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Idaho Falls Power celebrates completion of new substation and transmission line


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IDAHO FALLS – Idaho Falls Power celebrated the completion of a project 14 years in the making Thursday afternoon.

The Paine substation near Idahoan Foods on North River Road recently launched a new 161-kilovolt transmission line that extends about 9 miles to the Sugarmill substation off Hitt Road. It crosses over U.S. Highway 20 near 25th, then travels to the west and across the Snake River.

It’s designed to improve electrical services for customers throughout eastern Idaho.

“Maintaining stable, reliable and affordable power sources for our customers remains our top priority,” Idaho Falls Power General Manager Bear Prairie says in a news release. “This project is critical to those goals by allowing us to transmit power to our customers in areas of growth. The project also boosts redundancy for our Idaho Falls Power customers.”

To put that amount of voltage in perspective, your electrical outlet uses about 120 volts of electricity. The 160,000 volts provided with the new transmission line is enough to power about 8,000 homes, Prairie says.

Idaho Falls Power partnered with PacifiCorp (Rocky Mountain Power) for this project so surrounding communities could benefit from it. The ownership and construction costs will be shared by each utility relative to their ownership/usage in the project.

“This project has taken countless hours from everyone at Idaho Falls Power,” Prairie says. “It truly exemplifies everyone’s goal at Idaho Falls Power to improve the lives of our customers through efficient and quality power utility service.”

The North River Road property’s close proximity to the city’s upper power plant is one reason it was selected for the substation. Idaho Falls Power began constructing the transmission line last year after years of planning and obtaining property.

paine substation plant
A small section of the Paine substation in Idaho Falls. | Rett Nelson,

The Paine substation is named after Jeff Paine, who was the Chief Engineer for Idaho Falls Power many years ago. He was instrumental in developing the Bulb Turbine and Gem State hydroelectric projects along with countless other resources during the 1970s and 80s.

He attended the ribbon-cutting with his family, where he told the crowd he was honored with this distinction.

“It’s unbelievable, the honor in the naming of this substation and the facility,” Paine said. “The growth the community has experienced since my departure — it’s just amazing.”

As Idaho Falls continues to grow, Prairie says being able to provide new power generation resources is critical. Nuclear power is one option being considered and the approval of a small modular reactor project involving the Idaho National Laboratory could make it a reality in the near future.

The efforts of Idaho Falls Power make a difference throughout the state, Casper said, and the city’s involvement in energy research with the INL has an impact across the globe.

She’s grateful to see the substation project finally come to fruition after more than a decade.

“We’re not doing this for today. We’re laying the foundation for tomorrow. Fifty years from now … someone will be having a meeting to praise the work that was done here,” said Casper.

During the event, Mayor Rebecca Casper also noted that Idaho Falls has one of the lowest power rates in the nation. Idaho averages 9.51 cents per kWh while Idaho Falls power sits at 6.25 cents per kWh, according to a news release. Nationwide, the average electric rate is more than double that of Idaho Falls Power.