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April 5, 2019

More than 80% of Idaho’s in-state electricity generation comes from renewables

Idaho annual utility-scale electricity generation and capacity
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly

More than 80% of Idaho’s in-state utility-scale electricity generation came from renewable resources in 2018, the second-largest share of any state in the country, behind only Vermont, according to recently released data from EIA’s Electric Power Monthly. Idaho generated 17.4 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity in 2018, of which 14.2 million MWh came from renewable sources.

Idaho uses a variety of renewable resources to generate electricity:

Hydroelectricity. Along with neighboring Washington, Oregon, and Montana, Idaho is a leading U.S. producer of hydroelectricity. The state ranked seventh in the nation in electricity generation from hydropower in 2018. About half of Idaho’s electricity generating capacity is at hydroelectric power plants and 7 of the state’s 10 largest power plants (in terms of electricity generation) are hydroelectric facilities. The nation’s largest privately owned hydroelectric generating facility is a three-dam complex on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America.

Wind. Nearly one-fifth of Idaho’s electricity generating capacity and one-sixth of its generation comes from wind turbines. Idaho has substantial wind energy potential, although only a small percentage of the state's land area is well-suited for wind development. All of the state’s wind farms are located in the southern half of the state along the Snake River Plain.

Solar. Almost 5% of Idaho’s electricity generating capacity and 3% of its generation come from utility-scale solar facilities. The state had no utility-scale solar generation as recently as 2015. Between 2016 and 2017, Idaho’s utility-scale capacity doubled and generation increased from 30,000 MWh to more than 450,000 MWh. Idaho’s small-scale solar capacity also doubled since 2017, generating 33,000 MWh in 2018.

Biomass. Biomass-fueled power plants account for about 2% of the state’s utility-scale electricity generating capacity and 3% of its generation. Wood waste from the state’s forests is the primary fuel for these plants.

Geothermal. Idaho is one of seven states with utility-scale geothermal electricity generation. Idaho has one 18-megawatt geothermal facility, located near the state’s southern border with Utah. Idaho also has a long history of using hot springs and other geothermal resources as direct heat sources for aquaculture, greenhouses, spas, resorts, and city district heating.

Idaho requires significant electricity imports, totaling about one-third of demand, to meet its electricity needs. However, Idaho’s electricity imports have decreased over time. As recently as 1990, the state imported more than half of its electricity. Almost all of these imports are from neighboring states, as electricity imports from Canada accounted for less than 0.1% of Idaho’s total electricity supply in 2017.

Idaho total electricity supply
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, State Electricity Profiles

Principal contributor: Allen McFarland