel for the peaking plant not only for its lower operating cost but also its ability to provide low-emission energy to meet our community’s immediate needs.

The plant has been designed to minimize the release of emissions resulting from natural gas by using the best available emission reduction technology.

The type of equipment to be purchased will also enable future testing and research because the units will also be able to burn hydrogen, which is carbon emissions-free. 

“We view natural gas as a bridge to serve current needs while even cleaner generation resources are developed," said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. "Future proposals for the peaking plant are to run on clean fuels such as hydrogen as it becomes more economically viable. The facility also has a research area where we can collaborate with the energy industry and INL [Idaho National Laboratory] to demonstrate more cutting-edge technologies,” Casper said. “This type of collaboration promises to yield an even brighter energy future for Idaho Falls Power customers.”

The plant’s location was selected based on its industrial zoning, proximity to rail service, natural gas access, and the utility’s transmission and distribution system.

Idaho Falls Power anticipates construction on the peaking plant to begin this summer with an estimated operation date of December 2025.

The city will provide additional details as Idaho Falls Power nears the start of construction. 

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