The Raft River geothermal site in Cassia County of south central Idaho has a couple "First" distinctions in its history of electrical power generation. In the early 1980's, this Department of Energy demonstration project was the first binary plant in the U.S. to produce electricity. At that time, the economic conditions were not favorable for using the plant, so it was mothballed. In 2002, U.S. Geothermal Inc., purchased the facility and began the process of installing a new power plant. In early 2008, the Raft River site became the first commercial geothermal power plant in the Pacific Northwest. U.S. Geothermal Inc. has a 20 year contract with Idaho Power to supply 10 megawatts (mw) of electricity under this Phase 1 project. U.S. Geothermal Inc. believes that its 8.2 square mile lease position has a production capacity of 110 MW.
In addition to the Raft River site, Neely and Galinato (2007) compiled information on 24 other sites in Idaho that have potential for power generation. Estimates of the geothermal electricity producing capacity in Idaho have large ranges, indicating that the understanding of Idaho's geothermal power potential is still in its early stages. In 2006, the Western Governors' Association Geothermal Task Force report ranked Idaho 3rd of the 12 western states in potential for new geothermal development by 2015. The report projects that Idaho could be producing 855 mw by 2015 and 1,670 MW by 2025. Dr. Carl Austin, (IdaTherm, LLC), describes Idaho as "rife with good potential geothermal power sites" including 16 high temperature locations with a total potential of 2,000 megawatts. The potential is huge, but the challenge of developing it is even greater, primarily because of exploration financing. However, with the price of fossil fuels rising rapidly, the interest in geothermal power projects is growing throughout the western U.S. In 2007, five Federal BLM leases in Idaho were sold for $5.7 million. In addition to U.S. Geothermal and IdaTherm, several Icelandic geothermal companies, Aqua Caliente (Colorado), and Ormat Technologies Inc. (Nevada), have shown interest in Idaho's geothermal power potential.
Idaho welcomes geothermal exploration and power development, and the Idaho Governor's Office of Energy Resources is available to facilitate both.