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Idaho Falls Power to Conduct Microgrid Test

21 April 21

(Idaho Falls, ID) – Idaho Falls Power (IFP) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) are collaborating on a special experiment to test running IFP's hydro power plants to provide essential power for Idaho Falls customers during emergencies.

This Thursday, April 22 at 11:00, elected officials from the City of Idaho Falls will be joined by representatives from INL for an overview of the preliminary test results from the Lower, Old Lower and City hydro plants.

Those plants will be disconnected from the power grid to help determine IFP's capability to generate and transmit stable energy across its own system, while disconnected from the larger regional power grid, in the event of a larger regional power emergency.

The test is built on a previous joint IFPINL test from 2017. In the previous test the generator frequency became unstable when the generator was loaded above 25 percent of capacity. In this test IFP will simulate a "black start," or an emergency situation where there is no regional grid power and will involve activating the Lower and Old Lower Power Plants, along with the City Plant. During this test the INL is providing a large capacitor paired with a special control system to help stabilize the generator output.

"This is a giant science experiment for us that will help Idaho Falls move one step closer to being able to provide emergency power resources on our own system without having to rely on larger grid power outside of the city," said Idaho Falls Power General Manager Bear Prairie. "We're really grateful to INL for their collaboration and expertise in this innovative, first of kind concept of proving that a hydro based microgrid is possible."

IFP currently owns and operates five different power generation stations along the Snake River. Those stations generate approximately 20 to 40 percent of the total power needs for IFP customers, based on water flows in the river, time of year, peak demand and other factors.

The majority of IFP's power is secured from carbon free power sources. That power is transmitted along a series of transmission lines from across the west and to electric substations in east Idaho. Those lines and stations are owned or operated by a variety of providers including Rocky Mountain Power, Idaho Power, Bonneville Power and IFP.

However, in the event of a major emergency or natural disaster that impacts that larger power system, IFP is testing to determine its ability to produce local power and transmit it through its own system – or microgrid – to supply emergency power to run essential services within the city. IFP cannot power the whole city currently with its' own local power generation but they could in concept power essential services and a large percentage of the community in an emergency. This micro-grid would be able to run without having to rely on the larger power grid in the event of a regional power grid disruption.

If the tests prove successful, the microgrid concept can be applied to other power utilities around the country. Lessons learned from the test will be shared with the larger electric utility industry by both IFP and INL.

Media note: Media wishing to attend and see the test in operation can join IFP, elected officials and INL representatives at IFP's Lower Power Plant, located at 1690 Glen Koster Lane (the east side of the Snake River at Sunnyside) at 11:30 am on Thursday, April 22. Contact City of Idaho Falls PIO Bud Cranor at 208-612-8306 or to arrange attendance, interviews or for more details.