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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
Plant manager John Bowater gives tour of the Lake Side Power Plant in Vineyard on Friday. The plant will soon be producing electricity.

VINEYARD — Whether it's flipping on a light switch, turning on the television or washing a load of laundry, few people stop to ponder where that power comes from.

But soon it will be flowing from the Lake Side Power Plant in Vineyard, with average production of 545 megawatts of electricity each day.

"The demand just keeps growing," said John Bowater, plant manager of the Vineyard plant.

The plant joins the Rocky Mountain Power family, which in its six-state area includes 64 plants — 12 coal, five natural gas, 14 major and 30 minor hydroelectric, two wind plants and one geothermal plant, said Dave Eskelsen, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power.

Those plants produce an average of 8,400 megawatts (millions of watts) of electricity on average each day. Utah is the fastest growing area and pulls in about 42 percent of that power.

To put that number in perspective, each household uses about 9 megawatts of power a year, Eskelsen said.

The $350 million Lake Side plant sits on nearly 70 acres in the northwest corner of Vineyard, although the actual plant only claims 22 acres of former Geneva land.

After a few dozen pipes are insulated and several monitoring systems tested, the plant will change hands from the builders, Lake Side Power LLC., to PacifiCorp and begin pumping out power. PacifiCorp does business as Rocky Mountain Power in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.

Yet, as exciting as this nearly completed project is to Eskelsen, Bowater and Lake Side Power LLC president Bob Looper, residents probably won't notice any change when the plant officially begins power production.

Their computers will still boot up and their televisions will still snap to life with the push of a button.

In fact, the only indication the plant is a hive of activity is a white plume of steam dissipating hundreds of feet into the air on the west side of I-15. It's not pollution, just steam being pushed through pipes as a cleaning method. Any welding debris or rust is collected.

In fact, any emissions from the plant will be clean, falling well below regulated levels for particles being released into the air, Bowater said.

The plant is divided into three main components: two combustion turbine generators, two heat-recovery steam generators and a giant condensing steam turbine generator.

Those technical names mean there are three main places and two different methods by which electricity is produced.

In the combustion turbine areas, natural gas is pumped through the turbines, like a giant fan, mixed with filtered air then burned. The turbine and its shaft are initially started by a motor, but once the gas starts burning and producing heat and energy, the motor shuts off and the turbine turns on its own, going as fast as 6,000 rpm.

The turbine is similar in size to those used in jet engines. However, in a plane, the combustion creates heat and energy and is pushed through the turbine to create thrust.

The power plant has little need of thrust, so instead of expelling that exhaust, it's trapped and collected and used to boil water that will create steam to power a steam turbine weighing more than two tons.

All the electricity is then sent through the Dynamo Substation where the voltage is increased to join Rocky Mountain Power's "electricity pool."

The plant has 21 employees and can run very efficiently, thanks to the latest power-plant technology, Bowater said.

One manager can watch several screens to monitor the speed at which gas is pumped into the turbines and combustion chambers. He's also monitoring the "profile," a graph that looks like an undulating sine wave and represents current electricity demands.

"You've got to follow the profile and be constantly matching, to bring us up and down," Bowater said. "You don't want the lights flickering — people get annoyed."

The controller is in constant contact with other plants. Too much or too little electricity in the "pool" can lower the voltage and potentially damage appliances.

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